This project was inspired by one of the first bits of makeup I ever fell in love with. When I was growing up my mom made a point of taking advantage of those “spend $X and get this miraculous goody bag of sample-sized treats for free” at the Estée Lauder makeup counter at The Bay, meaning she’d often come home with a tote bag of things that she didn’t have much use for—so I got to inherit some of it! The thing that stuck out most was the cutest little tube (it might’ve been 3mL!) of something called Spotlight. It’s since been discontinued, but I remember being utterly smitten with its soft pink hue, hint of shimmer, and ability to make my still-amazing-because-I-was-12 skin look extra radiant. I liked it enough to actually attempt to purchase it, but 12 year old me nearly fainted when she found out it was a couple months worth of allowance, and decided she could do without it. Anyhow, for some reason I got to thinking about this product a couple weeks ago and thought “Hey! I could do that!”.
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The original was definitely an emulsified cream, but I’ve been playing with a really groovy new product from TKB Trading lately that made me decide to make my version an anhydrous oil serum. Said funky product is called Thickening Clay. It’s a vegan clay-derived fine powder with an INCI of Quaternium-90 Sepiolite (and) Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite (learn more here). It looks like clay, but no other clay will work in place of Thickening Clay!
Thickening clay works to thicken oil based concoctions and keep pigments in suspension. This means you won’t have to vigorously shake your concoction before every use to get the pigments back in play. Thickening clay also helps reduce the oiliness, helping the product lean towards a more matte finish (pssst… liquid lipsticks!). TKB recommends using it at 1–3%. I have found the higher end of that range can be drying, depending on the rest of the formula, so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re working with it. The level I’ve used it at doesn’t keep the micas in perfect suspension in perpetuity (I’ve found they’ll settle to about 90% of the depth of the liquid after a few days), but it does keep them from settling out solidly, and I didn’t want to use too much of the Thickening Clay and end up with a serum that was drying to the skin.
Since this is a facial serum, the bulk of it is two lighter-weight oils my face loves: argan and squalane. You are certainly free to choose others if you wish, but I do recommend sticking to lighter oils for the finish we’re looking for. For some skin perfecting, I’ve included some sericite mica. This fantastic ingredient helps diffuse the appearance of light on the skin, giving a smooth, airbrushed appearance without coverage—it’ll help disguise the appearance of fine lines and pores, basically. Woo! I’ve also included a touch of mica for some glow and shimmer. I made a more sun-kissed version and a more pinky-pearl version. You’re welcome to customize the micas you use to something that will work brilliantly with your complexion!
The making of is quite simple. You’ll begin by stirring together all the powders, and then blend in a small amount of the liquid oils to create a smooth paste (similar to create a roux) before slowly blending in the remaining oils. And that’s it! You’ll be rewarded with a silky, shimmery liquid that leaves your complexion glowing. Swoon.
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Center Stage Glow Serum
Weigh the powdered ingredients into a small bowl or beaker, and stir until thoroughly combine.
Add 2g (13%) liquid oil and stir to create a smooth, uniform paste. Once you’ve got a smooth, shimmery paste, slowly stir in the rest of the liquid oils.
That’s it! Pour into a 15mL/half ounce glass bottle with a dropper top. A clear bottle will really let the shimmer shine, but it’s certainly not necessary.
Because this serum is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 15g.
- If you don’t have the thickening clay you’ve got a few options:
- Leave it out completely and replace that 2% with more liquid oil. The micas will settle and you’ll have to shake before use
- Leave it out and replace with white kaolin clay. The micas will still settle but you’ll get a bit of that more matte finish the Thickening Clay gives.
- Replace it with TKB GelMaker CC; you’ll probably want to use the GelMaker around 6% for a similar effect, so I’d recommend removing 4% from the argan oil to make room for it.
- You can use whatever blend of micas you like; I’d recommend sticking to the vaguely skin toned realm (copper/bronze/gold/pink/beige) but if you want to give green a go, who am I to say no? 😜
- You could use silica microspheres in place of the sericite mica, but I would use just 2% silica microspheres and make up the other 3% with more liquid oil
- You can use other oils your face loves in place of argan and squalane, just keep it on the lighter side