Silica Dimethyl Silylate

What is it? Silica Dimethyl Silylate is an ultra-lightweight fumed silica—it’s really different from silica microspheres.
INCI Silica Dimethyl Silylate
Appearance Loose, white powder
Usage rate 0.1–30%
Texture Fluffy, lightweight powder. If you get any on your hands it is immediately so dry that your fingers will feel skiddy, like they’re covered in chalk.
Scent Nothing noticeable
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in formulations? Silica Dimethyl Silylate is insanely absorbent. When combined with oils it creates transparent oil gels, which is very cool, and also reduces the oily feel. It also contributes viscosity to liquid cosmetics like liquid eyeliner and lipstick, and helps reduce pigment settling (very helpful for makeup applied to parts of the face that move/crease a lot). It is so dang absorbent that it also provides quite a lot of grip to things—I’ve used it in hair products and it is like a supercharged dry shampoo.
Do you need it? You only need Silica Dimethyl Silylate if you’re very passionate about making makeup.
Refined or unrefined? Silica Dimethyl Silylate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Very cool multi-use ingredient that improves the performance of many cream and liquid cosmetics by offering thickening, oil control, and pigment settling/bleeding.
Weaknesses It’s pretty niche; if you don’t make makeup or hair products you likely won’t use it all that much.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll need to determine what the Silica Dimethyl Silylate is doing in a formulation. If it’s there mostly for oil absorption (in a hair product, for instance) something like silica microspheres or calcium carbonate might do the trick. For oil thickening, you could try a fatty thickener like stearic acid (though that will add quite a lot of richness that Silica Dimethyl Silylate wouldn’t add).
How to Work with It Wear a dust mask! Silica Dimethyl Silylate is insanely light and floaty—just opening the bag will send it floating around the room. It can be hot or cold processed; I like to add it to my oil phase.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Silica Dimethyl Silylate should last indefinitely.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can use Silica Dimethyl Silylate to make your own version of this product!
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz) or less—an ounce of this stuff is a lot, volume-wise.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Silica Dimethyl Silylate

Quaternium-90 Sepiolite and Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite (Thickening Clay)

What is it? Quaternium-90 Sepiolite (and) Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite (Thickening Clay) is an alkyl quaternary ammonium clay. It’s basically a fine powder derived from clay that has been treated to create a powder that, when used in small amounts, thickens oil-based products and helps keep pigments in suspension. It is generally recommended for use in cosmetics.

This product is manufactured by Eckart America and is called GARAMITE-7308 XR.

While this product certainly helps prevent pigment settling, it does not prevent it entirely. Too much can make products feel dry on the skin, so simply using more isn’t always a good approach, either.

INCI Quaternium-90 Sepiolite (and) Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite
Appearance Off white fine powder
Usage rate The suggested rate is 1–3%
Texture Smooth ultrafine powder
Scent Nothing noticeable
Charge Cationic (positive)
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in formulations? Quaternium-90 Sepiolite (and) Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite does four very cool things. 1) It thickens oil-based concoctions. 2) It contributes to a more matte finish. 3) It helps keep powdered pigments in suspension. 4) It helps improve adhesion/wear time in colour cosmetics.
Do you need it? If you like creating coloured cosmetics I would highly recommend it!
Refined or unrefined? Quaternium-90 Sepiolite and Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Excellent pigment suspension, thickening, and skin feel at low concentrations. It’s also very easy to work with!
Weaknesses Too much can make the end product drying (I find even 3% can create products that are more drying than I’d like, especially in lip products). It’s also pretty dang hard to source outside the USA.
Alternatives & Substitutions I don’t have any great recommendations. You can try using white kaolin clay in its place, but this will not have the thickening/suspending properties or the added adhesion.
How to Work with It Take care not to inhale the clay—wear a dust mask. This product is very lightweight and floaty, and very easy to accidentally inhale. Stir/blend it into the oil phase of your concoctions at pretty much any point—the manufacturer stipulates it can be incorporated at any time. Low shear mixing is sufficient—I usually use my MicroMini Mixer to blend everything together.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Quaternium-90 Sepiolite and Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite should last at least five years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Learn more about Alkonium Clays here.
Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it The only place I’ve found it for sale is TKB Trading.

Some Formulations that Use Quaternium-90 Sepiolite and Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite (Thickening Clay)

Boron nitride

What is it? Boron nitride is an inorganic compound made of boron and nitrogen, purchased in powder form for use in cosmetics.
INCI Boron nitride
Appearance White powder
Usage rate “Boron nitride is reported to be used at up to 25% in eye product formulations, at 2% in lipstick formulations, up to 16% in powders, and at up to 0.9% in fragrance preparations.” –CIR Report (These numbers were reported by industry as typical usage numbers and are not maximum allowable concentrations)
Texture Soft, fine powder
Scent None
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in formulations? Boron nitride improves both slip and adhesion in cosmetics; I tend to primarily use it in eye makeup formulations as both slip and adhesion are very important there. It also contributes a bit of a soft-focus finish, similar to sericite mica. I’ve mostly worked with boron nitride in formulations you’ll find in my book, Make it Up.
Do you need it? Not necessarily, but I would highly recommend it if you want to make your own eyeshadow.
Strengths Excellent skin feel, slip, and adhesion properties.
Weaknesses Can be harder to find, and it is one of the more expensive cosmetic powders.
Alternatives & Substitutions Boron nitride is tricky to substitute. Sericite mica has similar properties, but does not improve adhesion nearly as well as boron nitride does, so you might consider using a blend of sericite mica and an adhesion booster like magnesium stearate or magnesium myristate as a starting point.
How to Work with It Include it in the ground portion of your cosmetic recipes. It can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, boron nitride should last indefinitely.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks The crystal shape of boron nitride is hexagonal.
Recommended starter amount 30 (1oz) or less. Even 10g (0.35oz) would last you a while if you can find somewhere selling that small of an amount.
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. It is sold on Amazon, but much of it isn’t cosmetic grade, so if you do choose to purchase through Amazon please confirm with the seller that what you are purchasing is cosmetic and not industrial grade.

