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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Glitter Review: Bleeders & Flecks

Links checked 12/12/13

This is going to be a review of glitters both new and old.

My collection of glitters comes from various companies: Coastal Scents, TKB Trading, Glimmer Body Art, Hobby Lobby, Sally Beauty, Esters Nail Center and Kit Kraft Inc. Although some are cosmetic grade and others are craft glitter, both are subject to bleeding or being otherwise uncooperative when used in polish. I think of these glitters as bleeders or fleck-prone. I hate wasting money on glitters that do this but there's no way to tell by looking at the package so I've ended up with a lot of glorified craft glitter- some of those being the new Tulip brand I just bought.

By fleck-prone, I mean that certain glitters go from brilliant colors to white flecks (or lightly colored if the glitter was) after sitting in polish for minutes or hours. In my experience, the ones that do this are either neons, which I'll cover later, or those with an aurora borealis effect, a term more commonly used for beads. Shown below is Coastal Scents' Fairy Dust glitter, with the inset displaying a Swarovski bead with A/B finish.
Coastal Scents Fairy Dust (in both sizes), Black Magic Hologram and Jade Green glitters will do this.

Also in the fleck category are the Disco-named glitters made by Polyflake I mentioned last year. Disco VHT, Disco ZHT, and Disco GHT, shown below, are iridescent and even better, are duochromes.
Outdoors in sunlight

Dry swatches, photo indoors under lamplight.

Update 9/17/11: Researching something else the other day, I stumbled upon the item below. The Disco Glitters are made by the Glitterex Corporation but sold under the Poly*Flake brand name. I found this on the MSDS/TDS sheet:

CHEMICAL RESISTANCE: Poly*Flake WSR has proved highly resistant to most commonly used commercial solvents, such as water, MEK, MIBK, alcohol, and high flash naphtha. Because of this excellent solvent resistance, this glitter can be used in most solvent, acrylic, vinyl, and aqueous systems.
  1. Each chip of glitter has a minute edge of exposed aluminum created when the particle is cut from the sheet. Therefore, caustics and all chemicals normally affecting pure aluminum could react with this exposed edge. This does not preclude use of this glitter with these chemicals, however, since the short duration of most industrial processes may not afford enough time to cause significant damage to the finished product. It is advised that contact be checked carefully.
                  Solvent Resistance
Alcohols (Ethanol, Isopropanol)
Aliphatic Hydro-carbons (Hexane, Naptha)
Aromatic Hydro-carbons (Benzene, Toluene)
Ketones (Acetone, MEK)
5 min.
7 days
(Butyl Acetate,
 Ethyl Acetate)
Fully Halogenated Hydrocarbons (CarbonTet., Perchloroethylene)
Partially Halogenated Hydrocarbons
(Ethlyene Dichloride, Trichloroethylene)
5 min.
7 days
N - No Change
CS - Color Shift (Sample has started to change color due to solvent immersion)
CC - Color Change (Total color change due to solvent immersion)
CL - Color Loss

This is important because some those ingredients or a variant are used in nail polishes, they knew the glitter would bleed and fleck but they still put on the packaging, "Great for nail polish." Read that limitation again. Glitterex doesn't have the same solvent resistant test on the MSDS for every type of glitter they manufacture but that limitation is. Nail polish and frankening is not a short industrial process, it's a permanent immersion. NO truth in advertising at all.

Disappointingly each one, like the Fairy Dust, quickly disappeared in my polish becoming this:

For an example of the colored A/B glitters and neons turning into flecks, we'll use my recent purchase of the Tulip brand Fashion glitters. The first picture are the pastels, the second are the neons.

I tried pastel and neon blue, neon pink, neon orange and pastel green, adding them in turn to the same bottle and in each case the glitter lost its iridescence within minutes. I didn't think to capture a before photo but shown below is the polish after I dumped it out on a paper plate. It is multi colored but still flecks.

Even in the sun the flecks don't have much sparkle or shine.

