In 1995, while on vacation in the Florida Keys, Dan Knorr observed an oil slick on the water from suntan products of swimmers. He coined the term “Valdez Effect” after the catastrophic Alaskan oil spill.
By Richard Black and Wayne Koss
Driven by a desire to do his part, founder and owner of Florida’s Tropical Seas - Reef Safe Sun, Dan Knorr is contributing to the well-being of all sea creatures and their environment as outdoor enthusiasts are making a conscious decision to responsibly protect the oceans and waterways by using environmentally friendly sun and skin care products.
For over 30 years, Dan Knorr has been on a quest to produce the highest quality, environmentally friendly sun care products on a global level from the Tropical Seas Reef Safe Sun laboratory and manufacturing facility in Daytona Beach, Florida. Tropical Seas Reef Safe Sun is not only in the business of protecting our bodies but they are also passionate about the environment and go to great lengths to do the right things for our planet.
As a scuba diver, angler, and boater Dan believes we all have a stake in being eco-friendly. Dan’s passion for caring for people and their environment runs deep and he applies his knowledge and training as a pharmacologist and chemist to create the highest quality of environmentally friendly products.
Dan’s realization of the harmful effects of sun care products came in 1995 while on vacation in the Florida Keys. He observed an oil slick on the water from sunscreen products of swimmers and bleach spots on the coral heads. He coined the term “Valdez Effect” after the catastrophic Alaskan oil spill. After viewing this disturbing scene, he returned to work in his laboratory fueled by a desire to discover a solution in this industry he was a part of. He began to seek eco-friendly raw materials for his formulations but quickly learned that few were available. His work was at the cutting edge of developing earth conscious sunscreens. He persevered and created the first line of environmentally friendly sun care products, which he aptly named Reef Safe Sun.
The formulas have undergone extensive testing by independent laboratories, including the world-renowned Mote Marine Laboratory. All Reef Safe Sun products are manufactured to FDA standards under strict laboratory controls to produce some of the finest sun care products in the world. Because of Dan’s devout caring mission, the term “reef safe” has become synonymous with eco-friendly sunscreens.
Recently, I toured the impressive Tropical Seas facility here in Florida and was given a complete understanding of the meticulous process of formulating and manufacturing these quality products. Tropical Seas is based in a 20,000 square foot multi-storey building with offices, laboratory, and manufacturing all under one roof. It is a world-class operation that still retains the family elements and touch.
Dan Knorr personally walked me through the entire operation from the offices, to the shipping area and every step in between. The business operates under Federal FDA standards with product testing and strict quality control protocols in place. Raw materials are quarantined and tested before going into inventory. An extensive water purification system assures purity.
The mixing and bottle filling areas are strictly managed as a sterile environment. Finished products are tested, with samples retained for re-testing over a period of years. Even the packaging is eco-friendly. Shipping cartons are all made from 100% recycled materials and the bottles are made from 100% bio resin derived from sugar cane. It is an impressive operation where the emphasis on quality is obvious. From the very professional offices to every step of the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping process the Tropical Seas headquarters is first class, well organized, and the attention to producing top-of-the-line products was apparent at every level. I was shown the Standard Operating Procedures Manuals, the meticulous testing logs and all the myriad details that go into creating these high-quality products and came away with a full understanding of the vast amount of caring behind making these products truly Reef Safe—I was amazed!
In addition, Dan noted, “We respect our environment in its entirety and take value in doing our part to save our planet. We use renewable and sustainable resources, and in addition, we are a no animal testing and no animal by-products manufacturing facility.” We are continually furthering our Research & Development for the next generation of sunscreen products. We were the first to offer Oxybenzone-Octinoxate Free products and have now added a transparent zinc/titanium sunscreen to our product choices.
All this was impressive but what impressed me even more, is the amount of research, ingredient sourcing, and testing behind the Tropical Seas Reef Safe Sun products. The proprietary formulas and even the methods by which they are compounded were developed meticulously over time to be environmentally friendly and reef safe. Each formula has been tested by independent laboratories and the company has spent many thousands of dollars on research and testing. These are proven formulas and learning more about their products made me feel good about using them on my body and in the waters I so love.
Tropical Seas carries an expansive line of products including their signature sunscreens and skin care line with a full spectrum of UVA / UVB levels, after sun gels (including sunburn and jellyfish sting relief), lip balms, baby care, foot care, bath accessories, a variety of hand soaps, anti-aging cremes, sun care travel kits, swimsuit/diver suit cleaners and conditioners, dive mask defogger spray, animal care products, cool clothing and a quality jewelry line of ocean dwellers as well as the new BLUE ice chest deodorizer and cleaner. Visit the Tropical Seas Reef Safe Sun website for more information: https://www.reefsafesun.com
With Wayne Koss
QUESTION: How does one determine what sunscreen is best for them out of the numerous choices
Reply: First step in determining what sunscreen is best for you is to determine your skin type. Example: always burn never tans = Skin Type 1. So you would choose a higher SPF like a 30 to 50. Step 2: determine any skin sensitivities that you or your kids may have. Note- not all sunscreen actives react the same on people’s skin. In addition not all formulas are created equally. Some contain significantly more skin soothers and emollients, where others bare minimum for
label ingredient claim.
