By Diane Mapes
What it is: Mood Swing Emotionally Activated Lip Gloss ($18.50 at toofaced.com)
What it claims to do: This lip gloss lets your lips "express your deepest emotions" by changing shades along with your mood, according to Too Faced Cosmetics. "Are you in love, jealous, angry, happy or hot and bothered? Your lips will tell the tale!" the manufacturer promises. Additional benefits of the product: sunscreen protection, restored elasticity and instant rejuvenation and hydration for extra dry, flaky lips.
Our experience: I've always been intrigued by mood rings, those clunky baubles from the '70s that changed color depending on your mood (or rather, the temperature of the thermotropic liquid crystals contained within the "stone"). If your ring was blue and your temperature was up, you were in a good mood. If it was yellow, you were tense. If it was black, your ring was either damaged or it was too cold (most people just assumed you were in a foul mood). Mine, inevitably, was black.
Mood Swing lip gloss seemed like a fun twist on the old mood ring theme, with the hues limited to the pink family (no need to worry about going around with black lips if I was in a black mood) and the moods coyly linked to various degrees of passion. Petal Pink, the shade I chose (other options include Berry Pink, Pink Shimmer and Original – all "product tested on celebrities not animals"), was designed to go from "pearl to your perfect shade of petal pink," depending on your emotional state. Those states were cheekily defined on the side of the package as Totally Zen (nearly white lips) to Slightly Smitten (pearly pink) to Feelin' Frisky (light pink) to Dirty Thoughts (darker pink) to Hot & Bothered (fuchsia) to Basking in the Afterglow (a deep rich pink bordering on red).
The first time I applied it, the gloss immediately conjured up memories of grade school –not because of the mood ring connection but the consistency. It was thick and white and sticky, and I suddenly felt like I was putting strawberry-scented Elmer's Glue on my mouth. The white (or Totally Zen shade) quickly dissolved into a pearly pink, though; apparently, I was already Slightly Smitten. Since I don't have a current beau, I decided to test the passion factor by surfing the TV, hoping for a rerun of "Casino Royale" or "Ocean's Eleven." Unfortunately, I couldn't locate George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Matt Damon, so I made due with a rakishly handsome local newscaster. Sure enough, within minutes, my lips appeared to be either Feelin' Frisky or to be having Dirty Thoughts, although it could also just have been bad lighting.
I continued to use Mood Swing over the next few days – while watching TV at home, while out at a bar with a girlfriend, during heated discussions with my sisters, before heading to the dentist – trying to determine whether the lip gloss was actually responding to changes in my emotional state. At the bar, my girlfriend and I both smeared some of the stuff on then started asking each other pointed questions about our favorite cinematic hunks. Daniel Craig seemed to get a small reaction out of her; Jon Hamm – "Mad Men's" Don Draper – she claimed, did the same for me (sorry, George!). But again, the lighting wasn't the best and alcohol – and wishful thinking – may have been a factor. Sadly, the strongest change in color seemed to take place right before I left for the dentist's office for a scheduled root canal. Granted, I was a little Hot & Bothered, but not in what I'd call a good way.
What the experts say: Dr. Hema Sundaram, a Washington, D.C., dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon and author of "Face Value: The Truth about Beauty – And a Guilt-Free Guide to Finding It" says Mood Swing Lip Gloss does indeed work off the same body temperature principal as the mood rings from the 1970s. "It's a grown-up mood ring for your lips," she says. "It's make-up as play."
As for its claims regarding sunscreen protection, restored elasticity, and moisturizing, she says they all seem reasonable. "It has some color in it and it has some emollients and it has a little bit of sunscreen," she says. "I can't evaluate the claims fully because I don't know the proportions of the ingredients and it doesn't give an SPF, but it seems to be a souped-up lip gloss. It's going to lubricate – it will give the lips a smoother feel – and it has this body-temperature sensitivity."
Mood Swing does contain Vitamin E, so people with Vitamin E allergies may want to avoid this product, she says. And some women may not appreciate its youthful range of bubble gum shades. "A professional woman is probably not going to be wearing this during the day," she says. "Basically, this is a lip balm for the teen/tween set – or for the inner child within a grown woman. It's tapping into the playful side, the young side, the side that likes to go for tarot readings and call the psychic hotline. It's the makeup equivalent of a fortune cookie – it has the element of surprise."
Bottom line: Much like mood rings, Mood Swing lip gloss was fun to play with, but I'd have to say it's not a product I'd use regularly. The strawberry smell was a bit too reminiscent of those Bonne Bell Lip Smackers my classmates used to wear in seventh grade and the various shades of shimmery pink were far too cotton candy-ish for my taste – or my age. It did do a good job with moisturizing; I used much less lip balm with it than when I wore my normal lipstick. And it was definitely a fun conversation starter, which may be more in keeping with its true intent. All in all, I'd have to say Mood Swing wasn't exactly a sophisticated mood indicator (seriously, going to the dentist makes me hot?), but it did manage to keep my lips moist and colorful and to capture a fair amount of attention. Particularly that of the cute guy sitting next to me at the bar who asked me out.