color chemistry: pink

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As many of you may know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As a disease that has affected so many people, this month is dedicated to creating awareness, providing aid for those affected and becoming actively involved in organizations who aim to help out. So I thought that it would be a fun idea, in light of all the seriousness on this topic, to explain some of the chemistry behind the color pink!

color theory 

Chemicals obtain their colors through basic physical actions, as I explained in my concealer colors post (here!). As a refresher, each color visible to the eye is a result of light rays hitting the object at a certain wavelength, where those waves are being absorbed into the object. The resultant color we see is the opposite of the coloring being absorbed.

color chemistry

The color pink is not one single chemical, it exists in many forms. The color pink is (about to get deep here) a concept, it only exists in our minds. Remember the whole black and blue or gold and white dress controversy? In an interview from PBS, Beau Lotto a professor of neuroscience at University College London stated that “Color is, quite literally, a figment of your imagination”. As depressing as this may seem, it is extremely interesting when you think about it. However, getting back to chemistry, compounds do not just decide to become pink or create pink byproducts. The color is a natural and uncontrollable (from the molecular level) result.

So where is pink found? Many places! Many minerals like rose quartz and rhodochrosite (manganese carbonate) appear naturally as pink. Inorganic pigments like ultramarines can give a cosmetic a pink color. A rhodamine dye is what gives pink highlighters their bright color. The compound lycopene is what makes watermelon that light pink color, and is also what gives tomatoes their red coloring. So, as you can see by now, pink is quite abundant and exists in many forms. And just because I said earlier that pink isn’t one specific compound doesn’t mean we don’t know which compounds cause pink. The field of color is a huge area of study, I personally have a large portion of my research dedicated to colors alone.

pink awareness

So getting back to my original point, the next time you see a pink theme advertisement, wristband, tee-shirt, whatever it may be this month remember that there is a lot of color chemistry involved! I’ve listed some websites links below if you’re interested in dedicating your time, money or simply educating yourself more about breast cancer awareness.


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