Marie started off with making soap, and moved into the world of skincare and hair care with a single batch of lip balm. As she progressed, she started a blog and a YouTube channel to teach other makers how to make their own skincare and hair care products. Meet Marie!
How long have you been making skincare and hair care products, and how did you get started? How long have you been selling your products?
I first started making back in 2010, when I was in university. I had run out of lip balm, and not wanting to spend $5 on a new tube, I decided to make my own. I’d made some pretty mediocre lip balm when I was about 11 or 12 from a recipe found in a tween-y magazine, so I knew it could be done, and figured I could probably do better with the help of the internet.
That first batch of DIY lip balm was massive—something like 30 tubes! It also included far too much stinky, unrefined lanolin, which made it smell so bad that I had to make another batch without it straight away. An obsession was born.
From there I began making body butters, balms, lotions, and more, and eventually started a blog—Humblebee & Me—to have somewhere to send the friends and family who wanted to know how to make all the things I was gifting them.
I did initially intend to start selling, but in the end I found I’m far more excited about sharing what I’ve made to empower others to create. I sold—briefly—in 2017, but really didn’t enjoy it, so I shut it down and re-focused all my efforts on teaching.
What do you love most about making bath and body products?
I am, at heart, a creative problem solver, and cosmetic formulation is such a wonderful way to creatively solve so many problems! A problem can be anything from how to moisturize dry skin to how to boost the lather of a shampoo bar to “what is this new ingredient good for?”.
I love researching and experimenting to solve problems in new and enjoyable ways, and then sharing my creations and learnings with others so they can solve some problems, too.
I also find immense joy in creating; the thrill of using a beautiful lotion that I created or lathering up with a homemade body wash never gets old.
What inspires you to create?
I’m absolutely addicted to the thrill of figuring things out and understanding how they work.
I’ve lost track of the number of times a factoid pulled from a data sheet or a realization gleaned from reading an ingredient list has sent me running to the studio (usually far past my bedtime!) to try something new.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get started?
Don’t be afraid to try things that you think will fail; I’ve learned so much by doing things I was certain would flop! Just be sure to start small so you haven’t wasted too much if it does flop.
On the flip side: if you’ve tried something a bit risky and it did work, give it some time to prove itself before declaring it a success.
Who’s another maker you admire? What do you love about their work?
How can I choose just one?!
Ariane from La Fille de la Mer is so generous with her knowledge and enthusiasm for creation; she's an absolute gem. She makes beautiful products and is so passionate about encouraging others. I remember the first time we met at a conference—I was in awe and too shy to really say anything, but she recognized me from my videos and immediately said “Hey, I know you!” and was so friendly and welcoming ❤️
I really admire LisaLise’s dedication to exploring new things; she literally wrote the book on glycerites after finding the existing information lacking! She is constantly encouraging me to try new things, break the ‘rules’ to find out what happens, and hone my research skills.
Belinda of Love Your Suds makes positively jaw-dropping soaps. I so admire the precision, innovation, patience, and artistry that she brings to her sudsy art and contributes to the soaping community.
I’ve learned so much from these ladies and am so grateful for all their encouragement and everything they’ve shared with me.
Have you experienced a failure? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
One of my more memorable failures was a body wash formulation that worked beautifully initially, but then started failing constantly—curdling into a sort of sudsy cheese—after the first few batches. My “stubbornly DIY” kicked in, and I was determined to figure out what was going wrong as it was so gorgeous when it worked.
I dove into a series of isolation experiments and eventually determined the fragrance to be the problem. From there, I tried a ton of different fragrances, cross-referenced the prominent aromatic compounds in each, and determined benzyl benzoate was the culprit. I wrote up the details of this experiment in a blog post titled "The Tale of the Curdling Body Wash”.
That exercise—which took the better part of a week and resulted in a lot of horribly curdled body wash—was a great lesson in just how important fragrance selection is when formulating with surfactants. I now start liquid syndet formulations without any sort of fragrance or essential oil, leave them for several weeks to see if everything remains stable, and then move on to experimenting with a variety of different fragrances and/or essential oils. That way I know if the problem is with the base formulation, or if its a particular fragrance.
What plans do you have for your business moving forward?
I’d love to write another book; I just need to find the time! Well, I need to make the time—if the time was just going to show up on my doorstep I think it would’ve by now!
I’m also always looking for new ways to present important information in exciting, click-able ways as it is no use making a video packed full of useful information if nobody watches it.
What are your 4 must-have Bramble Berry products? Why are they your favorite?
I really like BB's Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) noodles; they’re smaller than others I’ve worked with, which makes them easier to incorporate into bar formulations.
I’m also loving the succulent mold—it makes the prettiest shampoo bars!
What’s your favorite Bramble Berry project, or what’s the first project you tried?
I might be a bit biased, but I really like the Oat Shea Cleansing Cream Project I developed for Bramble Berry; heaps of oat-y and shea-buttery goodness unite to create a product that doubles as a moisturizing cream and a gentle facial cleanser.
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