Restoring the Ocean with Seaweed: An Interview with Samudra Founder Shilpi Chhotray

Laminaria pallida, Namibia

It began with a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Shilpi Chhotray, then an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, was enamored with the beauty and diversity of earth’s most valuable resource and decided to dedicate her career to ocean conservation. Now, she is the founder of Samudra Skin & Sea, a skincare brand focused on bridging the gap between personal wellness and ecological integrity.

What is the Samudra Skin & Sea Difference?

seaweed mask

Seaweed is at the core of Samudra Skin & Sea’s skincare line | image: Samudra Skin & Sea

Two things set Samudra Skin & Sea apart from the competition. The first is seaweed. Samudra products use locally sourced, hand harvested, unprocessed seaweed that is high quality enough to eat. Food grade seaweed. Seaweed is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are good for your body, both inside and out. “Seaweed has nourishing properties that are ideal for a variety of dermatological ailments including cellulite, eczema, psoriasis, and even pigmentation balancing,” explains Chhotray. Samudra’s soothing products combine complementary ingredients such as shea butter and organic avocado to create pure and vegan skincare free of synthetics, fragrances, and irritants.

The second differentiator is a commitment to ocean conservation, including a strong focus on reducing ocean plastic pollution, which is built into every level of Chhotray’s business model. At our current rate of pollution, oceans are predicted to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Dangers to ocean life isn’t the only concern – plastics consumed by fish travels up the food chain and can have devastating effects on human health.

“Poor product design and our heavy dependence on single use plastics are turning our oceans into plastic soup,” says Chhotray, “We can no longer treat ocean waste with an ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality.” This is why all Samudra Skin & Sea products are packaged in reusable glass jars. One of the introductory products is a 100% biodegradable skin-and-shampoo soap bar that eliminates the traditional plastic shampoo bottle. “We take a serious stance on reducing plastic waste in our production. From product design to packaging and shipping, we strive to keep our ocean and landfills plastic-free.”

An Expert’s Take on Reducing Single-Use Plastic

The Samudra Skin & Sea brand focuses on eliminating single use plastics from our everyday lives. So we asked Chhotray, what are some of the best strategies to achieve this?

“Switching to reusable bags was my gateway into omitting other plastics in my day to day life. Once I adjusted to bringing reusable bags, I became more aware every time I was faced with a plastic packaging or single use plastic decision.”

Further, she adds, “I typically carry a backpack with things like a reusable water bottle, Tupperware, and even glass straws. Supporting socially conscious businesses and purchasing is another great strategy. Over time, the feeling of doing well by the planet through your daily choices is incentive enough to keep doing more!”

Chhotray concludes, “Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace opportunities to become better social stewards for the planet. We have reached the tipping point, and consumers need to push companies to do more and become better – and vice versa.”

Since environmental challenges like global climate change and plastic waste are now more critical than ever, consumers and companies alike must begin to engage in conscientious day-to-day practices on a more holistic level. The team behind Samudra Skin & Sea believes that with a little discipline and patience, it’s actually pretty easy to adopt the kinds of small changes that will significantly reduce plastic pollution in our oceans, such as turning down that plastic water bottle or remembering your reusable bags.

What’s on the Horizon for Samudra Skin & Sea?

“We are looking to add a few more products to our line,” explains Chhotray. “One in particular being a coral-safe sunscreen. Commercial sunscreens contain oxybenzone, which is harmful both aquatic life when we swim in our oceans, as well as harmful our own skin. We want to create a sunscreen that is good for humans and the oceans.”

Samudra Skin & Sea also partners with ocean advocacy groups such as 5 Gyres and the Marine Mammal Center to bring awareness and action to the dangers facing our oceans.

Samudra Skin & Sea is taking the responsible business model to new heights by not only focusing on sustainable ingredient sourcing for their products but also through motivating positive change in societal behaviors and forging partnerships to increase ocean awareness and inspire action. So the next time you’re looking to step up your skin care game, look to step up your ocean conservation game, too!

Melissa is an Impact Mill contributer based in Seattle with a passion for meshing the worlds of business and sustainability. Her interests include food, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, big data, and NPR. Melissa holds a B.A. in Business with a Concentration in Sustainability from ASU.