When I first got into DIYing I quickly got very excited about all the things I could make—lip balms, lotions, body butters, oh my! I went through my house with new eyes, looking for things I could possibly replace with new, homemade versions. It was positively intoxicating! Anywho, I thought we could take a moment to talk about the sorts of things you shouldn’t DIY—because while it can be fun to try and DIY everything, it’s not always a good idea. Let’s stay safe and smart when we DIY 😊
I’ve written an entire post on this. You should definitely read it, but the general gist of it is “don’t”. LabMuffin also has a wonderful video on this topic, including addressing the myth that some homemade sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.
Anything that’s supposed to bleach anything on your body
Yes, I do get recipe requests for skin bleaching things—this is not a thing you should ever DIY. The potential to give yourself a chemical burn is far too high. (Brightening/helping fade hyper pigmentation/evening out the complexion is different from bleaching—I’m talking bleaching!)
Super strong versions of store bought things
If a 1% store bought retinol product is highly effective, wouldn’t a 10% DIY’ed version be even better? Please do your research with this sort of thing—active ingredients have recommended doses to balance efficacy and the potential for irritation. Stronger versions are often prescription only so you’re under professional care if you use them.
Things that need to be sterile
Where sterility is important, DIY is not a great option. Things like contact lens solutions, sterile saline solutions, etc.
High strength chemical peels
The potential for high concentration AHA/BHA peels to be extremely irritating or damaging is quite high; I’d leave this to the professionals. Salicylic acid (BHA) poisoning is also a possibility with higher concentrations over large parts of the body (source, source).
Please don’t make anything for your genitals—feminine washes, vaginal douches, anal bleaching creams. Those are very sensitive bits of your body. Your vagina doesn’t need douching, and your chocolate starfish is lovely as it is.
If you find a recipe out there purporting to be a miracle remedy or cure, give it a miss. If it was truly miraculous it wouldn’t be out on the internet for free. I’ve found recipes surrounded with this level of hyperbole are almost always Pinterest-style concoctions starring home ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, turmeric, honey, mouth wash, shaving gel, and perhaps copious quantities of garlic with next to nothing in the way of actual evidence to suggest it could ever work. Save your Listerene and don’t bother.
If you have (or suspect you may have) a medical condition that requires the attention of a physician, please seek the attention of a physician. I have had people ask me for DIY solutions for everything from melanoma to serious looking infections (with attached photographs)—I am not a doctor, y’all!
Stuff that’s technically possible, apparently, because LUSH says they did it
LUSH ingredient lists often look like a recipe for fruit salad or a smoothie, claiming the inclusion of fresh fruit and veg and all kinds of other ingredients that are known to be total preservation nightmares. I have no idea how they’re doing it, but if you purée some strawberries and stir them into your lotion that’s not going to end well (unless you wanted to create a mould colony, in which case—success!). Boo, I know. It sounds so dang lovely.
Essential oil heavy stuff for babies
Tisserand’s essential oil dosing suggestions for babies are very low. 0.1% for up to 3 months, 0.25% for 3–24 months, and 1% for 2–6 years. Those are still very general recommendations, though—the specifics of the essential oils you want to use must also be accounted for. So, in general, I’d recommend not using products containing essential oils on babies unless you really know what you’re doing.
And some soft ones…
Sudsy stuff for machines
I won’t be DIYing anything sudsy that goes in my dishwasher or washing machine—I’m concerned about a massive bubbly explosion. Plus, I don’t think I know anything close to enough about surfactants and laundry and cleansing to create something that cleans and rinses out really well, preventing build up and generally gunky clothes over time. I’d feel unbelievably wretched if I released a recipe that resulted in somebody inadvertently ruining an entire load of laundry or needing to replace a $1k washing machine. (Also, I rent and as such do not own the appliances and do not want to destroy the floor by accident.)
OK! There’s my list—did I forget anything?
Thank you for all of these! I often shut down Pinterest being annoyed by all these false promises! A photographer takes a picture of you and that is you unless you photoshop something heavily (e.g. adding harsh chemicals) it will probably not do wonders.
