The Caribbean Seaweed Expedition (Part 2 of 6)

The Search for Seaweed in Crystal Blue Waters


Wherever I go in the world, I love to research local resources that could benefit our customers, especially for skin care. I am always on the lookout for new ingredients, and whenever possible, try to test them on people in different countries, in different circumstances and in differing climates. I have been looking for years for something that brings “instant results” for a variety of skin types and skin conditions from very dry skin to even semi-oily skin.

We sailed from Aruba to Cartagena, Colombia where we took on fresh provisions for the next leg of our journey and berthed in a marina there where we made new friends. Soon we would set off on a four days sail for the remote San Blas islands off the coast of Panama in search of a very special seaweed.

Dolphins jumping around our ship reminded us that the marine life here on the western edge of the Caribbean is truly unspoiled. Isolated by rough seas and strong winds, the San Blas islands remain pristine and truly beautiful. I found myself offering up a little prayer that this magical paradise will not be destroyed and will be preserved ‘as is.’

As we drew close to the island group, we began to see the fabled seaweed floating on the crystal clear waters. This far out at sea, the man-made pollutants that surround the coasts all over the world have not yet contaminated these islands. It is one of the last places on the planet that remains truly pure and natural.

The tiny plankton (microalgae) and the brown, green, and red seaweeds (macroalgae) all share certain important qualities. Their growth depends on the availability of sunlight, conducive water temperature, and nutrients. Most seaweeds have a super-absorbent ability to attract and extract nutrients from water, as part of the photosynthesis process. In fact, seaweed is used in water filtration and algae scrubbers for lakes and reefs because it can virtually purify the surrounding water, absorbing into itself harmful or undesirable nutrients like ammonia, nitrites and nitrates from fertilizers, phosphates, iron, copper, etc.

If conditions are right, pure seaweed can be one of the healthiest foods and one of the best substances for skincare. Did you know that seaweed and its by-products are used in thousands of products from ice cream to dental moulds to wound healing bandages? You may have used agar instead of gelatin in recipes or tasted the sea in the nori seaweed wrappings for sushi. Most seaweeds are high in iodine absorbed from sea water. As the human body does not make iodine and it is essential for life, we have to get it from food – and eating seaweed is one of the best ways.

You have probably also heard of seaweed spa treatments which many claim detoxify the body and improve the health and appearance of skin. Many cosmetics companies now produce special seaweed-based serums and lotions.

But one of my concerns is where they do source the seaweed?

How pure is seaweed brought in from coastal waters polluted by the effluent from seacoast cities? How much of the ‘bad chemicals’ has the seaweed absorbed?

As I looked down through the crystalline waters all the way to the sea bottom below our ship, the clarity of the water made certain things very clear in my mind. Seaweed from the San Blas archipelago might be among the cleanest, purest and healthiest in the world – and would be perfect for Paul Penders skincare products.

Join me next time for more of the Caribbean Seaweed Expedition!

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