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Eckerd College alum launches eco-friendly sunscreen, cosmetics line

Each summer, boatloads of sunscreen are sold to beach-goers throughout the country. But where do the contents end up? Often, in the oceans.

Studies have shown that the chemicals found in many sunscreens or skin care products that contain sunscreen can contaminate, and even kill coral reefs (some can also cause problems for humans).

Enter Stream2Sea, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based startup company that aims to revolutionize the way we swim with eco-friendly sunscreen and skin care products that have been deemed safe for marine life.

Entrepreneur Autumn Bloom, who received a chemistry honors B.S. from Eckerd College in 1997, founded Stream2Sea. After starting and later selling off specialty cosmetics company Organix South, the Eckerd alum dove into the idea of protecting endangered ecosystems from human activities.

“Over 6,000 tons of skin care products enter coral reefs from tourist activities alone,” Blum explains in a blog post on the Stream2Sea website, adding that additional contamination products entering waters through runoff or sewage are not included in that statistic.

And even though other sunscreen brands on the market today may call themselves " 'ocean friendly,' many contain ingredients that are known to harm the fragile ecosystems and marine life of our waters,” Blum writes.

After developing Stream2Sea’s initial line of eco-friendly sunscreens and body care products, Blum, with the help of the Eckerd College Alumni Relations department and her mentor, Dr. David Grove, selected a team of scientists and students at Eckerd to conduct testing and research.

The research team, which included Assistant Professor of Biology Denise Flaherty and Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science Koty Sharp, along with several of their students, worked with Blum on scientific trials refine her products.

“It was wonderful working with the knowledgeable professors and students at my alma mater,” Blum writes. “Watching the students apply their lab skills and education to my ‘real world’ requirements, proving the safety of Stream2Sea products, was an incredible feeling.”

Flaherty, who tested the products on fish with her students, says in a news release that the opportunity to work on applied research in the field and in the lab was a special one for students.

“Being able to see a project like this all the way through was very meaningful,’’ she notes.

Sharp’s team, which included Eckerd College marine science seniors Takoda Edlund and Samantha Fortin, spent a week in the Florida Keys collecting coral larvae samples to use for testing the Stream2Sea products. While sunscreen had been tested before on living corals, tests had never been done on coral larvae, Sharp says.

Stream2Sea products were tested on coral larvae and fish at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in Sarasota. Tests concluded that the Stream2Sea products showed no evidence of harm to fish or to corals.

Participating students were so excited to see the positive results that “they actually cheered when every single fish was still alive after 96 hours of swimming in the shampoo-laced foamy water,” Blum writes.

Stream2Sea has identified a list of ingredients to avoid, such as nano particles that can flake off of skin as we swim as well as an ingredients dictionary to help consumers make sense of biodegradable cosmetics that are eco-friendly. 

Moving forward, the company will continue to invest significant funding into testing, Blum writes, “so that we can state, with complete confidence, that we are the safest product on the shelves.”

Stream2Sea sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are in stock on the company website. Prices range from $3.95-$16.95.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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