I loved Pinterest so much when I first got into DIYing, but I feel like many corners of it have gone full woo-charlatan, like the DIY version of The National Enquirer. It’s easy to see how that happens, but still super frustrating as so many of these things are so blatantly impossible that even a smidgen of critical thinking would shut them down :/
I might add that you should be careful with essential oils in pet products, and check toxicity of other ingredients. Of course it’s partly a matter of dosage and animal size (bug spray for a horse vs paw salve for a small dog) but still. I might be overly cautious, but better safe than sorry ☺️
So true! Pet products in general should be supported by lots of research into the needs of the animal—they aren’t just furry humans 😛 Definitely better to be safe than sorry!
Yes to this! So many people diffuse lavender because of its many benefits. They have NO idea that they are poisoning their poor little cats lungs 🙁 Be SUPER CAREFUL with pets and please, please do your research (the EO companies are only interested in selling it to you, YOU need to be diligent in how you use it)
I’ve definitely seen some super scary stories about different diffused oils having really negative effects on pets—scary stuff! And never trust an MLM when they tell you something is “safe” 😐
I love how you mentioned the sudsy stuff for the washing machine. I did it. And ruined a boat load of clothing and stripped my washing gear thingie (I think that was the translation), thankfully, a new washing machine was cheap in China! I keep meaning to write about that experience and why one shouldn’t make laundry soap!
Oh no! Maybe I’m spoiled by Costco (or just don’t have kids), but laundry detergent is super cheap here, too, so I don’t see the cost savings angle. I’m pretty sure I spend less than $40/year on laundry detergent, and I don’t think I could do that if I was DIYing (especially if I needed new clothes and a new washing machine, lol).
Toothpaste! The homemade versions are too abrasive for teeth, and it’s impossible to grind and test a version that will clean but not erode, leave it to the dentists and professionals. Also, clear deodorant! My deodorant uses zinc oxide to defunk. It works like a charm, but is white. Baking soda needs to be balanced with tools I don’t have, essential oils don’t work, so tank top season is for the professional deodorant maker.
I’m not sure if Swifty Crafty Monkey has a clear (or sheer) deodorant recipe on her blog but I would look there. Just an FYI
Good call! I’ve always been really wary of it because I just don’t know much about teeth, but I do know dentist bills are expensive 😐
I’d disagree on the deodorant, though—I’m currently testing a clear one that’s working really well, and it doesn’t contain any baking soda!
I use the “Sunshine Vegan Deodorant” featured here and I LOVE it 🙂 It sinks into the skin pretty quick and doesn’t stain my clothes. Love, love, love it :)! (even if there’s baking soda in it, I don’t get any irritation. But that’s just me 🙂 )
Also: I also only trust professionnals for my teeths and my sunscreen 🙂
About the miracles… Coconut oil… ugh! I love it as an ingredient, but you’ll NEVER see me “pulling” or brushing my teeth with it!!
Also, I tried the mascara recipe in your book and even if it’s very ingenious, I had to go back to the “more chemical” kind… I have long lashes and oily skin, so all natural mascaras (Burt Bee’s, DIY, etc.) end up below my eye :/ I’m not a fan of the Racoon look, so I got back to Revlon 😛 3 out of all the rest ain’t bad 😉
I love store bought mascara, too—it’s so much fun to buy and try! I’m currently trying Glossier’s Lash Slick and I loooooove it 😀
I’m glad to hear it! The science on skin pH comes down pretty hard against high pH things, but the experiences of some individuals seems to counter that for reasons I don’t pretend to understand.
I’m lazy right now so I won’t provide any source, but I looked calcium carbonate on the abrasiveness scale and pretty sure it was lower than teeth.
That’s still just one possible ingredient for toothpaste, though—it’s a long way off from a finished, proven safe & effective formula.
Hooray! I can’t wait for a deodorant which can be clear also, no baking soda!!
