Today I’m sharing a Bee-Bettering of one of my most popular formulations on YouTube; my Luminous Summer Body Oil. The original formulation is almost exactly four years old, published on July 6, 2017 (!). I’d made shimmer oils before the 2017 version; the general formulation outline is mostly liquid oils and emollients + enough shimmery mica to get the desired level of shimmer and colour on the skin. It’s definitely a simple enough concept, though there’s plenty of room for refinement.
Post updated July 2023
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With the 2017 formulation, I aimed to solve two of the more obvious problems that crop up with a simple oil/mica blend. Problem #1 was keeping the mica in suspension. Since mica is insoluble it will settle out of thin liquids like liquid oils; I included some cetyl alcohol to thicken up the oils to keep the mica in suspension. It was a nice idea in theory, but in reality, I found the cetyl alcohol settled out with the mica after a few months of being left undisturbed and was prone to crystalizing if the storage, especially if temperature fluctuated. Boo. Problem #2 was oiliness; I included some silica microspheres in the 2017 version to lighten it up and give the finished product a powdery, luxurious feel. That worked, but since silica microspheres are also insoluble they faced the same settling issues as the mica.
Four years later, I’ve tackled these two formulation challenges differently, and I’ve also added a much-requested feature from the comments on the 2017 formulation—rub-off resistance. I’m pretty darn excited about it 😊
The updated 2021 formulation features two ingredients I wasn’t using back in 2017; C12-15 alkyl benzoate and polyamide-3. C12-15 alkyl benzoate is an ultra-light ester that ensures this product is feather-light with a luxurious dry-touch finish but without the potential for the silica to settle out of the formulation. It’s an ultra-versatile ingredient and I highly recommend having some on hand!
In 2023 I further refined this base to Medium chain triglycerides and the polyamide-3 sold by Making Cosmetics, which is “very similar to OleoCraft™ MP-32.” I tried several versions with several different emollients using the polyamide-3 sold by TKB Trading, and it just didn’t work. I created a lot of grainy, thin, mixtures. Bleh.
The polyamide-3 does two awesome things—it gels the formulation, making it thick enough to keep the mica in suspension, and it contributes some awesome rub-off resistance for longer wear and less mica rubbing off on everything. I’ve been having lots of fun researching and experimenting with polyamide-3; it’s really neat! It can be used to create crystal-clear anhydrous gels and sticks (!!), stabilize emulsions, and improve wear times in colour cosmetics. SO COOL and HECK YES.
Regarding the rub-off resistance: the polyamide-3 definitely helps, but it doesn’t transform this Summer Glow Body Oil into a shimmery permanent marker. As with all cosmetics, friction, sweat, and longer wear times will all contribute to the product breaking down and transferring. A friend I recruited for testing reported that it performed well in everyday wear conditions, but she did experience some transfer when she wore it on a multi-hour bike ride on a hot day. With that in mind, I still wouldn’t pair this body oil with my favourite white tops, but your mileage may vary 😊
We get our summery shimmery goodness from some coloured mica. I recommend choosing something that will compliment your skin tone. I’ve had fun playing with metal tones like gold, copper, rose gold, bronze, and silver-white, but the sky (and your mica collection) is the limit!
Remember that different micas can have very different levels of pigmentation—some are more shimmer than colour, and some are very pigmented. You may find you wish to tweak the mica percentage in the formulation depending on which mica (or blend of micas) you are using. Have fun with it 😄
In 2021 I used apricot kernel oil to round out the rest of the formulation, noting “If you don’t have apricot kernel oil you can definitely use a different lightweight liquid oil—safflower oil, grapeseed oil, watermelon oil, and even simple fractionated coconut oil would work well.” However, in 2023 I simplified it to use just Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) as I found making one of these innocuous-sounding swaps lead to failure 😭 In the end, I thought it best to remove that extra carrier oil as it only lengthened the ingredient list and created a variable (if substituted) that could lead to failure.
The final two ingredients are a bit of vitamin E and a fragrance or essential oil of your choice for deliciously fragrant shimmery goodness. I used a new-to-me fragrance from YellowBee in the blog version (gifted)—it’s a dupe of Victoria Secret’s Bombshell and I quite like it 😄
Making this isn’t hard, but the polyamide-3 can be a bit stubborn about melting. I find it melts the best with direct, dry heat rather than a water bath. A lab hot plate or 210°F oven works well, as does the stovetop (though be sure whatever you’re melting the mixture in can go on the stovetop—a small saucepan will work—and be careful not to scorch the mixture). I tried using the microwave as well but found it was easier to scorch the mixture that way, so it’s not my first choice.
Relevant links & further reading
- Medium chain triglycerides in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Coloured Mica in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Polyamide-3 in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Luminous Summer Body Oil (the 2017 version)
- More glow formulations:
- A Guide to Carrier Oil Substitutions
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life?
- Substitutions in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- More information on Bee Better (+ more projects!)
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Summer Glow Body Oil
This formulation requires the polyamide-3 from Making Cosmetics for this formulation; don’t substitute this for the polyamide-3 sold by TKB Trading. That will not work.
Stovetop/hot plate method: Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small stovetop safe beaker or saucepan. Place that on the stovetop/hot plate 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 to room temperature and thickened up we’re ready to add the cool down phase!
Weigh the cool down phase into the now cool heated phase and stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. That’s it! I packaged mine in a 30mL (1fl oz) frosted glass bottle from YellowBee (gifted). This 40g batch filled the bottle with a bit leftover. I think this would work well in a lotion pump bottle and a disc/flip top bottle as well. The bottle you choose doesn’t have to be squeezy, but you may appreciate the ability to squeeze the bottle depending on how patient you are 😄
To use: smooth a small amount of the shimmer oil over your skin. It sets quite quickly, so start small and work your way up. While this body oil is rub-off resistant it isn’t impervious to wear, so tread carefully when pairing it with white clothing and/or upholstery! Enjoy ✨
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this body oil 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 project 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 40g.
- 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 Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride).
- Do not substitute the polyamide-3; it is both the thickening (suspending) ingredient and the ingredient that helps the body oil resist rub-off. Additionally, you must use the one from Making Cosmetics. The one from TKB Trading is slightly different and will not work.
- Different micas have different levels of pigmentation; if you find you’d like more or less mica in the formulation simply adjust the amount of apricot kernel oil to make room for it.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.