We Tried 20 Popular Shade-Shifting Lipsticks — and Found 1 Favorite
Color-changing lipsticks are truly the mood rings of the beauty world. Though they may look wildly different — coming in shades that range from navy blue and grass green to sunflower yellow and flamingo pink — these balms are actually all working with variations on the same technology. Here's how I, not a scientist, would explain it: there are ingredients within the formulas that react to the pH level of the wearer's lips. So according to how acidic, neutral, or alkaline your lips are, the product will transform into the shade that is the most flattering for you. Pretty neat, huh?
I recently committed to testing out a large number of the most popular color-changing lip products available, and I came to two conclusions:
- These products are cool, but they're not going to give you an insane amount of color. If you're looking for highly pigmented lipstick, go get a liquid lipstick.
- I am never taking another selfie ever again.
If you're looking for a hydrating tint, you've come to the right place. Read on to see how all these formulas adapted to my lip, and note that I'm only one editor with one skin tone. All these are going to react differently according to the lips on which they're applied.
Lipstick Queen in Frog Prince
Lipstick Queen is the crowned, well, queen, of color-changing lipsticks, and Lipstick Queen in Frog Prince ($25) is the brand's best-selling product. In tube-form, the shade is a startling dark green. After a minute on my lips, it became a flattering fuchsia.
Essence Kiss the Frog Lipstick
If you're committed to going green but Lipstick Queen's price point is a little too high, Essence Kiss the Frog Lipstick ($3) is a great option. The color stained my lips (in a good way) long after the sheen wore off. Note that Essence's lipsticks are scented, and this one tastes like green apples.
Lipstick Queen in Hello Sailor
Apart from Frog Prince, Lipstick Queen in Hello Sailor ($25) is the most jarring of the brand's colors. The deep blue went on sheer, and I didn't notice much of a color-shift. On the plus side, the formula was ultra-hydrating . . . much like the ocean.
Essence Kiss the Black Sheep Lipstick
Essence Kiss the Black Sheep Lipstick ($3) may look intimidating, but don't worry — it won't look like Halloween on your lips. Unlike actual black lipsticks, the color is completely sheer and doesn't transform into much of any shade.
Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in Blackout
Speaking of black lipstick, Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in Blackout ($14) glides on like a damn dream. I found Kaja's balms tended to be a much creamier formula than any of the other balms — a definite plus.
Bésame Ink and Paint Lipstick
Looking for the darkest of the dark shades? Try Bésame Ink and Paint Lipstick ($24), a special edition tied to Disney's 90th anniversary. This one turned out to be a lot more purply than the other black shades, and even seemed to have the slightest glimmer.
Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in Twilight
For the money, Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in Twilight ($14) is my absolute favorite out of the entire lineup. The color shifted to a rosy pink and because the product is a balm, my lips stayed hydrated for a few hours.
Winky Lux Rainbow Tinted Balm
Winky Lux has a truly insane amount of color-changing lip products. The Winky Lux Rainbow Tinted Balm ($18) intrigued me, as the only product in my lineup that featured multiple colors in the same stick. The flat top and color scheme reminded me of a Flintstones Push Up popsicle, and honestly, the product kind of made me look like I'd just eaten one.
MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Pretty Me Up
MAC Cosmetics also has some shade-shifting options, though theirs will give you less of a shock when you open the tube. MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Pretty Me Up ($21) is more of a typical balm than anything — but a very pretty one.
Lipstick Queen in Mornin' Sunshine
Lipstick Queen in Mornin' Sunshine ($25) looks bright yellow, went on sheer, and turned the slightest tinge of coral. It won't give you a hugely impressive color transformation, but with all the vitamin E they packed in here, it'll keep your lips glossy for hours.
Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in First Thing
Next up: Kaja Mood Balm Color Changing Lip Moisturizer in First Thing ($14). I loved the wash of orange over my lips, and I found this shade made me look actually put-together on a day in which I had no makeup whatsoever.
Beauty By POPSUGAR Lip Bloom
Though Beauty By POPSUGAR Lip Bloom ($20) does react to match your pH, it's much more focused on hydration than a dramatic color-change. Jojoba and sunflower oil soothed my chapped lips instantly, and I found myself reaching for this tube repeatedly throughout my week.
MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Candy Wrapped
Color-wise, MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Candy Wrapped ($21) wasn't wildly transformative, but it was silky smooth and provided just a hint of vanilla scent.
Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Reviving Lip Balm in Raspberry
I mean . . . it's Dior. Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Reviving Lip Balm in Raspberry ($34) didn't provide much of a color-change, but it did elevate my natural color and provided hydration.
MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Play With Me
Of the MAC options, MAC Cosmetics Tendertalk Lip Balm in Play With Me ($21) gave me the most color. This would definitely be my ~going out~ balm.