Growing up in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef was Alexandra Keating's happy place. But when she returned to the area as an adult, she saw firsthand just how much it's suffered over the last few decades. "If you go to high-tourist areas, you'll notice that it's very bleached—almost completely white," she says in the latest episode of Well+Good's new beauty podcast, Routine Rundown. "If you're lucky enough to go past the tourist areas, it's much more colorful. So people are effectively destroying one of the seven Wonders of the World as they're visiting it."
Listen to the episode here:
Like many of us who are familiar with the term "reef-safe sunscreen," Keating was well aware of the negative impact that chemical SPF filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate can have on marine ecosystems (so much so that Hawaii banned the sale of the ingredients in 2018 to protect its own coral reefs). But it wasn't until she began speaking with marine biologists that she realized that everything that goes down the drain makes a difference.
"It goes to coral waters and gets stuck on the reefs and builds," she says. "And even though the reefs are quite smart and powerful—they're migrating at about an inch a year—we need to get out of the way."
To give people the tools they need to do just that, she stepped in with Uni, a line of reef-safe hair and body-care products that harness the ocean's powers while also helping to protect it.
"We decided we wanted to be the first reef-safe body-care brand, and it all stemmed from there," says Keating. "Any of the toxic ingredients that we use, not just in skin care but also in cleaning products and all sorts of things... so our 'no' list is deeply regulated by the EWG [Environmental Working Group], but it also goes into anything that will harm land or waterways."
And though what's not in the products may be what gets you to initially add them to your cart, the formulas inside the (aluminum, refillable) bottles are what will make them a mainstay in your routine. "We found a way to sustainably source marine actives that would deliver 24-hour hydration... without using any chemicals, that was sort of the 'Aha' moment for us," says Keating. "And we also have upcycled olive oil, and for the base we use organic glycerin and aloe vera, so it's just a very high-quality, luxurious product."
To date, the line includes six products—shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body serum, exfoliating hand wash, and regular hand wash—which were heavily influenced by Keating's own body-care routine.
"I am very utility based," says Keating. "And maybe it's an Australian thing, but because we spend so much time in the sun, we take good care of our skin. So sunscreen and moisturizer are a daily thing... I'll exfoliate or use the body wash and the serum daily."
As we look toward the summer months (and the sun-drenched activities that come with them), any derm will tell you that this is the type of routine we should all be following. “Hydrating after showering or bathing is just as important as a moisturizer for the face," says Margarita Lolis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in Hackensack, NJ. "Switch out creams for lightweight lotions that contain ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help keep moisture locked in the skin.” She also recommends regular (albeit gentle) exfoliation, as it helps slough off dullness-inducing dead skin cells, prevents body breakouts, and preps your skin to better absorb hydrating ingredients.
Ready to add some reef-safe body care into your daily regimen? Shop Keating's go-to's below. Then go ahead and listen to our full conversation on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts to hear us dive even deeper into the brand and find out why some "sustainable" beauty may not be so sustainable after all.
$33 for a one-time purchase; $30 to subscribe
This “skin shield” body wash not only gently cleanses the skin, but also helps to strengthen the skin’s defenses against environmental aggressors. Packed with kakadu plum (which has 55 times more vitamin C than an orange), it’s an antioxidant gold mine that will nourish and protect your skin before you even step out of the shower.
$31 for a one-time purchase, $28.20 to subscribe
Though this is technically a hand wash, Keating likes to use it all over her body—especially during the summer months, when her skin could use a little extra exfoliation after being exposed to the sun (FYI: we should all be doing the same as temps start to rise). Finely ground olive pits do the work to slough off dead skin, while neem root and orange peel offer antimicrobial benefits.
$43 for a one-time purchase; $39 to subscribe
This body serum toes the line between a traditional moisturizer and the after-sun lotions Keating has sworn by throughout her life. “I used to use a very nutrient-rich after-sun that was aloe based… and I had all of these actives that I wanted to use because of that after-sun,” she says. “I really wanted to find a face serum base that I could add nutrients to so that it would keep my skin healthy and able to hydrate.”
Along with the Uni marine complex, the serum contains caviar lime extract (a gentle exfoliant) and kakadu plum, which come together in a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula.
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