Frankening: How to suspend glitter in clear nail polish?

Hello everyone,

today I have a very different blog posting for you, there will not be any pretty nail polishes or swatches found in this post.

I hope some of you will find it interesting anyways. I will talk about something everyone who has tried frankening before has experienced. There is quite a hype going on recently about custom blended nail polishes and all these beautiful indie brands mixing glitters into nail polishes and creating the most amazing colour combinations. No wonder people start thinking:

Hey, I’ll just do this myself. I’ll buy these really cheap glitters from Asia on Ebay, throw them in some clear nail polish and tadaaa – make my own “Glittering Crowd” dupe.

In case you haven’t tried that yet, feel free to do so. Or trust me saying: This doesn’t work at all. Your creation might look beautiful at first, but usually after less than ten minutes it will turn into a mess. The cheap glitters bleed out, melt, and give their colour to the base. But this is not the only problem. Also, the glitter particles will all sink to the bottom and sometimes even sediment there into one chunky mess of cheap asian glitter. Hit the “more” button if you are ready for a looong posting about this issue!

The problem: Glitter settles in clear nail polish

While the problem with bleeding and melting glitters is solvable by just buying more expensive, high quality polyester and/or acrylic glitters and praying they will behave well in nail polish, you will still be stuck with the fact that normal clear nail polish isn’t thick enough to suspend the glitters and hold them up nicely.

Some people don’t mind shaking their own glitter polish creations up every time before use, but for me, this isn’t enough. I want to be able to look at my glitter bomb in the bottle whenever I want, with the glitters and pigments nicely distributed throughout the bottle.

Googleing basically gives you two solutions for this:

1. Use a nail polish that already has some glitter suspended in it, and just add your own.

Meh. This might already be a great help for lots of people, but I really want to start from scratch. I mean, if you’re an artist you also want to start with an empty, white canvas instead of finishing somebody elses painting, right?

2. Buy a suspension base especially made for glitter frankens

Yep, there is such a thing, it is called “Glamour Base” and it is basically a really thick, slightly milky frankenpolish base that holds up glitter and pigment. The problem for everybody outside the USA is: They won’t deliver it to you. If I’d be living in the USA, I’d definitely buy this base instead of desperately trying to mix my own. You can get 30 ml for 5.50 $, and you can even dilute it with some clear polish base and it will still work. I think this is what all the famous frankeners use by the way, but I’m not sure :)

Both solutions don’t work for me, so I started to look up what it actually is that is used in nail polish to give it the structure it needs to hold glitters and pigments up. I mean, all it really has to do is make the clear nail polish base thicker.

Xanthan Gum

I found videos on youtube talking about putting Xanthan Gum into nail polish to make it thicker. One uses it to turn thin nail polishes into stamping polishes, the other one uses it for making a glitter polish. Xanthan Gum is basically a gelling agent which is also used in cooking to make sauces or other liquids thicker.

I ordered a small amount at my local pharmacy. At that time I didn’t know there was a difference between normal Xanthan Gum and transparent Xanthan Gum so I guess I got the normal one – it turned my clear nail polish into a milky mess. The funniest part is that the glitters still sedimented so it didn’t work at all. Even after throwing lots and lots of the white pulver into the bottle, it didn’t get any better. I might try the transparent Xanthan Gum some time, because I think it might actually work. The problem is that I don’t know what this actually does to nail polish – professional nail polishes never contain Xanthan Gum so I doubt that this is the best ingredient to use.

After some more research I found out that there are several other gelling agents used especially for giving cosmetic products a nice structure. The most important feature I was looking for was that they produce a clear gel, because obviously I wanted the clear nail polish base to stay that way.

Carbomer

This gelling agent is used to make transparent hair gels and eye gels, and it basically just sucks up water and builds up a nice clear gel. I thought that this might actually work in nail polish so I bought a small amount in a shop that sells raw materials for cosmetics, but I’m pretty sure it can also be ordered in pharmacies.

