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A bit of chemistry – making a wrinkle shrinker from silica gel.

August 30, 2017

I always save the silica gel packets I get with my seaweed sheets or electrical goods and I’m so glad I do because today I got to turn them into a gimmicky but fun (as long as you are careful) wrinkle shrinker.

What gave me the idea was a product that one of my work colleagues had brought to the office last week. We were all impressed with the instant tightening feeling and visible wrinkle reduction we got from applying this wonder serum.  Looking at the ingredient list it wasn’t immediately obvious to me what was doing the job but it didn’t take long for it to click.

The magic ingredient in that serum was sodium silicate.  Now I know sodium silicate as an industrial chemical used in dishwasher tablets for cleaning and polishing dishes.  I have never thought of using it on the skin though, not least because it is very caustic.  Sodium Silicate solution has a pH of between 10-13 which is way higher than I’d usually pop on and leave on my face. However, as you will see later, that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

Once I’d worked out that sodium silicate could act as a facial wrinkle smoother and filler I wanted to try the formula but sadly I had no sodium silicate and couldn’t be bothered to order some in so I thought I’d just make some – bring on the silica gel.

The recipe goes like this:

20%  Sodium Hydroxide Flake

50% Water

30%  Silica beads.

The first step is to make a sodium hydroxide solution in the water.  Sodium hydroxide is also highly caustic and can burn easily so gloves and eye protection are needed for this.  Once the solution is formed the silica beads go in.  It would be ideal to buy pure silica beads (or just buy the pure sodium silicate) as mine looked to have some kind of colouring to them but it did still do the trick.

silica gelIngredients for eye gel

Basically you just have to mix this merry lot of stuff up while heating for a good few minutes. I think it took me around 10 minutes to make around 100g of stuff.  You know when you have ‘cooked’ this enough because the mixture turns glue-like, sticky and stringy.  At this point I could see I still had a slight excess of Silica beads left so I added a bit more water to dilute the mix and kept mixing until I’d formed a liquid with no particulates left in it.  This probably took another 5 minutes.  If you are planning to do this I would recommend starting with a very concentrated solution as per the recipe above as when you dilute the mix, it is harder to see the Sodium Silicate stringiness happen.  Oh, also do take note that the reaction releases a smelly gas so make sure you have good ventilation and don’t breathe it in!

chemical reactionConcentrated water glass

Once the Sodium Silicate Solution or ‘water glass’ was made it was time to make the serum base.

In a separate container I did this:

Water 75%

Veegum Ultra (Magnesium Aluminium Silicate)  1%

Xanthan Gum 0.25%

Sodium Silicate Solution 16.5%

Citric – to pH 10.5

Preservative 1% (I chose a phenoxyethanol/ ethylhexylglycerin mix.

The above is made by pre-blending the veegum with the xanthan then adding those powders into hot water while it is being mixed (by hot I’d say around 80C).  I used a homogeniser for a speedy hydration and it took around 2 minutes for this small batch to be ready.  Then I added the sodium silicate solution and mixed that in too.  I took the pH and adjusted it down to 10.5 with Citric Acid powder. This proved to be no drama unless you over-shoot the Pka of Sodium Silicate which is 9.83. At that pH or less the mixture changes from a fluid serum to a dryish gel because you have created silicic Acid and that’s no good for this job.  Of course I did that with the first batch as I’ve got an inbuilt safety device that just wants everything to be pH 5.5 no matter whether it makes sense chemically.

good product ingredient and low pH gel


So once all of the above is done the resulting serum starts to thicken up to a nice paste.  The high pH is a bit of a worry but I kept reminding myself that people use Castile soap on their face and that has a pH of between 10-11.5!  I just have to say ‘be careful not to get it in your eyes!’.

I have been trying out the serum myself and I am quite impressed, not necessarily on how it smoothes wrinkles but in what it has done for my pores.  I have quite large pores and this seems to have made them shrink right up which is great!

But is this product good for you?

I would say that is a resounding NO.  I am not sure that this is BAD for the skin but there is nothing in there to do anything good either. I  call this a ‘gimmicky’ product for good reason and would probably not recommend using it as a stand-alone product on the skin all day every day. However, I can see how it might be useful on a special occasion, when you want to look like you are wide awake and have no pores or wrinkles. My biggest concern is with the high pH of the Sodium Silicate, there are other silicates out there and maybe there is one (or something else) that can do this same job but at a pH closer to that of the skin but I haven’t looked into that in any detail yet!

And the results?

Sorry about the fact that I forgot to do my hair today but I hope you can see how much smoother the right side of my face looks than the left!

Me in the mirror

Isn’t chemistry grand!

Oh and if you don’t feel like this is the product for you, at least you can use your up-cycled silica beads to wash your house – the silica solution is a good abrasive for a wash.



