I can scarcely believe it, but it’s now been more than eight years since I published my first YouTube video. The blog began several years earlier, but I didn’t launch the YouTube channel until shortly after I as laid off from my full time job. I’ve learned a ton in the last eight years—both about formulating and making better YouTube videos. In honour of the 8th birthday of the Humblebee & Me YouTube Channel, I thought I’d share some of the most dangerous & expensive mistakes I made as a new maker (and still see lots of other new DIYers make) to help you avoid them and fast track your formulating journey.

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Common ≠ Safe

I started making right around the time Pinterest launched, and I was hooked.

I spent hours on Pinterest collecting hundreds of ideas for everything from the best ways to style knee-high boots, to how to make an infinity scarf from an old t-shirt, to how to make skincare products that would give me the smooth, acne-free skin of my dreams.

The skincare projects I found were usually based around common household ingredients including coconut oil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, bentonite clay, Dawn dish detergent, and lemon juice. The familiarity of all these ingredients meant I could whip up many of these projects straight away, and it also made them feel safe. After all—I’d been using baking soda and lemon juice for years, and who doesn’t love to find a new use for something they already own?

Unfortunately, just because something is delicious in a cake doesn’t mean it’s effective—or even safe—when it comes to skincare.

Baking soda, for example, is a popular choice for DIY deodorants and face scrubs because it’s affordable and readily available at any grocery store. It’s also a very effective deodorizer and physical exfoliant! However, baking soda has a very high pH, which can seriously disrupt your skin’s natural pH. This can lead to irritation, rashes, and even chemical burns. Its abrasive texture can also damage your skin’s protective barrier, making problems like acne and sensitivity worse in the long run.

Read more: Why I no longer recommend baking soda or other high pH cleansers

Lemon juice is another kitchen staple that is often used in homemade face masks and toners as a natural source of vitamin C. L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a wonderful skin care ingredient with excellent brightening properties, but high end skincare vitamin C serums can easily cost over $100—making a DIY version very intriguing.

Unfortunately, like baking soda, lemon juice can do more harm than good to your skin. It’s really acidic and can cause stinging, redness, and even blistering and peeling if you combine it with sun exposure (the photos of this are grim). Plus, the vitamin C in lemon juice isn’t very stable or concentrated, so you’re not even getting a meaningful dose of it.

Learn more: Why You Shouldn’t Use Lemon Juice on Your Skin by Lab Muffin Beauty Science

The bottom line is that DIY skincare ingredients should be chosen based on their proven benefits and safety for topical use, not just because they’re familiar or natural” If you want to make high quality skincare, you’re going to need to purchase skincare ingredients from reputable suppliers—grocery store ingredients won’t cut it.

And of course, always do a patch test before applying anything new to your body. Your skin will thank you in the long run!

A glass of our finest EVOO, sir?

When I started DIYing my top concern was fixing my acne, and I spent years (and hundreds of dollars) buying every carrier oil, essential oil, clay, herb, and butter that was said to help with acne. I made serums, soaps, masks, rollers, and everything else I could think of with these ingredients to try to achieve that perfectly photoshopped complexion I dreamt of.

Botanical carrier oils and butters are rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, and are often talked about as a more concentrated, beneficial alternative to water in more “crunchy” DIY spaces.

But, despite how lovely these ingredients are, my skin didn’t start to meaningfully improve until I addressed one of my skin’s most basic needs: hydration. In skincare, hydration—aka water—is essential for promoting a strong skin barrier, which is key to glowing, healthy skin.

hy·dra·tion /hīˈdrāSH(ə)n/ noun noun: hydration; plural noun: hydrations the process of causing something to absorb water. "the human body requires adequate hydration to function properly"

Oils and butters are gorgeous, but they cannot—by definition—hydrate.

So, while you don’t necessarily need to include water in the products you make, it is important to ensure that your skincare routine includes some form of hydration. If you don’t yet feel comfortable formulating with water this could be a store-bought hydrating toner, essence, or serum that you layer underneath your DIY oil-based products, or even just splashing your face with water first.

By relying solely on anhydrous (or water-free) homemade products, you may be missing out on the crucial hydration that your skin craves, which can lead to dryness, flakiness, acne, and even premature aging over time.

