IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Are pH makeup products really ‘universally flattering’? We asked experts how they work

Color-changing pH makeup is here to stay: What to know about the TikTok-loved trend.
Courtesy Shannon Garlin; Courtesy Audrey Ekman

Color-changing pH makeup is a product that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. While taking a nightly social media scroll, you've probably been bombarded with videos of people applying the viral product, then watching it transform into light pink or a 'Barbiecore' hot pink. For further proof, just type "pH makeup" into TikTok's search bar, and you'll see pages of videos with view counts in the millions.

That's because beauty brands have been claiming this makeup product to be both "universally flattering" and "customizable." While it might seem hard to believe at first, there is some truth behind the claims and you can't deny the video evidence on social media.

To help us understand this buzzy product, we turned to two experts to break down how pH makeup works — and they might be worth giving a try.

What does skin pH mean? | How do pH color-changing products work? | Is the color really customizable | Is pH makeup safe to use? | pH makeup products to shop | How we chose | FAQ| Meet our experts

Shop TODAY Snapshop

What does skin pH mean?

Taking us back to science class, board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Marisa Garshick explains that a pH level is based on how acidic or alkaline something is. "Skin pH refers to the specific pH of the skin which tends to be more acidic, ranging from 4.5 to 5.5, however, this can be affected by what is put on your skin, your environment and other factors," says Garshick.

How do pH color-changing products work?

To simplify it, our experts tell us that the general concept is similar to litmus paper: your skin is reacting to the dye in the product.

The products mainly come in lip balms or blushes that start off colorless (but can come in other tints), which Garshick says are formulated with bromo acid dyes. Cosmetic chemist and licensed esthetician Esther Olu breaks it down even further and says these ingredients include Red 27 (the most common), Red 21 and Red 28. The result? The formula will turn a shade of pink after coming in contact with the skin and reacting to the skin's pH levels.

"The product formats that use the color-changing ingredients are usually anhydrous (i.e., no water), so when they react with environments that have moisture (our saliva, our lips, skin), the pH shifts to those respective environments resulting in a pink shade," Olu says.

Is the color really customizable?

Well, this is a gray area. According to Olu, everyone will technically achieve the same color results, however, it’s going to look different based on your skin tone, undertones and how it's used. And Garshick adds that the final shade will appear slightly varied based on the skin's pH levels, too.

“Due to the sheer/translucent nature of pH makeup, these product types are typically buildable so while the color is technically the same, the intensity may differ based on consumer use,” says Olu.

So you could say, the brands are correct in claiming the products are "universally flattering." This goes back to the dye ingredients that Olu mentioned. She says the Red 27 ingredient is used in products to achieve a sheer effect, and that it will look good on most skin tones. "How 'flattering' it looks is of course subjective," she says. 

So how can you wear this trend? If you like pink makeup products, then this might be a new find for you. Since most products on the market are buildable (and overall fun to wear), Shop TODAY editors and shoppers say this pinkish hue has been fun to use and perfect as an everyday makeup product. Below we rounded pH lip and cheek products approved by editors and shoppers.

Top pH color-changing makeup products to shop

Essence Glimmer GLOW Lipstick

What we like
  • Shimmer effect
Something to note
  • Reviewers say it can be drying

Size: .11 oz | Shades: 1 | Key ingredients: Red 27

This affordable pH lipstick is fun for tweens, teens or anyone who loves to add a little sparkle to their makeup routine. Reviewers say they love the buildable color that it provides.

"I put it on my lips and a subtle pink tint started to show. As I left it on the pink did get a little darker, but not too dark where it looked ridiculous. It was a very natural look," said one verified reviewer.

Lottie London pH Cream Blush

What we like
  • Creamy texture
  • Can be applied over powder
Something to note
  • Can be very pigmented

Size: 1.8 grams | Shades: 1 | Key ingredients: Triglyceride, synthetic beeswax

This pH color-changing blush went viral on TikTok this past year, with makeup lovers showing how the black creamy blush provides a rosy flush. And you can expect it to be moisturizing since it contains triglycerides, according to the brand.

Milani Rose Transforming Lip Balm

What we like
  • Moisturizing ingredients
  • Balm consistency, subtle color
Something to note
  • Reviews say can wear off fast

Size: .11 oz | Shades: 1 | Key ingredients: Rose oil, coconut oil and vitamin E

This lip balm contains a wide variety of moisturizing ingredients, so it might be your next go-to balm for everyday wear. And reviewers say they enjoy the final shade. "I especially love the subtle color it gives me. It’s looks very flattering and natural on me, and I love that it gives my lips a little shine to it. I take it with me everywhere and I plan on buying more!" wrote one Milani reviewer.