Throwing the white pulver into a clear nail polish didn’t work. I had the feeling that it doesn’t go well with some of the nail polish ingredients (especially solvents). There was some clotting going on and it also gave the polish base a milky look. It didn’t help to suspend the glitter either.

Then I thought that the solution might be to turn Carbomer into a clear gel first and then add it to nail polish. Since I have no clue about chemistry, I made a gel with the white powder and some water and then threw the “water gel” into the nail polish. Water and nail polish don’t go together well so it looked really strange. The only good thing was, that the glitter stayed suspended after this! Lol! But this is not an option since water has no place in nail polish.

There are many more gelling agents, but it would go beyond the scope of this blog and my knowledge to talk about all of them. And besides that, I might have found something that actually works :)

Aerosil (Silicium Dioxide or Fumed Silica)

During my research I came across a document which seems to be a patent that investigated the use of Aerosil as a suspension agent and why it is so much better than stearalkonium hectorite (because it leaves the nail polish base absolutely clear). Stearalkonium hectorite is an ingredient that for example the lovely frankener MK from Polish and Pigments found out to be responsible for suspending pigments and glitters, but it is not available for private persons at all.

Also, the website of Aerosil says:

“In nail polish AEROSIL® fumed silica improves the distribution of nail polish pigments and prevents them for settling.”

Sounds like what we need, right? I ordered the smallest possible amount (50g) at a pharmacy and was very surprised when I picked it up: It was in a huge container, because the consistency is sooo fluffy and light that 50g is a LOT of powder. The funniest powder I’ve ever seen! But also quite dangerous because it’s so light: It will fly around in the air so you have to make sure you cover your nose with a mask – I don’t think breathing in a gelling agent is good for your lungs!

Here are all the three ingredients I tried:

What they look like as pulvers.

And here you can see what happens when they are mixed with water. Xanthan Gum is forming a white gel which is unusable in nail polish – we want our clear base to stay clear! Carbomer builds a perfectly clear gel but somehow doesn’t like to be pourred into nail polish. Aerosil looks a little milky here but also forms a rather clear gel and is dissolved very easily due to its superfine texture.

I explained above what happens if you try to thicken nail polish with Carbomer or Xanthan Gum. They both don’t work, well maybe transparent Xanthan Gum would work but I haven’t tried that yet.

Let’s see what Aerosil does!
I threw quite a lot of that stuff into the clear nail polish, actually I filled the bottle which was half empty all the way with the powder. After some shaking all the powder was magically gone, there was no clotting at all which I liked a lot. Afterwards the base was not as clear as it used to be, but I think I can live with the result for now. I have a feeling that a professional mixer or something would give even better results. The following pictures were taken after leaving the bottle alone for one night (about 10 hours). The glitter inside the Aerosil bottle is still suspended and nicely distributed through the whole bottle:

I can’t even tell you how happy I am with this outcome! I spent 2 months figuring out stuff, writing e-mails to companies and running to shops to check if they sell what I need. Not to forget I spent quite a lot of money, also on pulvers that I will never use again like Xanthan Gum and Carbomer – what to do with those?? ;) I will now experiment some more with the magic of Aerosil and see what effect it has in nail polish when you apply and wear it.

Please note: I must say that this posting is not meant to be professional in any way and I highly suggest you get some professional advice before you try any of this yourself and at your own risk. I actually have no clue what I’m talking about when it comes to chemistry so all I wanted to do in this posting is to share my experiences with you. I don’t know how the nail polish will behave on nails and if it will look good or not. Please keep this in mind before you buy a huge container of fluffy Aerosil ;)

In the meantime I did some more research. If you’re interested, please continue reading, to find out that Aerosil 200 is not the best solution because of the swatches, see how I compared it to other Aerosil forms, and be sure to stop by my ultimate final sum-up posting about suspension agents in nail polish!

I hope you enjoyed it a little – the next posting will be with pretty swatches again – I promise!

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73 thoughts on “Frankening: How to suspend glitter in clear nail polish?