Thus far the only A/B glitter I've found to work in polish are those already in store bought polish. Thankfully, every brand seems to make one. It's possible the glitters could work if applied indirectly (versus being put in polish) but I'm not patient enough to do so and the last time didn't yield smooth results. I tried sprinkling it on (the disco glitter) but it felt rather like sandpaper.

Further illustrating my point are the new glitters I ordered from Ester's Nail Center. Shown below without lids, the set of 12 is a pretty even collection of colors but not finishes. The majority are translucent and iridescent; only the silver, red and olive green glitters are metallic and of the three, only the red and green are holographic.

Their website says in the description, "Put them onto nails, acrylic or UV gel nail polish for nail art.". It does not say put them directly in polish but I attempted it anyway.

The first test was with the Ester's glitters shown next to the bottle. I also included various sizes of blue glitters from Kit Kraft Inc. which proved to be colorfast. The base was nothing more than your basic cheap glitter polish and initially I was pleased with the result. As it sat there though, the iridescence slowly disappeared leaving behind silver and only the holographic green has survived unchanged. Update 9/17/11: The green holo from ENC is still holographic but contains no trace of green color. The red holo from this set does the same thing.

My second test was with the same brand of cheap glitter polish used as a base with the displayed glitters from Ester's and various sizes of my fuchsia glitter from Kit Kraft Inc., also color fast. Again, I was pleased at first but watched as the iridescence faded away into silver.

My final test playing around with Ester's glitters was not a real polish because by this time, I suspected what would happen. I mixed the neon yellow and orange glitters with clear polish in a small bottle from TKB Trading and took before and after photos this time.
The glitters used.

The glitter after I first put it in.
A couple minutes later, already starting to fade away at the edges.
And even more...
The bottle now has no color at all a week later but as I've said before, metallic glitters can bleed too. Update 9/17/11: I was reading something the other day about glitter and it mentioned that while some glitters are solvent resistant, the bleeding starts from the edge because they are cut and thus more vulnerable to solvents over time. 

Shown below are most of the cosmetic glitters I own from Coastal Scents as well one from Glimmer Body Art and TKB Trading. You can see from the picture pretty clearly which ones are the bleeders.
From left to right...
In the top row: CS Tinsel, CS Ocean Blue, CS Ripe Orange, CS Pinky & CS Purple Punch.
In the bottom row: GBA Lime glitter, CS Emerald, CS Crimson, CS Sahara Sand, CS Golden Fairy Dust & TKB Blue glitter, now discontinued.
The worst of the bunch are Coastal Scents' Crimson and Golden Fairy Dust which have partially bled and left the silver behind. CS Emerald has also done this but not as much. Glimmer Body Art's Lime glitter hasn't faired so well either. 

A more recent example would be the mixture of Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear In the Spotlight with my new Martha Stewart tinsel glitters. As shown below, what was formerly a clear polish base is now orange toned and in general all the colored tinsel glitter has become very pastel.

Out of the new glitters I got from Kit Kraft Inc., it appears so far that very few of them are colorfast and over time the majority warp in polish. You can see the actual colors in the previous entry, the list is too expansive to put here, but I ordered every color of the rainbow ranging from Medium to Extra Fine in size. Royal Blue, Turquoise Teal, (Golden) Orange, Emerald, Light Pink or Lavender and Fuchsia are the only ones I can still see in the polish. The silver I'd imagine is just fine as well. I still need to do an individual color test for each but those are the preliminary results. In the bottles below, I used every color. Now where the heck did the color go?

Update 9/17/11: Honestly I'm not sure that I can consider any of these entirely ok. I've begun to think that with the polish so heavy in glitter, the ones that retained color did so because they were buried under so many other layers and were protected. I'm leery of every color I purchased from Kit Kraft Inc.

