Gravity-Defying Cosmetics Explained By Science!

There probably comes a point in every female technical journalist’s career at which she covers her first make-up story and wonders aloud whether this is what her life has come to. But this make-up story involves some physics, and follows a series of viral videos in the TikTok community in which specialist cosmetics vloggers were surprised to see lip gloss apparently levitating — defying gravity — from the ends of its applicators. This caught the attention of [Steve Mould], who followed up on his hunch that static electricity might be responsible. What follows in the video below the break are a variety of attempts to recreate and characterise the phenomenon.

The tried-and-trusted approach of rubbing feet on the carpet failing to cause any movement in the damp atmosphere of a British January, he’s off to try a Van de Graaff generator Even the hefty electrostatic charge from that failed to produce more than a tiny blip, but did at least give a suggestion that the effect might be electrostatic.

Finally he was able to replicate the beauty vloggers’ results using the FunFlyStick electrostatic toy, with satisfying threads of lip gloss heading off into the air. The FunFlyStick is an interesting device in its own right, being a Van de Graaff generator in toy form and capable of generating significant quantities of charge. The flying lip gloss is an interesting phenomenon, but speaks further about just how much electrostatic charge can accumulate on mundane objects in a dry climate. Those of in damper climes would do well to take note before we travel.

Thanks [Käpt’n Blaubär] for the tip!

11 thoughts on “Gravity-Defying Cosmetics Explained By Science!

  1. I come to Hackaday, see a story on cosmetics and my immediate thought is that it’s some sub discipline of cosmology that I’ve yet to read about!

    Interesting article nonetheless!

  2. Apparently makeup isn’t just for women anymore. Some men use makeup too and I’m not just talking about crossdressing. If properly selected and applied, makeup should not be seen yet it can make you look more youthful or enhance your appearance. Facts are, if you look good, you’ll probably get that job or promotion you’ve been deserving! I know that a lot of public figure heads and company directors use a bit of makeup.

    Now, what if lip gloss could make you levitate!!?

  3. Hé Steve,
    in the video you are wearing mostly cotton clothes, which are not very good at building up static electricity. The women/girls in the videos might be wearing nylons, polyester dresses, socks etc.
    You knew this of course.
    Maybe you need to put on a polyester dress and pantyhose and repeat the experiment walking on nylon carpet 😏?
    Also the climate has a huge effect, London is a lot damper than the average airconditioned home.

    Interesting that the hobby static electricity generator faired better than the professional one. Slower static build-up, so that the viscosity could do its work?

    Nice article Jenny!

    1. I suspect there’s something about the specific tubes and how clean the girls in the clips kept them. Steve didn’t care too much about keeping keeping the screw thread clean so it was covered in lubricating goop, but the girls in the videos have clean threads and there’s definitely friction.

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