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Monday, January 24, 2011

Duochrome: what does it really mean?

Links checked 12/12/13

You'd think the answer to that is straight forward but did you know that there is no definition for Duochrome in the Merriam Webster dictionary? And if you look for the word in Wikipedia it retrieves the name of an album by some guy I've never heard of. So what is a duochrome? Because buying pigments and creating polishes from those pigments, brings the use of the term into question.

I know what I've always thought of as duochrome polishes were the Sally Hansen Nail Prisms which actually did change color as you moved towards or away from a light source AND when viewed at an angle (that becomes an important distinction). More recent examples of duochrome polishes would be the Chameleon line by Scherer (CQ).

TKB Trading's Travel to series of pigments color shift the way the Nail Prisms do but most other pigments do not, including those from Coastal Scents that have Duocrome in their name. The manufacturer gave the pigments the name so this was not Coastal Scents' doing.

They describe their Duocrome Blue Green as a, "Blue with a green reflection powder" while describing Duocrome Iridescent Green Gold as, "A lustrous mica pigment that produces a two-look color!"  The descriptions are accurate; I own both so I can assure you of that but they don't color shift the way the Travel to series does.

I tested this out with Jupiter from the Travel to series still on my nails, the bottle of Jupiter, Sally Hansen Nail Prisms Garnet Lapis, Duocrome Red Orange and Blue Red Chrome, a pigment that is primarily blue but appears pinkish-purple when viewed at an angle.

Like the Hilites and other interference pigments they appear to be one color when viewed straight on and a second color when viewed at an angle. What they do not do is change color when moved closer to or away from a light source; they get lighter or darker in color but don't change hue.

I too have used the word duochrome in describing pigments/frankens but when compared to those old Nails Prisms and more recently, TKB Trading's Travel to series of pigments, Duocrome is a misnomer. What is referred to as Duocrome should be called Iridescent.

It's also interesting to note here that the term duochrome seems to be applied almost exclusively to cosmetic products; in the automotive industry, paints and pigments that color shift are described as such or referred to as chameleon, kameleon colors or simply referred to as color shifting

Definition of Iridescence from Merriam Webster:
1: a lustrous rainbowlike play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves (as from an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales) that tends to change as the angle of view changes.

MK's definition of Duochrome:
Pigments and polishes that color shift (or change hue) when viewed at an angle and as they move towards or away from a light source.

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  1. The hilites are what you use to make duochromes by mixing them with other colors, they are not meant to be duochrome on their own. I have the green-gold from CS which seems to have a noticable shift but I don't have the other ones from CS that are listed as duochrome to compare. I have the travel to pigments as well but like the hiliites they are really meant to be mixed with other shades to create duochromes.

  2. Though my experience using Hilites & other interference pigments to make D/Cs is probably less than yours I have never created a polish that color shifts the way SH Nail Prisms do hence the uniqueness of the Travel to series for me. If you have tips you should pass them along, I'm always "still learning". I own all 4 of the D/C named pigments from CS and yes Green Gold & the others have a two-toned effect, shifting from one color to a second color. I was suggesting that because the Nail Prisms (and Travel to's) color shift to three different colors (as opposed to two that are related such as yellow to green) we should reconsider what we think of as "Duochrome".

  3. Thanks for the explanation. Clear as mud. I guess I have a few iridescent polishes. My favorite was the (really) old Sealily from L'Orial. Thanks for the information

  4. The total color shift must be hard or clarins upee 230 wouldnt sell for 85 dollars a bottle

    1. People will charge what other people are willing to pay. My personal limit is still $8 a bottle.

  5. I've always defined a duochrome as something that has a base colour, but reflects another, so like a brown base that shines blue. Duochrome literaly means two-colour - 'duo' means two & I believe 'chrome' is another word for pigment.
    Things that actually shift colours, I'd call chameleon or multichrome.

    ...as for iridescent, I think in cosmetics thats mostly applied to things that are sheer/transluscent but reflect colour/s. So I guess you could say tkb's planetary & hilites, etc are all iridescent powders, but when added to a base - they make it multi/duochromes.


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