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.