Cosmetic companies are known for outlandish promises and we’re the suckers for spending our money on the mere hope that this one might foundationfinally work. So, it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I began researching the latest self-adjusting makeup products. As I looked at blog posts and magazine articles, I actually began to get excited. Maybe this stuff actually works … maybe buying the right shade is going to become infinitely easier. Then I started looking into the science.

It turns out that there really isn’t anything new here and — like most of the marketing behind cosmetics — self-adjusting makeup is more hype than reality.



The Claim

Cosmetics companies like Almay, Physician’s Formula, Stila and DuWop market everything from self-adjusting foundation and concealer to self-adjusting lipstick and blush. Manufacturers claim that the products react to your body’s unique chemistry and pH levels will adjust to a just-for-you shade.



The reality

According to cosmetics chemists at, self-adjusting formulas rely on a few different chemicals and techniques to make them appear like they are adjusting.
  •Red 27 — Self adjusting blushes (including Smashbox O-Glow Blush) and lipsticks (like DuWop Personal Color Changing Lipstick) rely on a colorless dye called Red 27. This dye reacts when it comes into contact with moisture, turning it a bright pink.
  •Encapsulated colors — Some formulas (including Wet ‘n Wild Intuitive Blend Shade Adjusting Foundation) rely on colorants that are suspended in a colorless base. These colors gradually appear as the formula is rubbed into the skin.
•Skin protein reaction — Some sunless tanners claim to be “self-adjusting” but, in reality, all sunless tanners are self-adjusting. They react with the proteins in the outermost skin cells to temporarily bronze skin a shade that is entirely dependent on your natural coloring. All sunless tanners rely on a combination of dihydroxyacetone and/or erythrulose. (For more information about sunless tanners see our corresponding report.)


Skin care expert, Paula Begoun points out in product reviews at, that if self-adjusting makeup were truly able to adjust to your ideal color, there wouldn’t be a need for multiple shades. Yet, self-adjusting foundations and concealers are typically available in at least three shades for every product line that makes them.


The bottom line

There is nothing inherently wrong with self-adjusting makeup — as long as you don’t buy into the hype. Just like all other makeup, you are likely to find some shades that work well for you and some that don’t. I guess that means we’ll all have to stick to the tried-and-true method of trying-it-before-you-buy-it. But you have to admit, that’s the most exciting part of shopping for makeup!


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