A chemist with an entrepreneurial spirit, it was Autumn Blum’s love of diving and concern for marine plants and animals that prompted her to start Stream2Sea and develop eco-friendly skin care products. She spent nearly a year researching, formulating and testing before her sunscreen hit the market. Photo courtesy of John Nussbaum
Eco-conscious chemist Autumn Blum is inspired by diving experiences to create a skin care line that won’t destroy coral larva
Cosmetic chemist and experienced dive enthusiast Autumn Blum is on a mission to protect the vibrant blue waters and their inhabitants she so deeply cares for. She is doing it through research and environmentally friendly skin care products.
While Autumn has always appreciated the seas, it was one particular dive that inspired her to start Stream2Sea—an eco-friendly skin care company.
“I was coming back to a safety stop, and I see this beautiful rainbow on the surface,” she says. “Then I thought, ‘Oh, that’s not a rainbow. It’s an oil slick.’ It was sunscreen coming off a group of snorkelers. It was the first time I really thought about how the products we use on our bodies in our daily lives affect the environment that I’m so in love with.”
Autumn says she spent the rest of the trip obsessing over and investigating ingredients in each of the skin care and hygiene products onboard, including those labeled eco-friendly.
“I knew there wasn’t a health food store in the country that would carry them, and I was mad,” she says.
Since then, Autumn has poured her efforts into Stream2Sea’s products, doing what she can to protect the environment. After several failed tests and frustrating results to see how a shampoo she created would affect fish, Autumn finally found the perfect solution.
“It performs brilliantly,” she says. “But it was a lot more work. I was supposed to launch in February, and I didn’t launch until July because I failed several toxicity tests, which wasn’t required. There’s nothing that requires me to do this, but there was no way I was going to put it on the market until I knew it was perfectly safe.”
Autumn formulated the product to work in the natural products market, which has strict regulations.
Stream2Sea’s first full summer season was this year. Autumn says she more than tripled last year’s production, and still ran out of stock. Stream2Sea has a manufacturing facility in Hardee County, so the shortage only lasted seven days.
Most of the sales are in south Florida’s watersports areas, where Autumn has relationships with the dive industry. She started Scuba Girls in 2014, bringing together certified female divers for trips, and to serve as instructors and guides.
More than 70 percent of dive retailers in the Keys carry Stream2Sea products.
“They’re protecting their reefs, and they understand the initiative behind it,” Autumn says. “There are some competitors out there trying to do similar things, but they are taking ours as the preference because I think they feel they’re supporting the local economy and a small company.”
Autumn says recent research shows that oxybenzone—the main ingredient in most commercial sunscreens—kills coral larva.
Six months after Stream2Sea’s sunscreen launch in 2016, a study was published showing the dangers of even small amounts of oxybenzone—parts per trillion—to coral larva. Autumn had not seen the study before launching her products, but says she certainly benefitted from the timing of the release.
“I launched it knowing sunscreen was bad for waters,” she says.
Marine plants and animals are not the only species at risk. She says a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows oxybenzone is detected in more than 90 percent of adult Americans, and most babies born today.
“It’s an endocrine destructor—similar to BPA in plastics—so it’s definitely something you do not want on your children, in my opinion,” Autumn says. “It bio-accumulates in our bodies and is passed from mother to child. This is not a naturally occurring chemical. So it’s a big deal.”
Autumn—who was referred to as an aqua warrior in a Vogue.com article—believes her products can have a positive environmental impact, especially when used by those who spend a lot of time in marine environments.
She says divers, in particular, enjoy and appreciate the reefs they explore and the coral that grows there. They see the problem differently than others.
“The coral is challenged and our waters are challenged by so many factors they can’t control—ocean acidification, over-population,” she says. “So, how does the individual consumer combat that?”