  1. Thanks for that post, it was soooo interesting!
    I experimented frankening a few time ago but didn’t try more as I’m in Belgium and can’t get the magical base from TKB… (well I could swap for it but it’s much more easy to buy it yourself, isn’t it? ;) )
    I can’t wait to see your results after wearing your Aerosil polish… Then I’ll investigate to find some here ;)

    • Wow really? That sucks though because I’m not convinced that just throwing Aerosil in a clear base does the trick. It highly depends on the base and also, it actually needs some high-speed mixing – the first swatches I did this morning didn’t dry as shiny as I wanted them to be so this might be because I can never reacht the mixing speed the Aerosil needs to fully disperse. Stay tuned for an update on this blog soon :)

      • I would love to help experiment! I already started looking how to buy it but I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for. There are 15 different kinds of Aerosil listed on their site and tons of listings on eBay for fumed silica powder. Hmmm….

        I’m thinking once I get my hands on some of sacrificing a blender to the mixing process. Should be able to clean up afterwards with acetone, right?

      • Yeah I think so! It’s so great to see that I’m not the only one obsessed with finding a solution :D It takes a lot of time and patience though. If you need any more information on the Aerosil I used, feel free to ask! I can only tell you the alternative names I found was silicium dioxide, fumed silica, fine particle silicon dioxide…

      • Was it AEROSIL® R 972 Pharma? Since you mentioned you ordered through a pharmacy I figured that might be it. I want to see if I can request a sample through their website.

      • Sorry adding more and more stuff;
        but I think Aerosil 200 is not good choice because it’s hydrophilic. I read somewhere that silica used in nail polish is R972 for example, which is hydrophobic; which make sense, that nail polish is totally hydrophobic. I bet this might be a reason for having “rough” texture, that if you mix hydrophilic stuff into hydrophobic solvent, it won’t dissolve so well.

        But it’s kind of surprising, that anyway it worked for suspension. Now I need to seek for the way to get this hydrophobic silica…

      • That could be the problem! Thanks! I’ll try to get R972 then, I have an offer for 10kg for 35 Euro including shipping, but honestly… 10kg? My boyfriend will think I’m nuts!

  2. So happy to read about this!! <3 I made tons of research about stearalkonium hectorite and was this close to ordering it, but I talked to a chemist and he told me there is no way I would be able to disperse the powder in clear base without using a high speed shear dispenser. How did you mix your powder to the base? Is your base just clear polish? Nail polish formula isn't that complicated by the way, I believe our process(adding powder to clear base) is how it's actually produced :)

    • Aaaw it feels so good to hear I wasn’t the only one google-ing strange stuff!
      What you’re writing sounds like very valuable information to me. All I did was to shake my arms off – the pulver seems to have vanished in the bottle, but when applying the nail polish you can see that the polish is more “structured” than you would like it to be. That’s when I also thought that I actually need high speed mixing :(

      • What do you mean by the polish being more structured? What exactly is the problem with using this ingredient without a mixer? The sad part is, not even a regular high speed mixer works(because I’ve been looking into buying one, can you believe it?) You need to get a high shear force dispenser, industrial strength machines with specialty blades that work by shear force. I’m not an indie polish maker, I just want to make myself polishes and maybe gift my friends some bottles with my leftover supplies, so I really really can’t justify buying any machines or anything in large quantities. I’m really grateful that you posted this though, I’m getting hopeful again. Lol. For what it’s worth, just keeping the pigment/glitter suspended for a certain amount of time would work for me too, say for an hour as I paint my nails. I can just shake the bottle again when I want to use it again.
        I saved my links on my work computer, I’ll send them to you tomorrow morning. Also, the chemist I talked to told me stearalkonium hectorite used in nail polish was called Bentonite 27 and they send free samples, if you want to check that out as well. Where did you learn that Aerosil was a better ingredient?