12/4/11: Upon a closer inspection (and a second test), Kit Kraft's Medium Fuchsia, Royal Blue, & Red pass the color fast test. The Gold, which I think I knew already, failed by first bleeding to silver and then into some corroded & melted-looking flecks. They do warp slightly but have held onto their color (so far)

As an alternative to glitter, you might want to consider the Reflecks collection from TKB Trading. Although they are not polyester glitter and are more expensive than glitter is, they have exceptional sparkle and don't bleed their color. The color range is somewhat limited, for instance there's no green but I try to use them often. And an ounce goes a long way.- MK

Other good entries pertaining to glitter:


  1. You can save yourself alot of time when testing glitters for bleeding/melting by using a small zip craft bag (2x3") instead of bottles.

  2. Hi! I just found your blog while doing some research on my own frankening! I love your blog! Anyways, I asked a company specifically on their facebook if they had glitters that would not bleed in Nail Polish, and this was there response to me. Just thought I'd pass it along: "The reason why most glitters do not work mixed in nail lacquer is because they have to be specially made solvent resistant glitters. Glitters will bleed because over time it is actually disintegration . We do carry a handful of glitters that would probably work for what you are thinking of doing. If you have a glitter color in mind, I can most likely tell you if it will work. The ones that will work are mostly the dark colored glitter powders."

  3. thank you for another valuable post. i know it might not be as "exciting" to some girls, but i really do appreciate all the experimentation and documentation that you are doing, and more importantly, SHARING it with the world. your blog is truly invaluable. i really want to start frankening, and as I've gotten on a glitter nail polish kick lately, this is going to help me save time and money! thank you so much!!

  4. Thistlelicious: That is a very good idea and not one I thought of so thank you. Cleaning sample bottles is a pain so I appreciate tips like that.

    Mel: Thank you for your comment. Companies rarely label their glitters as solvent resistant so it’s a crapshoot buying and trying new ones; if I didn't have other hobbies to use them in, I'd be more upset about my recent purchases. Glitter and flakes used in the automotive industry ARE solvent resistant so I'll probably buy that next, as soon as I get off the SpectraFlair band wagon.

    Courtney: Thank you! I realize it's not exciting per se but I don't mind being a reference library. Believe it or not, I do find research and digging for answers entertaining and I have the time to do so. If you're on a glitter polish spree, check your local Dollar Tree (if you have one) for cheap polishes to franken with. I picked up some L.A. Colors Color Craze glitters, the nice thing being they aren't bleeders and contain a suspension agent.

  5. wow! you're blog is very interesting!! you're like a chemist that is always experimenting. and of course it helps lots of people. :) i love it!! :) it helps me though coz im a nail art blogger and a glitter lover! :) by the way im your new follower :)

  6. Neelai, Thank you for the compliment and of course for becoming my follower. I love glitter too but haven't found much I like or that works well. Have any suggestions? Where is your blog at? I like to check out my followers' blogs but I don't see yours.

  7. This is really interesting! I stumbled upon this blog while trying to track down an MSDS sheet for Tulip's body glitter. (Still can't find it!) I don't make nail polish, I mostly do body stuff like soaps, lotions, etc.

    If you already know this, then my apologies, but I think your trouble here is that depending on what kind of colorant is used, you will always get that morphing, fading, etc. Based on what I know of body colorants, oxides will not do this. Most micas will. D&C or FD&C colorants almost always will. Some pigments will, and of course it depends on what base it's in.

    One reason I want the body glitter MSDS sheet is because I suspect there is no metal in it like most regular glitters have (which is exactly what I need for my homemade glycerin soap). It appears to be a mica with some sort of colorant, most likely an FD&C one, which means the color will bleed if I use it in a multi-colored soap.

    If you ever get any info on this glitter, I'd love to hear it!

  8. Can I test my glitter in clear store bought polish or should I test it using base? Just wondering since I have some cheap clears sitting around and I'd rather save my base for frankening. Wonderful info!

  9. Hi, awesome post -I love how in-depth you go on the various different glitters and colors and so on.
    Where do you buy your tubes of Polyflex glitter? I'm wanting to use it as body glitter (away from the eyes, of course) for my Faery cast at my local Renaissance Festival, but can't find it anywhere anymore.

    Thank you so much!:)

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