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Finding your perfect lip shade isn’t always easy, but some TikTokers have seemingly found the solution in their pantries. Using food coloring as a DIY lip stain is among the beauty trends taking over TikTok these days.
Videos with the hashtag #foodcoloringlipstain have a collective 76 million views. As the tag suggests, the trend involves using the same food dye you’d use to make brightly-hued cakes and cupcakes on your lips instead of in frosting for a long-lasting, affordable, and customizable lip stain.
Seemingly popularized by TikToker @sarah_wolak, the trend is gaining steam, with other users, such as YouTube star Colleen Ballinger and beauty fans Megan Mauk and Mireya Rios, trying it out to mixed success. Aside from the potential of staining your fingers (and everything in your bathroom), TikTokers have experienced temporarily stained teeth and patchy lips.
Still, plenty have been showing off highly pigmented, gorgeously hued lips, which begs the question: Does the DIY lip stain hack work, and is it safe to try? Ahead, get the scoop on the trend from a makeup artist, a medical toxicology physician, and a dermatologist.
What is the DIY lip stain hack?
Essentially, the hack involves applying food dye in the color of your choice (plenty of TikTokers experiment with mixing multiple hues to create custom shades) to the lips with a Q-tip. Most simply apply plain dye straight to their lips, but some users mix food coloring with petroleum jelly, lip oil, or gloss to create a more traditional texture.
To remove the stain, users gently rub off any excess with a tissue or towel. However, as some videos depict, food dye may stain items it comes into contact with.
ICYDK, some natural food dyes (like beta-carotene, turmeric, or beet) are sourced directly from the food or plant-based materials. Others are synthetic, which means they’re man-made, explains Kelly Johnson-Arbor, M.D., a medical toxicology physician and interim executive director at National Capital Poison Center. Food coloring can certainly provide pigment, but it doesn’t include all of the ingredients you’d expect to find in a lip stain.
Many traditional lip stains contain specific ingredients to prevent the lips from drying out. Think beeswax, jojoba oil, and mineral-based pigments to add color and keep lips moisturized, according to celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa.
Does using food dye as lip stain work?
As evidenced by countless TikTok videos, food coloring will temporarily stain a color onto the lips, but it might have an uneven texture and be difficult to remove when you’re ready to take it off, notes Figueroa. “While food coloring might last even longer than a lip stain, it would be difficult to take off and can become patchy and dry,” she says. “Food dye can transfer easily, and once applied and once set will be very hard to remove.”
If you try the beauty trend, use a little dye at a time to build the color without it spreading too easily onto other parts of the skin, suggests Figueroa. And if you do get excess food coloring around your lips or elsewhere on your face, you can dip micellar water or Vaseline on a cotton swab to wash it off, she adds.
Is using food dye as lip stain safe?
While all of the synthetic food dyes recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are safe enough to be ingested or applied to the skin in small amounts, food dyes can cause allergic reactions, especially those you might use to give lips a reddish tint, notes Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “FD&C Red number 40 (Allura red) is associated with allergic reactions, including asthma-like symptoms and skin rashes,” she shares.
“Very rarely, a person could be allergic to food dye and perhaps not know it,” adds Brian Moore M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the dermatology advisor to Illuminate Labs. Some common food dyes, such as carmine (a red food dye found in burgers, drinks, candy, and some fruit yogurts) and tartrazine, a synthetic food dye that’s used in food, cosmetics, and personal care products to give a yellow hue, are more prone to causing allergic reactions, explains Dr. Moore.
Both doctors agree that the amount of food dye needed to coat your lips likely won’t cause any harm, even if you do ingest small amounts. Still, Figueroa recommends “sticking to traditional lip stains because they’ve been tested and formulated to be safe and effective for you to use,” she says. Her recommendation for a glossy, pigmented stain that keeps lips nourished: Be a 10’s Be Irresistible Lipstick Stain.
Food dye is an effective and safe alternative to traditional lip stains: True or false?
Both doctors give this TikTok hack a thumbs up for safety, given you don’t have any allergies or sensitivities to the ingredients in your food dye of choice. That said, it can take three to four days for the dye to naturally slough off with the skin’s cycle, so mixing it with a little bit of petroleum jelly can help make clean-up a bit breezier, notes Dr. Moore.
Better still, you can turn to more traditional lip stains for even, long-lasting color without the mess.