Ultimate nail polish suspension agent sum-up posting

Dear readers,

in this posting I will try to sum up everything I learned about suspending glitter in clear nail polish. Most of it I learned from you, my readers! Thank you all so much for your feedback – I could have never done it without you and I’m so happy to see people getting in contact with each other here, on my little blog 🙂

What was the problem?

Every frankener experienced this: You have the brilliant idea to put glitter or pigments into clear nail polish, and it just sinks to the bottom and looks seperated. In other words: It doesn’t suspend in the clear nail polish because the clear nail polish usually is too thin to hold up the glitter. On top of that, in most countries it is not easy to buy a suspension base, so I thought there has to be a way to make your own!

And the idea to solve it?

Somehow, the clear nail polish had to be thickened. There are many different pulvers/ingredients that thicken up certain substances, so I tried throwing different pulvers into clear nail polish to see if it works. Xanthan Gum and Carbomer, both gelling agents that are commonly used in cosmetics, didn’t work. Later I found out that I had bought the wrong Xanthan Gum and that there is a clear one, which might not turn the clear polish into a milky mess. But the fact that professional nail polishes never contain Xanthan Gum makes me doubt that this is the best ingredient to use. I used a third pulver called Aerosil, and to be more specific, I tried Aerosil 200 first. The results in the bottle were amazing – no clotting, the pulver just seemed to melt into the polish and hold the glitter up, even after weeks (I just checked the original bottle again :))

The results on the nail were disappointing though. There is this kind of structure on the surface of the nail polish – it looks rather rough, gritty and dull. Some frankeners pointed me to the fact that there are hydrophobic and hydrophilic fumed silicas and that Aerosil 200 is a hydrophilic (=waterloving) kind, while nail polish is hydrophobic (=not waterloving).

I needed a hydrophobic fumed silica and Chiro was so nice to send me some! Thanks again girl!! After trying the Aerosil R972 and comparing it in swatches to the hydrophilic 200, I noticed much less grittiness in the polish mixed with R972. This, and the fact that nail polish itself is hydrophobic (doesn’t bind with water), made me realize that a hydrophobic fumed silica is the ingredient to use as a suspension agent in nail polish.

This, of course, is only my own conclusion. Sometimes I’m not sure whether the chemical companies themselves know what’s best in nail polish. I received so many comments saying contradictory things after having contacted Evonik, Elementis or Cabot.

Maybe the most valuable info I can give you is that a very famous frankener, whose polishes we all love, is using Aerosil R974 and says that it probably won’t make much of a difference if we use R972. She asked me not to name her company, and I respect that of course, but I know and own a few of her nail polishes and they are amazing! The suspension base is perfectly holding up even the chunkiest glitters, and it dries nice and shiny on the nail. So I’m pretty sure she knows what she is talking about 🙂 In case she reads this I would love to thank her again for her initiative and willingness to share her information and “secret” to successfully creating her very own suspenstion base. I think this is really great as it makes us, as frankeners, independent from the suspension base sellers out there. Of course she had more to say than just “use Aerosil R974”. And this part will not be good news to all of us. I will quote from her e-mail:

To get it to work properly you need a high shear mixer or a homogenizer. Just dumping it in and shaking it won’t work. You’ll just end up with Aerosil suspended in polish, when what you really want is full dispersion and the only way to do that is high speed mixing with the proper blade.  I use an F-type Cowles blade like this one. Evonik (the makers of Aerosil) recommend this saw-tooth type. It literally chops up the Aerosil at very high speed and that is how you get it properly dispersed.

There are other important factors like mixing speed, the size of the mixing vessel relative to the size of the blade, and mixing time.  If you get all those things right, you’ll find that you need much less Aerosil and the lacquer won’t get cloudy much at all. It really is quite amazing when it all works. The second thing that helps but may not be as important to the hobby polish maker is the air that is introduced during mixing.  After a mixing there will be a lot of air bubbles trapped in the mix. Depending on how thick you make it they may or may not work themselves out. If not (as in my case) you’ll need to vacuum them out in a vacuum chamber.

This is probably why I still had a gritty finish after adding R972 to polish and simply shaking my arms off. It is not enough. I doubt that a high shear mixer can be replaced by an ultrasound device. One of my readers has tried using ultrasound, and I will post her experiences further down this posting. It might still be better than hand mixing though.