      • I will post swatches of the nail polish on my nail tomorrow. Maybe you will see then what I mean. It is not shiny and feels a little rough.
        Here is the link to a patent document testing fumed silica (Aerosil) against Sterealkonium hectorite and saying that fumed silica results in more transparent nail polish. It is not easy to read, but the most important parts are in the abstract and in the description: paragraphs 0008 and 0009, 0015.
        Maybe that helps :)

  3. I also found this information from another manufacturer:

    Fumed Silica in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products

    http://www.lotioncrafter.com/reference/tech_data_silica.pdf

    “Different untreated grades are recommended based on the consumer’s applications as well as their dispersion equipment. Increased thickening ability follows increases in surface area. However, this trend is offset by the decrease in ease of dispersion. In the manufacture of cosmetics and personal care items, low to moderate shear mixing equipment is typically used. Planetary mixers and high-speed dispersers fall into this category. CAB-O-SIL M-5 is the best candidate for applications using these types of
    mixers.”

    • Those are great links, thank you! They both basically say that you need a very special mixing procedure right…. I might actually try to throw the nail polish bottles into an ultrasound cleaning device – the idea came from another commenter and I like it :D

  4. This is my first comment and I wanted to say that YOU DID REALLY GREAT JOB!! Actually I tried several options myself which is similar that you did, but didn’t work so much too…I’m also the one who got really sad when I saw the sucking not-sending-international news from tkb.

    Anyway, I think this link will help you too; it’s great discussion about bentone 27 (Stearalkonium bentonite for cosmetic).

    http://chemistscorner.com/cosmeticsciencetalk/discussion/255/stearalkonium-bentonitehectorite-as-suspending-agent-in-nail-polish/p1

    Other way around, have you ever tried for ultrasonic glass washer for suspension? In research field, this (or alternative) is pretty often used to dissolve something which is impossible to dissolve by normal mixing/shaking. I’m thinking myself to try this option – sorry never tried for the polish – but when I need to suspend/dissolve powders to “thick” solvents, I simply use this ultrasonic stuff and it works well especially for small scale mixing (I mean, few-mL-scale).

    Hope seeing your updates! I’m very curious how you’ll improve your experiments, and Oh! I also might say thank you for great info about the silica, I really didn’t know that’s orderable via local pharmacy in Germany. I really might try it!

  5. I could go on all day about how glad I am you did this research, ad for the last weeks its been driving me crazy, as I live in Australia and can not purchase glamour base anymore either. But I wont, I will just say I bow down to your skill =) but I now need to know where I purchase this. I have requested a sample, but need some now!! Can I purchase from anywhere in particular? Where did you get yours? =)

    • Thanks so much Miissy!
      I ordered my Aerosil 200 in a pharmacy. But please make sure you read my follow up posting with the swatches etc because in there I explain why this is not the solution YET!
      Still looking for the perfect ingredient and a way to disperse it!

  6. i will settle for anything at this stage!! may i ask what country you are in? i have just done some fairly extensive researh myself, and came across numerous patents for well known polishes all including this cabosil earlier spoken of. have you tried this? i have found it at my local pigment place to my shock and enjoyment, i can pick some up tomorrow and try it out, but am not sure about the curing process. it is obviously not as easy as pouring in xantham gum, which might i add, was the worst thing i ever did! wasted lots of polish trying to make that work! dont know if this link is telling you anything new, but it seemed to hold my attention and give me lots of things to google!

    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/81281907/Method-Of-Making-Up-Nails—Patent-7939053

    • Thanks Miissy, I think you should definitely consider cabosil because I think it is just another name for fumed silica.

      For stirring/mixing I’d suggest trying a batterydriven tattoo ink mixer (for 5 Euro on Ebay from Hongkong) or an ultrasonic cleaning device – those two options are what I’m going to try next at least, the lovely Chrio pointed me to those!

    • Hey Val, thank you so much for the link and your thoughts!
      Transparent Xanthan Gum will be very easy to buy for me though – you can order it in every pharmacy in Germany :)

  7. How did you manage to order the Aerosil? You mention that you ordered it through your pharmacy, but what does that entail? There doesn’t seem to be a way to order it online.

