The Caribbean Seaweed Expedition (Part 3 of 6)

Seeking the “Secret” for Beautiful Skin

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.

For four days, my friend Paul and I sailed the Caribbean Sea from Cartegena, Colombia to remote tropical islands off the northern coast of Panama. Dark nights, strong winds, and huge waves tested our sailing skills to the max but we finally found what we had come for – a very special seaweed that we may use in future Paul Penders products.

Meanwhile, back in our lab on Langkawi Island in Malaysia, Dr. Gatot, our senior cosmetic chemist, has been busy developing a new skincare product. The aim? To create a Paul Penders product that would bring back skin freshness almost instantly.

He and I were inspired by a recent visit to a major “high-tech” cosmetic ingredients conference in Bangkok. Researchers from the largest cosmetics companies in the world gathered to share their discoveries. We were intrigued by how some of the “super anti-ageing ingredients” could be created by combining seaweeds and natural plant stem-cells.

In the lab, Dr. Gatot has incorporated some of our trusted Malaysian organic jungle herbs into Paul ‘Penders products including a ‘miracle plant’ called pegaga. Just outside the lab doors, we grow our own organic bismillah plants which he combined with a special quality seaweed from Sabah, Malaysia. When he had finished the new formula and was satisfied with the first batches, they were tested on various people with promising results. Now I wanted this new skincare formula to be tested under tough weather conditions.

As it happened, I had heard of a special seaweed found in the San Blas islands in Panama. A close friend was sailing the Caribbean and invited me to come along for a few weeks. Here was my chance.

Why not do both? Find the intriguing seaweed from San Blas — and at the same time, use the brutal ocean environment of the Caribbean Sea to test Dr. Gatot’s new formula on our own faces, arms and bodies? If these new formulas could work in the toughest conditions, would we not have a real winner for our skincare line?

I wanted to be sure the lab uses the right seaweed – the very best and purest. This is the reason why we went to the western Caribbean to the San Blas group of islands where very few people live. The islands are located some 100 km from the coast of Panama and remain one of the most remote and pristine in the world.

Not all sailboats reach these islands; most of the time there are very strong winds. Over the years, many sailors have lost their vessels. Plenty of ships lay on the reef; some have gone down recently, some may have lain there for 50 years or longer. The strong sea currents and huge waves are ‘king’ around these very small and very beautiful islands.

During our four-day voyage, pods of dolphins played around the boat. As the islands appeared on the horizon, we sighted a few birds overhead and sea rays jumped out of the water. This is not a popular tourist spot — there is nothing much to do here but admire what is still pure nature. White very fine sand, blue-green water and palm trees adorn these deserted tropical islands. Always, there is the huge sound of magnificent high waves.

Were the dolphins greeting us or warning us too?

Were they saying to keep the islands unspoiled and that we should leave this special environment in exactly the same condition as we found it?

If we decide to use the San Blas seaweed in Paul Penders products, we will have to take into account the difficulties involved in harvesting and shipping it from Panama to our facilities in Malaysia. Even more importantly, we will need to consider the impact of seaweed harvesting on the local people and the marine environment.

And of course, as our boat neared the San Blas islands, the big question loomed in n my mind:

“Have we really found the ‘fountain of youth’ – a secret weapon for beautiful skin?”

Please join me next time for more of our “Caribbean Seaweed Expedition.”


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