When I started Stream2Sea, I thought we’d have products showing up on store shelves by May because, well, that’s when people start buying our mineral sunscreen… but it didn’t play out that way. We probably won’t launch until late June.
Because I’m keeping it real with you, let me share why.
Our first shampoos—which I formulated to Whole Foods PREMIUM standards using what the industry considers very safe ingredients—failed our first aquatic toxicity trials. I had to go back to the drawing board and reformulated our products from scratch. I also created a partnership with some amazing professors and students at my alma mater, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg…and things moved forward by leaps and bounds.
As it turns out, nobody has ever really done the kind of skin care product testing we think needs to be completed before we call a skin care product “reef safe.” In fact, it’s such a new concept that there were no guidelines on how to test consumer products in aquatic ecosystems. Even developing a reasonable exposure was a learning process. Students working with Dr. Denise Flaherty ended up measuring an average handful of shampoo, and estimating the number of gallons in a bathtub full of water before then working it back down to milliliters of shampoo and liters of water in a fish tank.
These students were so excited about the process that they actually cheered when every single fish was still alive after 96 hours of swimming in the shampoo-laced foamy water.
Our sunscreen tests are even more important because researchers have documented lethal impacts caused by very low concentrations of common ingredients. Our first tests were 100% successful at the highest dose—the equivalent of an ounce of sunscreen in three bathtubs full of water. However, we still don’t know if fish will react the same way as the more vulnerable coral larva, so we’ll start another round of tests this summer.
Dr. Koty Sharp (who has been collaborating with the Smithsonian Institute to look at how coral larva “choose” a substrate to settle on) will take a team of students to Mote Marine’s Tropical Research Station on Summerland Key where they’ll harvest coral and bring it back to their labs. They’ll capture the coral larva and place them in tanks to see if they stay healthy at the maximum imaginable concentrations of sunscreen.
For now, we’re comfortable enough with our first rounds of skin care product testing, including biodegradability and initial aquatic toxicity, to start production in the next few weeks—but we’ll hold off labeling our products as reef safe. It’s the EcoConscious thing to do!
I thank you for continuing to join us on this journey…because we DO have a choice and we WILL chose to do better. We appreciate your comments, concerns and questions that will help to ensure that we share information that is important to you along the way.