Today’s DIY was inspired by a lip gloss advert I saw some time last year. It was for the Glossier lip gloss, and for some reason, the ad caught my eye. I clicked through and took a look at the ingredients, and the first ingredient was “Hydrogenated Polyisobutene”—and that made me think of some products I had from TKB Trading—specifically their gloss base and oil fusion, which they recommend combining to create easy-peasy lip glosses. Within twenty minutes of seeing the advert, I’d drafted a formulation using these ingredients, squished everything together, and piped the bright red mixture into a squeezy lip balm tube. Voila!
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I’ve since tweaked both the formulation and the procedure to create a strongly pigmented lip product that has the feel of a gloss, but the colour of a stain. I dithered between calling this a “Glossy Lip Stain” or a “Glossy Lip Tint”, but ended up settling on the “stain” version as the colour is really too strong to be a “tint”.
The base of this gloss is three products from TKB Trading, used as suggested: their Gloss Base (Versagel), Oil Fusion, and Film Fix. I’ve had these ingredients for years and I’ve been playing with them off-and-on, quietly, ever since. Their Film Fix is easily one of my favourite ingredients for improving wear time in cosmetics, and the lip gloss base (AKA Versagel) has a wonderfully rich, glossy consistency that’s downright perfect for super-easy lip glosses. The Oil Fusion product is recommended by TKB to thin out the gloss base for easier & nicer application, as the base on its own is quite unctuous and sticky.
These are all blended products, made up of several component ingredients. Here are the full INCIs:
- TKB Gloss Base (Versagel): Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (and) Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer (and) Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer.
- TKB Oil Fusion: Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Prunus Dulcis (Sweet Almond Oil), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol.
- TKB Film Fix: Isododecane (and) Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer.
You can click the linked names to learn more about each ingredient! The general gist of it is that Hydrogenated Polyisobutene is an emollient/lubricant that is gelled with the Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer and Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer (according to TKB Trading, Versagel is ~95% Hydrogenated Polyisobutene). That creates quite a thick mixture, so we thin it with the Oil Fusion—a blend of Hydrogenated Polyisobutene with medium-chain triglycerides (Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) and Sweet Almond Oil (+ some antioxidants and preservative ingredients). The Film Fix gets its long-wear properties from the film-forming Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, dissolved in a base of volatile isododecane.
The base of this gloss is a 2:1 blend of the gloss base and oil fusion, as per TKB’s suggestion (always read product pages—there’s often great information like this on ’em! The Versagel page has a ton of information on how to work with it best, including suggestions from customers—many of which I found very helpful.). To improve the wear time of the product I included some Film Fix at 5.2%. It’s definitely more effective at higher concentrations, but it’s also less comfortable, with a pulling/drying feeling on the skin. I find that sort of thing especially intolerable on the lips, so I kept the level lower, willing to compromise on wear time for comfort. This is still pretty dang long wearing for a lip gloss, though!
For my non-US based readers (or anyone looking for a more natural alternative): Because this formulation consists of 94% ingredients that I’ve only ever found at TKB Trading, I’m afraid this DIY isn’t terribly accessible to those outside the USA. I’m sorry about that (I’m not American, either, so I appreciate the challenge!). I’ve had a lot of requests to share some projects using Versagel, and I really like this gloss, so I wanted to share it, even though I didn’t really intend to when I first started working on it. If you don’t have these ingredients I’d recommend checking out some of my other lip gloss formulations (there’s also a vegan and non-vegan one in my book!) and using one of those as a base, incorporating the pigments at the same rate as done here.
We smash that base together with a pigment blend (have fun with that part!) to create a highly pigmented, thick, glossy product. That was the easy bit. The hard part is getting the gloss into the container without having a frustration fit and dying everything in the area bright red (or whatever colour your glossy lip stain is). I made a lot of messes figuring out a good way to do this. A huge thank you to TKB Trading’s list of tips & tricks for working with Versagel—those were an awesome place to start. In the end, I combined zip-top bag smooshing + heating + really snaking the baggie into the tube before squeezing. Watch the video to see it all come together!
The finished glossy lip stain is richly pigmented, easy wearing, and really lovely. I think one of my favourite things about it is how elegantly it wears off, funnily enough. Many lip products will wear off towards the center of the lips really quickly while the outer lip stays looking perfect, creating a very strong colour contrast between the inner and outer lip that a viewer on YouTube once referenced as “the butthole lip” (from Safiya Nygaard, I think?), which painted a very amusing mental image 😂. I find this gloss wears more evenly, with a much more forgiving/less obvious fade over time, and as somebody who isn’t a super diligent lip-product-re-applier, I really like that. Enjoy!
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Glossy Lip Stain
Line a small beaker with a zip-top plastic bag, turning the top of the bag over the rim of the beaker.
Weigh all the ingredients into the plastic bag, seal, and smoosh to combine thoroughly. Do your best to keep the mixture confined to one bottom corner of the bag.
Boil about 250mL (1 cup) of water in another beaker or heat resistant measuring cup. Place the lip-gloss filled corner of the bag into the hot water to heat through; this will reduce the viscosity of the mixture, making it easier to get it into the tube.
Once the mixture is uniform, snip a small bit off the corner on the opposite corner (the corner without all the product in it). Twist that snipped corner into a long, narrow bundle and shove it as far as you can into your container. I used this tube from YellowBee. I don’t recommend using a squeezy lip gloss tube; it works (I’ve tried it), but it makes neat application quite difficult given the high pigment of the product.
Squeeze the glossy lip stain into the tube, knocking it on the counter to get the mixture to settle as needed. Once the tube is filled, pop in the orifice reducer and cap. Make sure you leave room for the brush when filling!
To use, apply a small amount of product to the lips; I like to apply the gloss to the inner parts of my lips and then use a fingertip to blend it out towards the edges for a natural-looking stain.
Because this glossy lip stain doesn’t contain any water, 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, this gloss should last several years; the first thing that’s likely to go rancid is the sweet almond oil, which is present at ~1.5%. If you notice a 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 6g. This filled the tube I used nicely.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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.
- Substitutions for this DIY are pretty limited. If you don’t have any of the base ingredients, please read the note in the blog post above.
- Don’t substitute the Versagel.
- You could probably try fractionated coconut oil or medium-chain triglycerides instead of the Oil Fusion. Oil Fusion is 40–50% medium-chain triglycerides, so there’s some decent overlap there.
- You could drop the Film Fix (making up the difference with more Versagel and Oil Fusion at a 2:1 ratio), but this will reduce wear time.
- Feel free to experiment with the pigments you use; I tried a variety of FD&C dyes and carmine, and all worked beautifully.
- The colour blend described above is for the redder of the two glosses pictured; for details on the the berry hued one, please refer to the description box for the YouTube video.