Lottie London Blush Bestie

What we like
  • Can be used on cheeks and lips
  • Contains hydrating ingredients
Something to note
  • Slow shipping, says brand

Shades: 1 | Key ingredients: Jojoba seed oil

Off the heels of the viral black pH blush, London Lottie recently released a pH color-changing blush and lip stick. It contains moisturizing ingredients, such as jojoba oil; and the brand says stick form allows easy application with a dewy finish.

Winky Lux pH Lip Gloss 

What we like
  • Glossy finish
  • Color variety
Something to note
  • Scented and flavored

Size: .14 oz | Shades: 3 | Key ingredients: Jojoba seed oil, raspberry seed oil, synthetic beeswax

Unlike other pH products, this lip gloss is one of the few on the market that's already tinted, meaning the color will enhance further based on your skin tone and pH. It comes in three different shades and is infused with fruity scents, as well as moisturizing ingredients including jojoba seed oil.

Victoria's Secret Lip Oil

What we like
  • Nourishing ingredients
  • Oil consistency
Something to note
  • Scented

Size: .11 oz | Shades: 1 pH color, 3 solid colors | Key ingredients: Coconut Oil, vitamin E 

You get two lip trends with this pick; it's lip oil which is a product known to be extremely hydrating and a color-changing pH shade. And the brand says this is packed with nourishing ingredients, such as coconut oil and vitamin E.

Winky Lux Flower Lip Balm

What we like
  • Subtle color
  • Reviewers say it's hydrating
Something to note
  • Some don't like the scent

Size: .13 oz | Shades: 3 | Key ingredients: Real chrysanthemum flower

This Winky Lux pH lip balm has a completely clear bullet, making it fun to watch the shade magically transform on your lips. The TikTok loved product has over 3,000 Amazon ratings, and reviewers love the long-lasting shade.

"The color is flattering and buildable. It does fade over time, but at least some color will stay all day. It’s almost like a cross between a stain and a balm," wrote one verified reviewer.

Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip & Cheek Shift

What we like
  • Can be used on cheeks and lips
  • Hydrating ingredients
Something to note
  • Users say it's very pigmented

Size: .21 oz | Shades: 12 | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, maracuja oil, grapeseed oil

"This lip gloss makes my pout look juicy and smooth. I usually mix it with a matte lipstick and it makes the color pop. What I love about the formula is that it doesn’t feel sticky at all and provides a glass-looking effect," says SEO writer Jannely Espinal.

This Tarte pH product can also be used as a blush oil, says the brand. We love that it contains antioxidant and skin-loving ingredients, such as acai and goji; you can just add one or two dots for a dewy, buildable shade of pink.

Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip Plump Shift

What we like
  • Subtle, buildable shade
  • Moisturizing ingredients
Something to note
  • Many shades, similar results

Size: 2.7 grams| Shades: 19 | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, maracuja oil, vitamin E

After Tarte sent the Shop TODAY team this lip product, it quickly became a staple in their makeup routine. According to the brand, this lip product has a balm-like texture that produces a plumping effect, along with a customizable pink shade.

"This lip gloss is now the only one I reach for in my makeup bag. I love that it leaves a shiny finish, but it’s subtle enough so I don’t feel like I have a wild lip color on," says senior social editor Kate McCarthy. "I have shared this with an insane amount of people, and whenever I go out with my friends, we all put it on to see how it looks universally flattering on all of us."

Another fan is production associate, Audrey Ekman, who says she currently has six different shades across various bags.

Youthforia BYO Blush

What we like
  • Moisturizing ingredients
  • Buildable color
  • Can be used on cheeks and lips
Something to note
  • Users say color fades quickly

Size: 0.21 oz | Shades: 1 pH color, 3 solid colors | Key ingredients: jojoba oil, sunflower oil

I've been using this pH color-changing Youthforia blush oil for a few months and am really impressed with the formula and results; the brand calls it "universally flattering." It looks clear but as soon as it touches your skin, it turns into a rosy shade that's buildable. However I think my favorite thing about it is the ingredients, the brand says it's made with avocado and rosehip oil, which leaves my skin feeling moisturized and looking dewy.

Dior Addict Lip Glow

What we like
  • Hydrating ingredients
  • Balm-like texture
  • Many colors
Something to note
  • Users say it's very pigmented

Size: 0.113 oz | Shades: 23 | Key ingredients: jojoba oil, sunflower oil, shea butter

This luxury beauty brand offers up to 25 shades that claim to give you a "custom glow" with the pH color-changing ingredients, so you can choose from classic pink to more neutral browns to red. Also, the ingredients make this product top-notch: castor oil, shea butter, triglycerides and more.


How we chose the best pH color-changing makeup products

We chose these makeup products based on insights from expert sources, and personal experiences with the product and brand to make shopping easier for our readers. We also look through verified shopper reviews to choose the best pH color-changing makeup products to feature.

Meet our experts