The wrong kind of green

This mistake is probably the most dangerous one on the list, and its a mistake I made for far too long—though with the best of intentions.

That mistake is not properly preserving your creations. It’s a mistake made sometimes due to ignorance, and sometimes purposely because the maker believes it’s the safer choice.

A lack of preservation can lead to all kinds of problems, from separation and mold growth to dangerous skin infections, and potentially serious legal trouble if you’re selling your products to the public.

There are many preservative options out there—both natural and synthetic—that are safe and effective when used the right way. The key is to choose one that’s suitable for your specific formulation and to use it properly—which is often easier said than done.

Learn More: My Preservatives Table

Each preservative has its own set of requirements that need to be met so it will work—this can include everything from pH, to temperature, to solubility.

To avoid your natural cream going the wrong kind of green (erk), make sure you thoroughly research the preservative you want to use so you understand its specific requirements, and then follow them closely. It might turn out that the preservative you’ve got your eye on isn’t a good fit for the thing you’re making, so be prepared to continue researching and potentially purchase a new preservative to ensure you’re able to properly preserve everything you want to make.

Spring 2024: Want to learn more about formulating with natural preservatives? Formula Botanica is currently offering a free formulation masterclass that will teach you how to make a botanical face cream using an all-natural preservative; you can sign up here 🙂

The “kitchen sink”

Our fourth mistake is such a tempting one, especially once you start learning about and purchasing all kinds of gorgeous skincare ingredients. You can see it in a lot of older formulations here on my website.

It can lead to everything from ineffective (but still very expensive to make) skincare to serious irritation that can trigger acne, redness, and even rashes and allergic reactions. I call it the “kitchen sink” problem—skincare edition.

Let’s say you’re formulating a serum, and you want it to be the bestest serum in the world that will solve all your skincare woes.

You love argan oil, so you’ve got to include that, but you also recently got some hemp seed oil and some jojoba oil, so you should include those, too. And you read last week that evening primrose oil is amazing for acne, so let’s add some of that.

You’ve also had great experiences with shea butter, so let’s squeeze some of that in. And you recently saw a well-reviewed product at Sephora that uses squalane, vitamin E, rosehip oil, passionfruit oil, so let’s do that. And you just bought some watermelon oil and it sounds too gorgeous not to include, so in it goes, too.

Before you know it, you’ve created a product with a dozen or more different ingredients. You’ve thrown in everything (though probably not a literal kitchen sink… I’ve read to read about any skincare benefits for sinks!).

Not only is this product really expensive to gather all the ingredients to make, but if it works (or doesn’t), you won’t really know why.

Maybe it’s the squalane. Maybe it’s the combination of argan oil and vitamin E. Maybe the evening primrose oil would be really helping your skin, but you’re reacting negatively to the rosehip oil, so you can’t tell.

My advice? Start simple. Patch test carrier oils so you know if you react to them before including them in your formulations, and get to know your new ingredients with straightforward DIYs where they can really shine. This approach will give you a much better sense of how your skin reacts to each one, allowing you to make smarter choices and get good results sooner.

You can always get more complex with your formulations over time as you gain experience, but taking a minimalist approach at first will save money and help you create products that are effective without being overwhelming.

Too much of a good thing

This last mistake probably ties with mistake #3 for the most dangerous mistake. It can lead to everything from irritation to serious burns to lifelong sensitization reactions, and I see this mistake everywhere. It’s one I made frequently, and for years: I used essential oils at levels that often exceeded safe guidelines and kept them far past their expiry dates.

This is a pretty big topic, so I’m going to refer you to two blog posts I’ve written all about this.

Dangerous Essential Oil Mistakes Most DIYers Make is a list of common mistakes (much like this one(, and How to naturally scent lotions with essential oils and natural fragrance oils is exactly what it sounds like—a guide on safely using essential oils in lotions (and other DIYs, too).

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Ok, those are some of the biggest mistakes I made as a new maker. Do you have anything to add? Comment below!

And a very happy 8th birthday to the Humblebee & Me YouTubeChannel. Happy making ❤️