If you’ve been wanting a transparent lip gloss base from scratch, this is the formulation for you. You’ll need just three ingredients to make a clear and versatile gloss base that you can customize in oh-so-many ways, with different carrier oils, colours, micas, and more!
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The idea for this post came from two places. The first was the product description for polyamide-3 from Making Cosmetics: “If added to castor oil you will get an instant lip gloss with very nice feel and gloss.” (Their sample formulation for polyamide-3 is also a lip gloss). I shared a Blackberry Lip Gloss using it last month and that took me on a deep-dive of research and experimenting with Polyamide-3. All that research and formulating got the brain gears turning—I’ve had a lot of requests from viewers on YouTube to share a formulation for a clear lip gloss base that could be an alternative to Versagel® ME 750.
Versagel® ME 750 is a product from Univar (made by Penreco); I discovered it through TKB Trading (Voyageur now sells it in Canada, as does Windy Point!) and have had a lot of fun playing with it. It’s a crystal clear glossy base that can easily be customized into all kinds of lip gloss type products (like this!) as well as used in hair care, skincare, and other cosmetic formulations. It is mostly hydrogenated polyisobutene that has been gelled; there are four Versagel® ME products with different viscosities. It’s a pretty awesome product for making lip glosses with, but if you have to order it internationally it can get pretty pricey as it is often used at upwards of 60% to create lip glosses.
So, that’s where polyamide-3 and castor oil come in! Polyamide-3 also isn’t terribly widely available, but since you’ll need far less of it (it works out to roughly 10% of a finished gloss) you won’t need to pay to ship nearly as much product (castor oil is very widely available, so you should be able to source that domestically). You also have more control over the viscosity of the gloss base. I did some quick math, incorporating international shipping from the US to Canada, and found that this base is roughly 30–35% cheaper than full-priced Versagel® ME 750 (though of course, this will vary with where you live, the sizes you purchase, shipping costs, currency conversion, how you use the base, etc.).
Part of my research into polyamide-3 revealed that there are three different products with the same INCI, and they all perform a bit differently. Making Cosmetics and TKB Trading do not sell the same polyamide-3; there’s lots more information about this in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia entry on it! I am sharing two versions of this formulation; one for each polyamide-3. The finished glosses are very similar; I think I like the feel of the TKB one better, but they are so similar I do wonder a wee bit if I’m imagining that. If overall cost is a concern, the TKB Trading version ends up being cheaper as you only need 10% polyamide-3 vs. the 15% you’ll need of the Making Cosmetics product.
Making the base is a simple matter of melting and stirring everything together. Once that’s done, the fun begins! I’ve structured the base so you’ll use it at 80% and then you’ve got 20% to play with (you could shift those ratios around if you want to, but I like the viscosity and feel of the gloss at that base to add-in ratio).
Because the bulk of this gloss base is castor oil, and castor oil is pale yellow, the finished base is transparent, but it does have a pale champagne colour. If you add any sort of colour to the gloss base that champagne colour won’t be at all noticeable. If you don’t want a coloured gloss, simply use a colourless emollient and your finished gloss will be almost completely colourless. This photo shows 80% gloss base + 20% TKB Oil Fusion (which is totally colourless), but fractionated coconut oil, squalane, and hydrogenated polyisobutene would also work!
If you’d like something clear and colourless, you might prefer combining polyamide-8 and mineral oil. Kell has left a very helpful review on the TKB Trading product page for polyamide-8 (Opal Clear Wax); click here and give it a read for some ideas!
Colour the gloss
If you want your gloss to tint lips, I recommend using a dye or pigment. TKB’s Lip Liquids are the easiest way to go as they’re already pre-dispersed, so they stir in really easily with minimal blending required. I’d start with 5–10% of the overall formulation. If you only have dry pigments, use half the amount (2.5–5%) and make sure to blend thoroughly so you don’t end up with clumps.
Add shimmer to the gloss
Mica is where it’s at if you want a shimmery lip gloss. Micas will colour the gloss in the tube, but won’t add much colour on the lips, so you may want to use both a dye and a mica for a shimmery tint. It’s up to you! I’d start with 3-10% mica. Bio glitters are also a great option!
I highly recommend making at least 10% of your customizing space some sort of carrier oil for improved slip. I’ve been having lots of fun playing with matching the oil I choose to the colours, like using coconut oil with a white iridescent glitter, or cranberry seed oil with a red lip liquid. If you don’t include ~10% oil in your add-ins the finished lip gloss might be too thick.
Add scent to the gloss
1% or less lip-safe essential oil or flavour oil will do the trick! You can also choose carrier oils that have some scent to them, like virgin coconut oil or cranberry seed oil.
Some lip gloss examples
“That wasn’t supposed to be purple” Cranberry (video)
Summer Poppy (video)
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Relevant links & further reading
- Polyamide-3 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Citrine Clear Wax (Polyamide-3) at TKB Trading (read the reviews for more tips!)
- Other lip gloss formulations without polyamide-3:
- There are also two natural lip gloss bases in my book, Make it Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Care
Clear Lip Gloss Base (without Versagel!)
TKB Trading Version
Making Cosmetics Version
Stovetop method: Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small stovetop safe beaker or saucepan. Place that on the stovetop over very low heat to gently and slowly melt the polyamide-3.
Oven method: Preheat your oven to 210°F (100°C). Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or a heavy glass custard cup—what makes the most sense for you will depend a lot on your batch size. Place the measuring cup in your prepared oven to melt everything through.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. You’ll know it has melted when you can no longer see any wee air bubbles in the mixture; the beads vanish into the oils and the only visual sign they leave is a bubble of air in each bead. Remove the mixture from the heat and set it on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Leave the mixture to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally. Once it has cooled a bit and thickened to about the consistency of runny honey, weigh in the cool down phase and stir to combine. With that done, you are ready to package it up and start making lip glosses! I poured mine into a 60mL (2 oz) jar.
To make lip gloss from the base
80% | 4g lip gloss base
20% | 1g lip-safe additives of choice (pigments, micas, glitters, essential oils, flavour oils, carrier oils, etc.)
Combine everything in a small bowl. Gently heat in a slightly warm water bath to soften the gloss base. Whisk to combine and package once uniform. I’ve been using 5mL black cosmetic tubes with doe-foot applicators from TKB Trading; 5g of lip gloss fills one perfectly.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this gloss base 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. I would store the base in the fridge for the longest possible shelf-life; no need to refrigerate the finished glosses, though!
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 50g of base, which will yield 62.5g lip gloss if you manage to use every little bit of the base.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- Do not substitute the castor oil or polyamide-3. They are both essential to the formulation. If you don’t have them or can’t get them, this isn’t the formulation for you. Please read through the list of suggested reading above the formulation for some other formulations.
The Reflections Pink Bio-Glitter was gifted by YellowBee.
The coconut oil was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
The polyamide-3, lip liquids, Black Amethyst mica, and lip gloss tubes were gifted by TKB Trading. Links to TKB Trading are affiliate links.
The cranberry seed oil was gifted by Plant’s Power.
The poppy seed oil and passionfruit oil were gifted by Mystic Moments.