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What is mood changing nail polish?

Nail polish has come a long way from just adding color to your nails. Today there are polishes that can change color based on temperature, polishes infused with vitamins to strengthen nails, and even polishes that claim to change color based on your mood. Mood changing nail polishes use special pigments that are designed to react to changes in body temperature and pH levels, which can be affected by your mood. Keep reading to learn all about how mood changing nail polish works and the different color options available.

How Does Mood Changing Nail Polish Work?

The key to mood changing polishes is special pigments called thermochromic or photochromatic pigments. These pigments contain leuco dyes that can change between colorsless and colored states based on temperature changes or UV light exposure. Here’s a quick overview of how each pigment works:

Thermochromic Pigments

Thermochromic pigments change color based on temperature. The leuco dyes used in the pigments are normally colorless below the “activation temperature” but turn vividly colored at warmer temperatures. As your nail polish warms up from your body heat, the pigments change to show a different color.

Since body temperature can fluctuate slightly based on mood, thermochromic polishes may appear to change color according to your emotions. However, the color change is very subtle and gradual as the temperature shifts up and down.

Photochromatic Pigments

Photochromatic pigments change color in response to exposure to UV light. The leuco dyes are colorless indoors but turn vivid when they absorb UV rays from sunlight. This allows photochromatic polishes to have one color indoors and a different color when you go outside into the sun.

Photochromatic nail polishes don’t actually detect moods or emotions. However, the dramatic color change when you walk outside can appear like your nail color is reacting to your mood shift of feeling happy from seeing sunshine.

Popular Mood Changing Color Options

Now that you know how the pigments work, let’s look at some of the fun color changing combinations used in mood changing nail polishes:

Color Name Indoor Color Outdoor Color
Sunny Daze Pale yellow Vibrant orange
Calm Waters Light blue Royal blue
Pink Paradise Barely pink Fuchsia

As you can see, many polishes go from a pale, muted tone indoors to a much brighter, more vibrant version in sunlight. This helps create a dramatic transformation when you step outside. Thermochromic polishes make more subtle changes, like light pink warming up to dark pink.

Choosing a Mood Changing Polish

If you’re interested in trying out a mood changing nail polish, here are a few tips for choosing a good option:

  • Look for well-known brands like OPI or Sally Hansen that specify they use color changing technology.
  • Swatch the polish on your nails indoors and in sunlight to test out the color change.
  • Pick a starting color you’ll enjoy wearing indoors too.
  • Go for fun, bright shades to get the most dramatic shifts.
  • Consider thermochromic polishes if you want more subtle, warm-activated changes.

Applying and Wearing Mood Polish

Mood changing nail polishes apply just like regular polish. Use a base coat first for healthy nails, then apply two thin coats of the color-changing polish allowing drying time between coats. Finish up with a top coat for an even longer lasting manicure.

Since the color effects come from special pigments, it’s important not to layer other polishes on top or mix in additional colors, as it will dilute the effect. Remove the polish after several days once it starts to chip and reapply for the best color-changing results.

The pigments themselves are safe and non-toxic, but you should still avoid constant UV light exposure by wearing SPF on your hands or covering them up outdoors. Thermochromic polishes are safer for repeated wear since they activate from body heat.

Caring for Your Mood Manicure

Taking good care of your color changing manicure will help it last longer. Here are some tips:

  • Use a UV-protective top coat to help prevent fading from sun exposure.
  • Avoid picking at or peeling the polish, as it can pull the pigments off.
  • Go easy on household cleaning chemicals that could cause the colors to fade.
  • Keep nails moisturized with cuticle oil to prevent chips and cracks.
  • Thinner coats tend to hold up better than thick, goopy polish.

Do Mood Polishes Really Work?

Mood changing polishes definitely can shift colors, but whether they reflect your moods is up for debate. Thermochromic pigments will gradually change with warmer body temperatures. But your nail beds don’t get hot enough to signal clear mood changes. Photochromatic pigments do give more dramatic color shifts in sunlight that can appear to match brightened moods. But again, they aren’t actually detecting anything about your emotions. Basically, the “mood ring” effect is more novelty than scientifically accurate.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of mood changing nail polish:


  • Fun, dramatic color transformations
  • Unique novelty nail polish
  • Conversation starter
  • Applies like regular polish


  • Doesn’t actually reflect moods
  • UV exposure can damage nails
  • More expensive than regular polish
  • Color change wears off over time

The Future of Mood Polishes

While color changing mood polishes have some limitations, the future looks bright for improvements in the technology. Scientists are working on developing more advanced pigments that can respond to minute temperature and pH changes. This could lead to more accurate and customizable color changes. Some researchers are even trying to formulate pigments that can change color based on electrical impulses in the skin that relate to emotions. While the nail polishes today rely mostly on novelty, the possibilities are endless for creating true “digital makeup” that PUTfuturistically reflects your state of mind!


Mood changing nail polish contains special thermochromic or photochromatic pigments that transform colors when exposed to temperature changes or UV light. While the polishes don’t necessarily reflect your actual moods, they can provide a fun pop of color that shifts subtly or dramatically based on conditions. With innovation in color changing technologies, mood polishes have potential for becoming truly customizable, digital cosmetics in the future.