    • Hey Kasey,

      I just went to a pharmacy here in Germany and asked for Aerosil. They ordered it and the next day I was able to pick it up.
      I’m not sure how it works in other countries, but you might want to google “fumed silica” which usually is the same or at least nearly the same. I hope this helps!

  8. This is amazing! I too have been trying different things. What glitters work best for you? Do you know of a place to get spectraflair? I have see on it on eBay but already in polish. Thank you!!!

    • Dear Leslee,

      sorry, I have no experience with spectraflair as I think there are already soo many beautiful holos out there :)
      As for glitters – it is basically trial and error. I have found a few brands here in Germany that work for me, but I’m not sure if they’d be available in your country. My favourite glitter brand without any melting and bleeding are glitters from “Rico Design”. If you want more information about glitter for nail polish available in the US, you might want to check out the “Polish and Pigments” blog. She has done great research on that! Hope this helps :)

  9. I’m very happy to have found this blog tonight and I laughed at your comment about trying to make my own bottle of “Glittering Crowd” because that’s EXACTLY what i’ve been doing. I’ve just created a disaster with multi-glitters in Orly clear nail polish – bleh! So I am now wanting to try Aerosil and am wondering where do you go to get “better” glitters? By the time I get it figured out, it would probably be cheaper to just go on eBay and spend $40 for a bottle of the real thing, but I am somewhat OCD and don’t want to feel defeated – it’s become a quest!

    • Hey Carol,

      thanks so much for your comment! I know exactely what you mean when you say it has become a quest :D Welcome to the club!
      As for the glitters, like i said in the post, it is always a plus if you can find out what the glitter you are about to buy is made of. Polyester and/or acrylic glitters are usually more solvent resistant. But you can’t be sure, as sometimes it is also the colour they put on that doesn’t behave well.

      Usually, I test all the glitter before I throw lots in a bottle. I usually just throw a few drips of clear polish on a silicon mat and then some of the glitter I want to test, mix it and see what happens. If all goes well, I do a 5 day test in a bottle, because some bleeding, melting and curling happens much later.

      The glitters working best for me so far are available in Germany and from the brand “Rico Design”. If you want to know more about glitters available in the US I suggest you check out the following blog: http://polishandpigments.blogspot.de/ She has done amazing research about different kinds of glitters and pigments!
      I hope this helps!
      Martina

  10. Did the aerosil work in the long run? I am so very curious as I have been dying fora solution to my sad nail polishes lol

    • Hey Bethany,
      there will be a follow up posting soon.
      A quick answer to your question might be that the bottles where I filled fumed silica into still look nice and distributed. So even after weeks, silica doesn’t seem to react with clear nail polish but still gets the job done ;)

  11. FYI fumed silica is used by wood workers and boaters to thicken the resin they coat on woods to make it water proof. Anyhow, point is you can order it from boating supply stores. I know the resin on sail boats is super clear and slippery.

    • Thanks so much for your comment and info! Before buying a huge amount of fumed silica from a boating supply store though, I recommend asking for a sample to see if it behaves the same way. :)

  12. Awesome post! You did some research! Ive been looking for a solution like this since im not the US so finding this saved my life ( the only thing thats left its to check if theres any health issues on using it) thank you so much for writing about it!

  13. This post was absolutely amazing! read the entire thing over and over! So good! Was wondering where i can purchase the aerosol though> im in australia, if that changes anything and really would love to get a start on this! xxxx

    • Hey Amelia,

      thanks so much for your lovely comment! A few things to clarify:
      The stuff you want to buy is called Aerosil and not Aerosol – those two are very different things :)
      Then I recommend you read my follow up posting on how this stuff looks in swatches – you will see that you might not be all the way satisfied with how it looks on the nail.
      I’m working on a sum up posting where I will also mention suppliers. I have a hard time buying hydrophobic fumed silica in Germany myself, but there might be a few suppliers selling it. I found this shop for example, and I contacted them to find out if they ship internationally. Waiting for an answer! So I suggest you check back when my sum up posting is up! Thanks for reading xxx

  14. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH! I have been researching and researching like crazy! I’ve been trying to make my own glitter polish but had the same problems with the suspension and settling. I CANT WAIT TO TRY THIS! tahnk you thank you thank you!!!