More thoughts from my readers
Lise pointed me to the fact that I always added Aerosil to an already existing clear nail polish from a drugstore. So, in that clear polish, there is probably already a (small amount of) gelling agent and it might be important, which one and what other chemicals are in there! Also, since the existing clear nail polish already has a gel consistency, Aerosil will not dissolve 100% without being dissolved in some small amount of solvent first. She said that she has read on the manufacturer’s info pages that before gelling agents are added to butyl acetate during nail polish manufacture they are mixed with some sort of acid (citric, acetic) before they’re dispersed at high speed into the rest of the base. I’m not sure if this is absolutely necessary though, but I wanted to put it in here as I want to have everything that people found out in this posting.

The wonderful Luvablois has tested the fumed silica that can be ordered on Ebay. She tried dispersing it with simple hand shaking and also with an ultrasound device. She reported that the polish mixed in the ultrasound does seem a little more glossy / less gritty than the hand-shake version, but she also said that she is not sure if it is worth the trouble, as the hand-shaked result is also holding up the glitter and the grittiness is very subtle.

I hope that this sum-up posting was of some help for all my readers who were asking for a conclusion. I will keep experimenting and updating my blog, but I think that the information from the famous frankener as well as all the comments and e-mails with suggestions with you had to be put together in a posting. Thank you everyone for contributing to this, and please don’t hesitate to write me your questions or comments!

Links that were helpful to me

  • 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. LINK
  • Explanation about how to disperse fumed silica with high shear dispersion devices. LINK
  • Fumed silica in cosmetics – very plain and easy to understand, yet lots of detailed info. LINK
  • A professional instruction about how to use Bentone 27V in nail polish (NOT fumed silica though). LINK
  • A very nice description about how to make your own polish – including another suspension agent, Attapulgite. LINK
  • Someone offered to sell fumed silica in the 200, 300 and r972 in my comments. Her shop is here, and she offered to write e-mails to her to ask for small amounts. Might be worth checking out, however I have never contacted her so I don’t know if it is trustable.

22 thoughts on “Ultimate nail polish suspension agent sum-up posting

  1. Pingback: Aerosil Update and Swatches :) « From head to foot

  2. Pingback: Aerosil as a suspension agent in clear nail polish – R972 vs. 300 « From head to foot

  3. Gut, das ich weiter gelesen habe…. sonst hätt ich womöglich schon wieder was falsches gekauft. Aber eine Frage hätte ich: was sagst du in der Apotheke? Ich hab keine Ahnung, nach was ich da jetzt genau fragen soll… Sorry für die doofe Frage, aber ich würd mich über ne Antwort freuen 😉

    Btw: toller Blog, macht Spaß sich durchzuklicken!


    • Liebe Pippa,
      zunächst einmal: Wenn du Xanthan bestellt hast, das durchsichtig ist (ich habe leider die naturtrübe Version, und die hat aus meinem Klarlack eine milchig-schleimige Masse gemacht) gibt es noch Hoffnung. Ich hatte bisher noch keine Gelegenheit, das durchsichtige Xanthan zu testen,glaube aber, dass es evtl. funktionieren könnte. Wie ich im Posting jedoch geschrieben habe, macht es mich stutzig, dass keine Nagellackfirma Xanthan in ihren Lacken benutzt – daher gehe ich davon aus, dass es zumindest nicht das “professionelle” Mittel ist.

      Die Aerosil-Art R972 zu bekommen, gestaltet sich in Deutschland als schwierig. Ich habe es in der Apotheke nur ein Mal probiert, und da sagte man mir, dass sie nur die Aerosil 200 Version bestellen können. Ich glaube das eigentlich nicht, da die Lieferanten, die Aerosil 200 liefern, immer auch R972 liefern können.
      Vielleicht habe ich also nur eine unwissende Apotheke erwischt… Daher – versuch es einfach!

      Ich bestelle solche komischen Sachen immer einfach, indem ich den Namen des Mittels auf einen Zettel schreibe, und dann sage “Davon hätte ich gerne die kleinste Größe” oder so in der Art.

      Wenn sie fragen, wofür, kannst du dich aber schonmal auf komische Blicke einstellen. Ich würde aber ehrlich sein und sagen, dass du damit versuchen möchtest, die Viskosität von Nagellack zu erhöhen.
      Viel Glück!


  4. Pingback: Frankening: How to suspend glitter in clear nail polish? « From head to foot

  5. Hey there!
    I am going to buy this and am just wondering about how much silica should be added? I read on one of the links above that you should use about 0.25 to 1.0 wt. %, but am not sure how that translates…lol?? About how much do you recommend using? Thanks for this great info also!!


    • Hey Denise,

      thanks for your comment! I can no give you reliable info for that, I guess it depends on the base polish you use. I recommend adding just a little bit, then let it sit for a while as it might actually become thicker after a while. For a small 11 ml nail polish bottle i added 8 straw spoons (you can see a picture of a straw spoon in one of the postings) but I think that was a little too much. Really hard to say, sorry!