Some Formulations that Use Boron nitride

Calcium carbonate

What is it? Calcium carbonate is a naturally occurring form of calcium—egg shells are made up almost entirely of calcium carbonate!
INCI Calcium carbonate
Appearance White powder
Usage rate Varies with the end product and the reason for use; 5–30%
Texture Soft, chalky powder
Scent Nothing much—perhaps a bit dusty
pH 9
Solubility Slightly water soluble
Why do we use it in formulations? Calcium carbonate absorbs oil extremely well, so it can be found in cosmetics and skin care products as an oil control/mattifying ingredient. The high pH of calcium carbonate means you need to be careful with use around the eyes, though.

You’ll also find calcium carbonate in toothpastes as a mild abrasive.

Do you need it? No; I tend to prefer silica microspheres, though they are more expensive.
Refined or unrefined? While you can make your own calcium carbonate from eggshells I would recommend purchasing it—the store bought powder is much softer/less gritty than anything you’ll ever be able to make at home.
Strengths Very effective oil absorber/mattifying ingredient, inexpensive.
Weaknesses High pH.
Alternatives & Substitutions Silica microspheres are a great alternative.
How to Work with It Calcium carbonate can be hot or cold processed. As it is insoluble you can add it to either the heated oil or heated water phase of an emulsion—I’d probably choose the water phase as calcium carbonate is quite absorbent, so it seems wise to put it in the larger phase. In cosmetics, grind it in with everything else.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, calcium carbonate should last at least five years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Calcium carbonate occurs naturally in many things, including marble, egg shells, and pearls!
Recommended starter amount 30g/1 ounce or less.
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon. It is available as a dietary supplement, and those can be suitable, just make sure what you’re getting is 100% calcium carbonate. Pressed tablets will often have binding ingredients, so look for free flowing powders and read the ingredients list.

Some Formulations that Use Calcium Carbonate


What is it? Ultramarines are a synthesized pigment made from ingredients like kaolin clay and sulfur. The original blue pigment was ground from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, making it extremely expensive, and we’ve been synthesizing it since the early 1800s.
INCI Ultramarines
Appearance Vibrant fine pigments available in bright blue, lavender, and purple.
Usage rate I haven’t been able to find a maximum usage level. These pigments are very potent, though, so I can’t imagine you needing more than 50% for most cosmetics.
Texture Fine powder
Scent Generally nothing noticeable, though it can be sulfur-y in high-pH environments
Solubility Insoluble
Why do we use it in formulations? As pigments, for colour.
Do you need it? No, though if you are making cosmetics and want more natural bright blues and purples they are your only option.
Strengths Strong, vibrant pigments that are generally considered natural.
Weaknesses The blue in particular can be difficult to blend into formulas.
Alternatives & Substitutions Lake dyes are the only alternative for such bright, potent pigments.
How to Work with It Include in the grinding phase for powdered cosmetics or blend into melted creamy bases.

Ultramarine is not approved for lip use in the USA, but it is in the EU.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, ultramarine pigments should last at least five years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Due to the sulfur used in the manufcature of ultramarines they can develop an eggy scent if used in products with a pH above 6.
Recommended starter amount 10g (0.35oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Ultramarines

Sodium chloride (salt)

What is it? Good ol’ salt! The variety you’re likely the most familiar with is table salt, but sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and many other salts are basically just sodium chloride (NaCl).
INCI Sodium chloride
Appearance It can vary; generally crystalline, but there’s a lot of different size and shape possibilities. You can also purchase different colours of salt, like pink Himalayan salt and black salt.
Usage rate Up to 100%
Texture It varies; very coarse to fine crystals.
Scent Little to none.
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in formulations? Salt can play several roles in our skin care products. It can be used as an exfoliant, included in bath soaks, and used to thicken some surfactant blends. You’ll find it in hair mists for texturizing the hair. It does function as a humectant, but the skin feel can be sticky. Larger grain and/or colourful salts can also be beautiful decorative elements. In high enough concentrations it can inhibit microbial growth, but we rarely use it at concentrations this high.
Do you need it? No, but you probably already have it!
Refined or unrefined? It depends what you’re looking for; I have table salt, large grain salt, and Himalayan pink salt.
Strengths Inexpensive, readily available.
Weaknesses Salt is very rich in electrolytes and can compromise anything that is electrolyte sensitive.
Alternatives & Substitutions As an exfoliant granulated sugar can be a good alternative. For bath salts, Epsom salts are a good alternative. For thickening surfactant blends you can try Crothix or a gum like HEC.
How to Work with It Include as directed in the recipe (it can vary a lot depending on the reason for use). Can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, salt should last indefinitely.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Try mixing equal parts fine grain salt and liquid oil for a simple body scrub.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)—more if you are making bath salts
Where to Buy it Buy it from your local grocery store or Amazon. You might want to turn to a DIY supplier for more affordable versions of fancy salts like Himalayan pink sea salt.

Some Formulations that Use Salt

Pin It on Pinterest