    • Hey Lisa,

      sorry, I have no experience with store-bought suspension base. I heard that you can mix it with normal clear polish and that the polish doesn’t have to consist of franken base only, but I can’t give you a ratio!

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  17. (da ich sehe, dass du aus Köln kommst, antworte ich einfach mal auf deutsch^^)
    Aaah, vor ein paar Stunden hab ich Xanthan bestellt :/
    Mal sehen, ob ich das noch rückgängig machen kann…
    Du scheinst die Lösung ja gefunden zu haben – klasse wieviel Geduld du hattest! Und danke, dass du deine Erfahrung teilst, sehr hilfreich!
    Ich hab hier so tolle Pigmente und Glitzer rumstehen, aber es nervt echt, wenn sich das immer alles auf dem Boden absetzt… Werd also morgen direkt mal in die Apotheke spazieren.
    Liebe Grüße!

  18. Hi I read your section on suspending glitters in polishes and sent off for some Aerosil R974, and was stunned when they sent me a free sample (like you I got sent a huge bottle of the stuff which scares me half to death at the thought of opening it!). Can you pls tell me how much to put into a 10ml bottle of polish and any other tips on using the stuff. I get that it will be a bit gritty if you haven’t used the special blade but hey ho you can’t have everything can you!
    I would be grateful of an email if possible, Thanks, Penni

    • Hey Penni,

      thanks so much for your comment! Always nice to hear from other frankeners starting their experiments.
      When you open the Aerosil, please make sure you’re wearing something to protect your lungs, like a mask over your mouth and nose, so that you don’t accidentally breathe the small particles in!
      I can’t really tell you how much pulver you need exactely, but I would recommend that after putting some in, to let the mixture sit for a day or two, because it tends to thicken after a while and you want to avoid throwing in too much at the beginning.
      I always use a straw to put Aerosil in the polish like I’ve shown here. Just add spoon by spoon, shake well, let it sit, and then decide if the mixture is already doing the trick for you.
      It depends on the base of polish you use, as well as on the size and weight of the glitter particles! I hope this helps!

  19. Hi
    I’ve used fumed silica ( you have to use the right grade as there are dozens of them so getting one that’s the right polarity for polish base can be tricky) and it was OK. I had to use a high shear mixer for about 10 minutes to get it into the base, This is the same for Stearalkonium hectorite. It’s a fair bit of messing around which is why we supply Australian indie polish makers with a base that already has the stearalkonium hectorite added to it. It suspends glitters up to about 0.025Hex. For glitters larger than this we have to add more Stearalkonium hectorite. This can get a bit tricky because the more you add the greater is the impact on the polish drying time and overall performance. We can now ship small amounts of untinted lacquer base as well as the tints that the big brands use to create regular nail colours around the world, but because the products are hazardous shipping is relatively expensive. We are keen to try and find some local agents in various countries that would purchase in bulk and then resell in smaller amounts domestically so that shipping costs are minimised. I’m happy to hear back from anyone with interest in this area.
    Ray, Beautyworld PL, Australia

  20. Thank you for this! Exactly what I’m looking for! Is there a follow up post? Did you always get the results you’re looking for?
    And I just found out that they sell suspension bases. New world nail supply is one of the sellers. Actually I dont know any other. I saw it on an indie polish maker’s instagram haha now I will google for more hahaha :-D anyways thanks again! :)

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  23. The best blog post about making bottled glitter frankenpolish I have EVER SEEN! thank you so much for all the time u spent…I appreciate it! :-)

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