But you can do and make and use homemade toothpaste, I do. It is a copycat from earth paste which has just few ingredients and no coconut oil based, which by the way make me nauseous. First I used earth paste and I love it because available in different flavours I don’t like any minty taste in toothpaste also too much foams. Unfortunately earth paste is not a cheap toothpaste but easy to create. FYI been to the dentist and he was happy whit my teeth so, he hasn’t done any job on my teeth. No dentist bills!!. I agree all your other warnings, thanks for your recipes I love them
I’m glad you’ve had good experiences! I hope you can appreciate I am in a slightly different position, though—if I released/ something that didn’t work for some people and resulted in tons of expensive bills and permanent damage I would be horrified!
Sunblock should definitely feature here too. It’s impossible to make anything more than a factor 4 at home. Slathering yourself in oil (even if it has a small spf) is just going to make you burn.
It’s what I thought of first, too, so it’s the very first thing on the list 😉
How did I miss that? Lmao
I read the whole article yesterday and thought “why is sunscreen not here”
Note to self, do not reply while taking care of small baby
Hahaha, dang that baby brain! 😛
It’s the first thing listed.
Great advice and on point with everything mentioned!
When googling I now begin my searches with this
It eliminates all Pinterest pages.
It’s a bother to type out so I’ve set up -p in my text replacement list to do it for me
I like this hint! I’m adding that to my text expander too. I absolutely hate that site. I was looking for journal prompts the other day and most of the search results wanted me to go there.
Good idea! These days I mostly use Pinterest for outfit ideas and looking at pictures of pretty soaps… or for having a laugh over all the magical things minced garlic can apparently do LOL.
I made a 0% SF 100% CO laundry soap that is mixed with borax and washing soda. Works like a charm and has not caused any damage to my front load machine. Oxyclean makes more suds than the laundry soap.
Have you read the articles I linked to in the post?
I made that laundry soap and used it for a couple of years. By the end, I noticed my whites/lights looked pretty grimy and the laundry had a funny odor. Especially the towels and washcloths when I used them and they got damp. Read the articles, seriously. I had no idea that the soap was not able to rinse out and was just building up and up, hence the color and odor. Didn’t ruin my washing machine, thankfully but am currently stripping out old stuff one load at a time. Everything looks and smells much better.
YEAH! That stripping wash thing that you have to do for clothes and such you’ve washed by using handcrafted laundry soap is a pain where the sun ain’t shinning.
I really don’t think it worth it to make your own laundry soap. I truly 100% beleive that the store bought stuff is MUCH more effective for they also have ingredients to keep your clothes happy and healthy for the long run. Things like conditioning agents for the elastics and what not.
All this said, I will always use vinegar as my fabric softener if I remember to add it in. And, I do like a 0% SF cpsoap if I’ve oil stuck on clothes. But if it is chilli oil, it won’t work.
Another excellent point! There is so much more to laundry detergent than just bubbles, and I would much rather save my money in the “not having to replace clothes” arena than the laundry detergent arena 😛 Especially because I loathe clothing shopping, haha.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Joan! This sort of “damage” seems to take months to years to appear, and it happens so slowly that I think a lot of people don’t notice. The hardness of water would also impact how quickly you’d notice changes in your clothes and linens, further muddying the waters.
Thanks Marie for your unending wisdom! I appreciate the fact that you are open to telling us what you can and won’t do (because of obvious concerns) and I agree wholeheartedly! You are a fountain of wisdom and I (among so many others) appreciate your openness to share your knowledge with us. Thank you SO very much! I agree with everything you have said here. I would never try to make sunscreen. Yikes. So many things are scary…..
Thanks so much, Estelle! Your support and kind words have put a huge smile on my face 🙂
thank you for this excellent post. This is really good information. Looking forward to your deodorant recipe.
Thanks, Carol! My latest tests are doing quite well 😀
Me too, Marie! Looking forward to deodorant recipe and so thankful for your warnings and wisdom and sharing. Especially helpful for us newbies. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much, Lin 🙂 I can’t wait until I have a good deodorant recipe, either 😛
Thank you for this post. I’ve been in business for over 16 years and have seen so many new skincare companies starting up selling sunscreen without a DIN number on them saying they are 20SPF etc. It gets me so frustrated and a product I’ve been asked to make and won’t.