Don’t over SPF! SPF’s over 30 do not add much protection, instead they may cause skin irritation or even a rash. In this case less is more. We do not recommend the use zinc or titanium for your skin unless you have had skin cancer or been instructed by a dermatologist. These type products typically are very whitening and greasy making them difficult to apply to kids and do not stay on your skin well as neither of them are oil or water soluble. Lastly we recommend a lotion over a continuous spray. First- poor coverage on your skin, especially if a breezy day. Secondly, continuous sprays are not good for our ocean environment creating a sheen of sunscreen oils that float on the surface. Lastly they are not very cost effective for your wallet. Reef Safe formulates our products to form a breathable film of sunscreen protection on your skin that lasts from 80 minutes up to 2 hours. By taking a time out to re-apply with help prevents getting a sunburn.
QUESTION: How did an Oil Spill create a defining moment
Reply: In 1995 when diving in Key West with friends is when I came up with the idea for Reef Safe Sun. I noticed softball size bleach spots on the large coral heads, and when my friends jumped into the ocean I saw the Valdez
Effect (sunscreen oils) floating in an oil slick around them. Upon return home I immediately started working to formulate a sunscreen that was good for our skin as well as the environment.
Surprise —there were no green chemicals as no demand. It took 13 years of formulating and waiting for the green chemical evolution. When researching and testing sunscreen actives we found that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide actually did more harm to the fish and coral than the organic (carbon based) sunscreen actives.
Yes, organic is the correct description? We do not use that term as we feel would be deceptive. Zinc and titanium, because they are coated with silica or silicone so as not to react with human skin in a negative fashion create hydrogen peroxide when in warm seawater. In addition both are considered ocean pollutants according to Safety Data Sheets, and even list toxic to aquatic environment. In fact samples arrived in a carton with universal death sign on it. We also found during our research that not all ingredients are of the same quality and have different ingredients that make them up as well as different manufacturing process. Example: we tested 4 different Oxybenzones from 4 different manufacturers before finding one that did not harm coral. We state that It’s not about the ingredients — it’s about how the ingredients are formulated and processed, including the quality of the ingredients. Compare this to chili? Everybody has their own chili recipe (formula) that then think is the best ever. Yet they along with thousands of others are all using the same ingredients! How can something as simple as black pepper be that different? Just take a look on line at the varying types and pricing. Get the drift?
If Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and the parabens were so bad for people then the FDA would have banned them and made everyone recall the products using them. Junk Science of half testing or testing to unrealistic conditions just does not suffice. A scientist that reviewed a lab test feeding rats oxybenzone that claimed caused numerous side effects neglected to state that for a average size women; applying 1 oz of sunscreen containing 6% Oxybenzone (Maximum allowed by FDA in a sunscreen) every day would take over 70 years to absorb the same amount that the rat ate.
Unfortunately the term: I read it on the internet — it must be true and media sensationalizing junk science has given certain sunscreen chemicals a bad name. Even worse is the fact that when I tried to pull together the mass market brand sunscreen companies to help combat the negative press about certain sunscreen chemicals
I was told there is no such thing as reef safe!
QUESTION: Is your product completely biodegradable and toxic free
Reply: Reef Safe Sun formulas have been tested for biodegradability independent ecology laboratories to OECD globally accepted test methods. We do not claim that 100% of any Reef Safe Sun product biodegrades. We base our claim upon test data showing that every Reef Safe product biodegrades differently. Rather than confuse people with different biodegradable terminology we found people want to know does a product biodegrade or not. We simply claim that our formulas are biodegradable in both fresh and seawater.
Another significant factor to note is that Reef Safe Sun choose pristine ocean water from a white sandy beach where surfers frequent and a pristine mountain lake where people frequent for recreational water sports and swimming. Other companies test their products in sewage water. We at Reef Safe Sun won’t swim in sewage water– so then why test in it? Because sewage water has significantly more microorganisms that will make the product biodegrade much faster. Somehow comparing a product tested in pristine water you would swim in is really unfair to comparing a product tested in sewage water.
Reef Safe Sun also conducted studies to confirm formulas are nontoxic to sea life. Nontoxic to sea life claims are based upon testing in fresh and seawater that Reef Safe formulas do not kill the
microorganisms, fish nor coral. Coral testing was performed by Mote Marine Laboratory, the microorganisms as well as test for toxicity to fresh and marine water fish performed by independent ecology laboratories to globally accepted OECD and EPA Region 4 test methods. Note - there is not a globally accepted test method for testing of sunscreens on corals. In 2008 Reef Safe Sun contracted a marine biologist to help create a realistic ocean entry test method, which showed no harm to coral over a 30 day test period dosing once a day. In 2015 we approached Mote to review our protocol and Mote scientists agreed that this was a realistic ocean entry test protocol. Mote currently asked me to co-author a scientific paper to repeat this experiment using our ocean realistic entry protocol to have published in a scientific journal for peer review and publication. We hope to have this testing underway in 2019.
To summarize: We use small percentages of each ingredient in our products with the bulk of the lotion base being made from our specially blended tea of botanicals that we researched and selected for their skin soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as for their eco-friendly biodegradability. Our products are formulated in such a way that to quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.