  6. Hey schneevante,

    I’d like to say thank you very much for posting all the information on your tests and final conclusion. It has been very informative and I am sure you have helped many people with this. I am now going to try and buy some of the R972 to try it out.



  7. Ok sorry for spamming with the comments! I found the follow up post 😀 and I iust found out youre German (right?) my friend is doing her masters in Tubingen! Shes coming back in may. She asked me if I want something they don’t have in Turkey. Anything local you can recommend? 🙂 not too expensive though. I dont want her to spend too much money 🙂


    • That’s right, I’m german 🙂
      Do you mean nail polish she can bring? Or just anything german?
      People go crazy over Verpoorten Chocolate (filled with egg nog) but only if you like alcohol in sweets 🙂
      Nail polish hmm I don’t know if there is anything special she can bring from germany. Depends on what you like!


      • Yeah I meant nail polish! She brings awesome chocolates anyways hehhe i dont really like alcohol in chocolate though. Are there any german indie polish makers? I can get them sent to her adress. Do you have brands like china glaze, OPI, sation in Germany? Are they expensive. They only sell them online here and the regular ones are like $12 and holos, textureds etc are almost 20! 😦


  8. I am sooo excited I found your blog!! I have been searching wide and low for the proper way to “franken” I am completely new to this but have always loved doing my nails and experimenting. One night after surfing the web for nail art I came upon a website call Girly Bits and found that they sell Franken Starter Kit’s! I was in heaven! I purchased the $50 one that comes with 8 polish bottles and 2 mixing balls in each. It also lets you make the choice of 3 pre-coloured nail lacquer’s in primary colors so I choose black, red, and white thinking those the most versatile. And you choose 12 1tsp. glitters that come in all different colors and sizes. And last but not least with a 4oz. bottle of SUSPENSION BASE!!! I couldn’t wait for it to arrive!!! But now that I have it I haven’t used it for the simple fact that I thought it would come with detailed instructionsbut it didn’t. 😦 I might be asking for to much!lol! I’m just confused with the order process. I know I need the sus. base for the glitter to stay suspended but what if I want to make a polish color with glitter( not clear with glitter)? Would I still need the suspension base? Or since I’m using a color polish I don’t need the suspension base…:/ I think I have thought about it too much and this all about trial and error as I have come to learn through reading blogs like yours. I do recommend you visit that site if you have not already. The glitters they offer are beautiful beautiful colors!!! I think I will experiment tonight!!! Thank you for your detailed blog! First in it’s class!!!


    • yeah thats right, you have to basically trial and error because every nail polish you use for frankening has other ingredients and might react differently when it comes to holding up glitters. Coloured nail polish has pigments in it, and therefore is usually a little thicker than clear polish – so it might even hold up small glitters. I think you can add suspension base to pretty much ever polish to make it hold up the glitters. Hope this helps, have fun testing!


  9. Hi,

    I recently started making my own nail polishes, as well as Frankening some of my old ones. Besides buying empty bottles, suspension base is a huge expense! When I followed a hashtag for Spectraflair on instagram, it led to a polish maker who was holding a huge, free sample of aerosil r972 & she said it keeps her glitter & pigments from sinking. Well, I googled aerosil r972 &found this blog. So much info to be shared! I want to contribute to all of the info you have already. I was reading around & found that you can dissolve the fluffy powder into 91%+ isopropyl alcohol (***it will be very liquidy, but don’t be fooled, it will still thicken polish quite well when mixed in) before mixing into clear top coat. I did mine in an 16 oz. empty bottle with a secure top. Then, I added it to my clear polish until it was a little cloudy. I then tested a few flecks of chunky glitter. The first glitter sank, so I added more to the polish. Now, after 30minutes plus, the glitter is still suspended in place. I will check again in the morning to see if it sank. Suspension base is $99+/gallon, but a gallon of top coat is $58 & aerosil is FREE!
    Thanks so much for sharing. Your blog is the ONLY source for experimenymts & help!


  10. Wow. I just read somewhere on the internet that how nail polish manufacturers keep their formulas a top trade secret. They must be hating you right now.lol. But don’t worry a lot of us are loving you for this article ~ Als from India


  11. Hi! Did you try using Aerosil in some nail polish brand (not clear) to see if minimize pigment settling? I’m undergraduate student doing an industrial practice in how to minimize the time of settling in nail polish, our nail polish don’t have silica just bentonite and hectorite. I’m not sure if is gonna work adding the silica in our already dispersing product (final product).


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