Agh, that must be SO frustrating! You could always report them to the FDA if you feel like it :/
I hear you! It makes me fustrated when people who don’t read up on some of the regulations go against them! Marie is right, you can report them but education is a bigger point to hit. Plus, you never know who could be watching you! You never know when someone from the FDA is going to walk by their stuff, check for their DIN number and report them. You always have to check laws and regulations with your province/state as well as your supplier companies.
Yes! There’s no such thing as “too small” when you are selling to the public, which is a myth I’ve heard MANY times. At a conference I went to somebody said DIYers at farmer’s markets don’t need to be Health Canada compliant because all the food sellers probably aren’t… ?!!?! The myths abound!
I would think of a chemical depilatory cream should be off limits for a dyi.
Oh my goodness YES!!! A thousand times yes! Acccccccccccck. My skin recoils just thinking about it 😐
I wish everyone who was making and selling B&B would read this post and realize that they are in the wrong. It’s exhausting to pay attention to the rules when so many others do not.
I totally agree!
SO TRUE! Oh my goodness. I get so many recipes requests for things that are downright dangerous, and often the wording of the request makes it apparent the person has already tried internet recipes promising the results that they are looking for. Ack!
eta – Thank you for posting this!
You’re so welcome!
Thanks so much for all this information Marie.
I think I might just have to print it and share it with people who, shall I say:-‘know it all’ and ‘its on Pinterest, it must be safe’ !!
It is great to be in a community with knowledgeable people like you Marie!
Thanks so much 🙂
You are right to warn using essential oils with babies. EO are very concentrated. EO are very popular, but let’s not forget that using simply herbs, dried or fresh, is sufficient and helpful in most situations. I wash baby with a light lavander and chamomile infusion, it is gentle enough yet effective.
Herbs are not as expensive as EO and you can grow them too!
I NEVER make anything for mom-to-be and babies with essential oils. It’s safer to do a light infusion than harm a baby or the mother. I have books upon books about all this stuff and each one has said babies really shouldn’t be having any essential oils on their body until they are about a year old and even at that, it’s at less than one percent.
Thank you so much for your blog and videos! I was curious if you ever plan on adding actives like Retinol to some of your skin care recipes?
I’m not opposed to it at all, but I feel like I have a lot of learning to do before I’m ready for that sort of thing 🙂
Have you come up with any formulas that include retinol?
I haven’t. 1) It’s not available in Canada and 2) my limited experiences with commercial retinol products left me with a peeling, painful face for days, and I’m 0% confident I could make something better than that :/
Marie I just love your blog.I have learnt so much from you. Last year my daughter was diagnosed in spectrum. Since then, I decided not to bombard her with harsh chemicals and metals. I have been making cp soaps, creams, shampoos for my family. Now other mothers in therapy centres too ask me to make stuffs for them. Making for my family was easy, but others comes with much more responsibility.
As my daughter struggles with taking commands, I find it v difficult to stop shampoo entering her eyes. Just coz of this challenge, I am forced to use market bought no tear shampoo, which otherwise is sheer waste of money and makes her hair rough. She has beautiful curly hair and I want to save it. Could you please help me with this challenge.
I’m so glad you are enjoying making things 🙂 I’m afraid I really can’t offer much advice in regards to tear-free shampoo. One of the first places to start would be ensuring the pH is as close to the pH of the eyes as possible, but surfactants are also inherently irritating to the eyes, so I’m not confident the pH would be the end of it. I also really don’t want to stick a bunch of DIY’ed shampoos in my eyes to check LOL. That might be a thing you keep buying for a while—there are plenty of other things to focus on in the meantime 🙂
This post is well done!
Thank you! 🙂
Thank you so much for your creative and helpful content. I keep seeing retinol products in stores and online but am not quite willing to pay such a high price for it. I explored your website, but I didn’t see anything with retinol there even though it seems like you essentially made something with any other hyped (and awesome) skincare ingredient. Is there a specific reason? I definitely don’t want to hurt my and my family’s skin!
Hope to hear from you,