16 Comments leave one →
  1. Luke permalink
    October 1, 2017 6:57 am

    Where did you source the Veegum? I can’t find it anywhere!
    And was Ultra the best variety to choose? That’s listed as 4.2 to 5.2 pH range. When this is high alkaline? 🙂

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      October 1, 2017 11:12 am

      There are many different types of veegum but I had the veegum regular which I bought locally. This can tolerate a wide pH range. Veegum ultra is best suited to more acidic pH so is the wrong one to try. Maybe try the agent for Vanderbilt.

  2. Kimshu permalink
    May 5, 2018 11:18 pm

    I bought sodium silicate solution 40% how much would it use in this formula you have

  3. Enzo permalink
    July 20, 2018 11:15 am

    J’ai essayé de réaliser votre formule mais soit elle se déphase ou soit elle irrite beaucoup.

    J’utilis Veegum.R

    Pouvez vous me donner plus d’informations ? Ou m’expliquer la formule ? Merci beaucoup.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      July 20, 2018 11:25 am

      It can be irritating because of the high pH. This was mainly put up as a demonstration of a process and to explain how a popular ‘fad’ product works. I think it would be too irritating for most people so I wouldn’t really advocate this as a saleable product even though some brands do. So you are probably doing nothing wrong, it’s the high pH that’s irritating and it’s hard to reduce that and keep the wrinkle shrinking effect to be honest. Some people are more irritated by the high pH than others.

      • ENZO permalink
        September 10, 2018 4:52 am

        Voilà, j’ai un petit mélangeur de paillasse que j’ai acheté sur Aliexpress.

        J’ai maintenant du Sodium silicate, du Veegum R et Veegum HV, phenoxyethanol/ ethylhexylglycerin et de l’eau déminéralisée.

        J’ai mis comme vous avez indiqué ci-dessous mais cela durcit très vite.

        Water 75%
        Veegum Ultra (Magnesium Aluminium Silicate) 1%
        Xanthan Gum 0.25%
        Sodium Silicate Solution 16.5%
        Citric – to pH 10.5
        Preservative 1%

        Votre solution de Sodium Silicate est elle pure à 100% ?

        Puis je utiliser un autre stabilizer que la gomme xanthan ?

        Merci pour vos retours très rapide. J’aimerai être informé de chacun de vos posts qui touche le domaine de la formulation.

        Merci beaucoup !!! ❤

  4. Julie permalink
    September 16, 2018 8:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I’m researching how certain wrinkle creams work after a salesman rubbed some on my undereye area and was incredible difference. For a mere 400$ I could have taken it home! Lol! I’m figuring out how to make my own. Yes, waterglass is their main “secret” for most of these companies.

    • Kimshu permalink
      September 16, 2018 11:19 pm

      At what % do you use waterglass, in your syrum? I have made a few batches, one at 15% one at 20%. I didn’t dilute the waterglass which comes at 40%

      • Pamela permalink
        November 30, 2018 6:08 pm

        Hello, I bought sodium silicate powder and magnesium hydroxide for a DIY filler. Am totally lost on the ratio of the silicate and hydroxide to make a safe serum. Do you have a recipe in layman’s terms, and also what would be a safe ph. Thank you.

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        December 3, 2018 9:06 am

        There is no way to make a completely safe serum as you need the pH to be high so it’s always going to be a bit irritating as the pH will be around 10.

  5. Eva Rosberg Cody permalink
    May 27, 2019 1:52 am

    Hi, I bought sodium silicate (waterglass) and made it according to the recipe, except that I didn’t have Veegum. I used Xanthan gum instead. I think the pH might have gotten a bit too low as the thick gel was formed. Also I didn’t have citric acid. Instead I used lactic acid. Anyway, when applying in very thin layer, it forms a really white residue. How can I combat that and why is this? Eva

  6. Jay Chism permalink
    October 12, 2019 3:22 am

    This is for me to be used for puffy eyes

  7. December 8, 2019 3:38 pm

    do search the limit usage of sodium silicate on skin. Immediate reaction doesnt mean good result . do research .. As far as i know, sodium silicate is passable no more than 10%.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      December 14, 2019 11:59 am

      Absolutely, this was a proof-of-concept idea rather than something to be recommended. It’s not a great chemical to have near your eyes that’s for sure!

  8. Bridget E Stout permalink
    April 8, 2020 12:46 pm

    I too saved my silica gel packets after learning that silica was the main ingredient in the $100+ wrinkle filler products.
    BUT I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with them! Then I found this writing.
    I’m concerned about the sodium hydroxide though. You can even see in the picture that it says “caustic”.
    I don’t think I want to put this on my skin. Is there any other way to use the silica gel and still achieve the same results?
    Due to self-quarantine, I am looking for things to keep me busy. Might as well have some fun with chemistry!
    Btw, you look great in the picture!
    Stay safe and healthy!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 8, 2020 1:55 pm

      Sodium hydroxide is essential for this chemical reaction by yes, it has to be used carefully. This isn’t a good thing for people to play with as even the resulting product is quite irritating. I only did it to prove how it works, not for it to be something people copy. With regards to sodium hydroxide, it’s widely used in cosmetics as a neutraliser/ pH adjuster. The dose and pH make the poison. No soap could be make without this

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