There’s no better time to consider the ways your purchasing decisions impact the planet than during Earth Month. The personal products you use every day can be a significant source of water pollution and danger for marine animals. Making conscientious decisions like choosing reef-safe sunscreen to contribute to a solution for healthier marine wildlife.

Three reef-safe sunscreens on the beach.

Stream2Sea is a small business dedicated to producing personal products that are safe for humans, animals and plants. The ocean-safe body care products and sunscreens are toxin-free, thoroughly tested for animal safety and setting a standard for sustainable products as the only line in the world tested and proven safe for C. elegans, freshwater fish, saltwater fish and coral larvae.

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The truth is, many products labeled reef-safe actually aren’t. Ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate are toxic to corals and reef fish but are still in products labeled reef-safe and biodegradable. Also take note that even if a product is labeled as biodegradable, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for marine plants and animals. 

A reef-safe sunscreen against a yellow background.

Regulations are loose in the industry, making it difficult to identify exactly what is or isn’t in a product. Stream2Sea set out to change all that through complete transparency. Not only does every product provide a detailed ingredient list, but the company outlines each ingredient in detail in its A to Z ingredient dictionary. 

The company explains, “The reason why so many sunscreens are loaded with marine toxic ingredients is that each ingredient covers only a tiny spectrum of sunlight that causes sunburn and ages skin—it takes several to cover a broad spectrum of UV rays.”

A person spraying a reef-safe sunscreen product into their hand.

While helping to prevent skin damage and cancer in humans, chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, among many others, are being banned in many coastal communities after studies have shown a connection between these products and damage to coral reefs. In areas with heavy use, the bleaching process (in which algae expels symbiotic algae) means potentially irreversible pollution damage. 

A reef-safe sunscreen against a blue background.

The company also wants to raise awareness about where ocean pollution starts, and many people are surprised to find out the answer is in your bathroom. Water from sinks and showers carries chemicals from showers and handwashing into the waste stream. Similarly, using mainstream sunscreens while playing in creeks or rivers also sends toxins downstream. All water eventually heads to the ocean, so incorporating ocean-safe products into your daily routine is the most effective way to do your part.

Stream2Sea founder Autumn Blum is passionate about ensuring the safety of ocean plants and wildlife. She explained her inspiration for starting the company saying, “We were on a live-aboard, diving a spectacular reef when I noticed a sunscreen oil slick coming off a group of snorkelers. I knew then that I had to start making products that were truly safe for the oceans I love.”

Three bottles of reef-safe sunscreen on a dock.

In addition to outlining the details of every ingredient, Stream2Sea is also proudly transparent about testing done on products. Test results published on the website cover ingredients and interactions of specific products and results on toxicity levels and animal behavior such as swimming, feeding and reproduction.

A blue bottle of shampoo/body wash to the left of a pair of sudsy hands.

Beyond the products themselves, which include lip balm, sunscreen, shampoo, body wash, conditioner, hand sanitizer, lotion, hydration cream, accessories and more, Stream2Sea focuses its sustainability lens on packaging too. The sugarcane resin packaging is as green and sustainable as the products themselves. While one hectare can support 77 tons of sugarcane and result in three tons of biopolymer, the bonus is the process used to turn sugarcane into packaging actually only uses the pulp left over after the commercially-used sugar juices have been expelled. In addition, like all plants, sugarcane absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air as it grows. 

Each product offers a bit of innovation and acute attention to detail when it comes to responsible packaging. The lip balms use TerraSkin® labels, an eco-friendly stone paper made from 75% calcium carbonate that naturally biodegrades back into the soil after disposal.

Two tubes of reef-safe sunscreen on the beach.

Another example of Stream2Sea’s dedication to sustainable material selection is the large 32-ounce bottles, EcoSticks and lip balm tubes made from recycled plastic milk jugs and water bottles. Since the company partially relies on Amazon sales, it is required to abide by the ‘liquid requirement,” that states some items must be placed in a plastic bag for shipping. To align with company goals, Stream2Sea turned to ‘Green Line’ biodegradable, reusable plastic bags. From tubes to bags, 100% of the packaging is 100% recyclable. 

Stream2Sea is also very vocal about its support for, and effort to influence, legislation and political action aimed at protecting the ocean and life sustained within it. 

Review

Stream2Sea provided a generous product sample box that included a shampoo/body wash, leave-in conditioner, two hand creams, two lip balms, a sunscreen and the Daily Hydration BB Cream. I’ve been working through each product and can say, in brief, they are all great. 

I didn’t know what to expect from the Daily Hydration BB Cream and was surprised with the first application to find it was tinted. In addition to the lightweight, nourishing feel, the tinting is a bonus. Of course, it also offers an SPF of 20 and is biodegradable

A box of reef-safe sunscreen products.

With a sensitivity to lavender, I gifted the lavender mint hand cream but happily tried out the tropical scent. I’m very scent sensitive and typically choose unscented products, but the aroma is mild and pleasant. I didn’t have to wash it off within minutes like many other lotions. The lotion feels nice and is non-greasy (bonus!). Plus, the hydration lasts quite a while. 

The Every Day Mineral Sunscreen offers SPF 45. I love the lightweight, non-greasy feel, and, unlike many all-natural sunscreens, it absorbs nicely. 

My son snatched up one of the lip balms before I had even gone through the box, so I asked him for his review, and he reported a pleasant scent of cherry vanilla and a nourishing feel on his lips. I’ve been using the cucumber mint for a few weeks. It offers SPF 30 and isn’t waxy at all, even on cold days. The lip balms are vegan and made with an antioxidant blend. The lip product leaves a white film on your lips, but for me, this speaks to the protective qualities. Still, if you’re like me and don’t look in the mirror very often, you might be surprised when you do!

A box of reef-safe sunscreen products.

The shampoo/body wash and conditioner both have an amazing smell. Showing my age, it reminds me of those chewable orange children’s Tylenol tablets. In other words, it smells like citrus. What can I say, the sensory response to scents is a funny thing. Both products do what you’d expect from shampoo and conditioner. But they also claim to protect the hair from sun damage. I live in the Pacific Northwest, better known for cloudy skies than sunny ones, so I’ll take their word on that and save them for my next trip to sunnier locations. 

+ Stream2Sea 

Images via Stream2Sea and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat

Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Stream2Sea. All opinions on the products and the company are the author’s own.