The Chemistry of Color Changing Lipstick


Cosmetics are used by many women and some men everyday for a variety of reasons. Lipstick plays a major part in a beauty routine, and the earliest forms of lipstick were used by Sumerians 5,000 years ago. Today there is a lipstick for almost every color found under the sun, and several makeup brands creating similar colors for a range of different prices. Color changing lipstick is very different from other normal colors because it gives off a different color for each person that wears it. This is because elements inside of the lipstick reacts to pH of the lips. Some people call it mood lipstick because it might be slightly lighter or darker than the last time it was applied. This is caused by the changing pH of the body, which can change based on mood, amount of stress, or environmental reasons.

I chose to dive into the chemistry of the color changing lipstick because it was an accidental purchase at a store. It is a light pink color that I was hoping to wear, but when I put it on it turned my lips to a darker more vibrant reddish pink. I was shocked and wanted to learn how and why it changed color. I also chose this lipstick because it is used around the world everyday, but some may complain that there isn’t a lipstick out there that looks “natural” enough. So I set out to show that this one is perfect for natural color because it enhances the natural lip color using chemistry.

Color changing lipstick affects my everyday life along with other cosmetic products because I can use the variety of different products to express my style and who I am. Makeup can be used for beauty, to cover unwanted blemishes, or just to have fun with. There are always new styles of makeup to try.

Composition of ...

    • Octyldodecanol: C20H42O
    • Hydrogenated Polyisobutene
    • Isononyl Isononanoate: C18 H36O2
    • Polyethylene:
    • Dipentaerythrityl Hexahydroxystearate: C28H44O8
    • Tri-isodecyl Trimellitate: C39H66O6
    • Di-isostearylmalate:C40H78O5
    • Stearyl Dimethicone: unspecified
    • Stearic acid: C18H36O2
    • Polymethyl methacrylate: (C5O2H8)n
    • Phenoxyethanol: C8H10O2
    • Ethylhexylglycerin: C11H24O3
    • Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butyl:
    • Hydroxyhydrocinnamate
    • Propylparaben: C10H12O3

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    1. Octyldodecanol (C20H42O)
      1. Used in cosmetics as an emollient and emulsifier, and more rarely, a fragrance and solvent
      2. It’s used to thicken the properties in cosmetics, prevent formulas from separating, and as a lubricant
      3. Synthetic: made by natural occurring oils and fats reducing the fatty acids in the structure. Similar or identical to natural occurring structures
    2. Red 27 lake
      1. Pigments treated by metal oxides after being placed in water. The red is mostly made out of Eosin
      2. Used to create a pink/red tint or color to the lip
      3. Synthetic using organic compounds

Chemistry's Role

Both ingredients are made synthetically based on natural components. They are created synthetically because it is more accessible in the creation of the lipstick. The octyldodecanol is created in a lab using natural fats and oils and then reducing the fatty acid group from COOH to OH creating fatty alcohol chains. Red 27 lake dye is also created in a lab using different pigments, to create the different multitude of colors found in cosmetics. They are then soaked in water to create insoluble particles. They are then treated by metal oxides, in the case of this lipstick it is titanium oxide. Chemistry is used throughout the entire process to ensure that it is a solid at room temperature, yet glides onto the lips smoothly. The components have to be created and mixed to achieve this type of texture. For color changing lipstick, certain chemicals are needed to create the reaction when applied to the lips to create the “perfect” and “natural” color of the lips.

The process of making lipstick starts with the mixing of different waxes to create the hydration needed for everyday hydration. Oils and solvents are mixed together until the desired consistency is reached. Then, the pigments, such as Red Lake 27, are added to the oil and solvent to create a color needed for the specific color. They are mixed until there is not grains left in the mixture. From this stage it is poured into the hot wax and they are blended together by a machine for many hours. It is then poured into the lipstick bullets to cool and harden.

Background Research

Lipstick is used to apply texture, color, and a form of protection for the lips. Color can also be added to lip balms to hydrate the lips, while adding an enhanced color. The first forms of lipstick were crushed gemstones used by Sumerians 5,000 years ago. Most early forms of lipstick were tinted red for many reasons, such as: decoration, social status, and puberty rituals. Women in ancient societies were usually rich or held poor in the civilization. In England, the Queen of England set the standards of wearing lipstick during the 16th century, and in the United States the lipstick was mostly made up of insects and oil, worn by actresses. Nowadays, lipsticks are made out of varieties of oils, beeswax, dyes, and a mix of other ingredients The color changing lipstick changes because of the eosin, in the red dye, is affected by the NH2 on the lips surface.


    • Ingredients

    • Acid/base indicators
    • pH levels and factors
    • Electron cloud structure

    • Different brands of color changing lipstick
    • List of ingredients from separate ones
    • Sources for each lipstick

    • pH of the body /

    • Info about dye in most lipsticks (red 27/21)
    • Most common ingredients in lipsticks and what they are

    • Where lipstick originated and how it’s used

    • Chemical formula

    • Info about red dye

About the Author

Sydney Overstreet is a junior at Billings Senior High in Billings, Montana. She loves art, music, traveling, and makeup. Sydney lettered in choir her sophomore year at Senior High and has participated in the extracurricular choir called Expressions since her sophomore year, and was in Harmoniques her freshman year. Her artwork has won first, second, and third at the state fair. She plans to travel around the world after high school to learn more about the world and how it works. Sydney chose color changing lipstick for her chemistry project because cosmetics play a large roll in her daily life.