By Anthony Pancia
Of all the places you’d think of putting a product called Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol, Butly Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Octocylene, think on your face would be one of them?
Well, if you’ve used any governmentally approved sunscreen of late chances are you’ve done just that.
The incredibly difficult to pronounce chemicals are just some of a raft of compounds that make up some of the more popular broad spectrum sun lotions that are slathered over the faces, arms and legs of billions of men, women and children each year.
Is it a bad thing? Given it’s been approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), you’d think not, but if you had a choice between using the chemical laden lotion or one made up of products you could actually eat, which would it be?
Margaret River big wave surfer, Dan Ryan has been working on such a product.
Not only does it work, it’s also just been approved by the TGA, carries a SPF 30 rating and each sale will benefit underprivileged people around the world.
But the product is just part of a story which ironically enough begins with Dan’s own experiences with sunscreen as a grommet on the northern coast of New South Wales.
“When I was a kid, I used to hate putting sunscreen on, just totally hate it. It would sting, burn my eyes and I just couldn’t wait to get it off but my mum was always forcing me to put it on because that was the done thing and nobody really knew any better. Looking back on it now, the reaction was my body telling me not to put it on.”
From an early age, Dan had started questioning what was the accepted norm after being exposed to the deteriorating health of elderly surfers he looked up to.
“As they got older, they all seemed to get rattled and found themselves unable to surf as much as they once did and I used to think, ‘that’s not the way I want to go.’ Then I went to Hawaii and I saw some of the older guys still going hard in extreme conditions. That reinforced what I’d already been thinking and I really started to question everything. I was always interested in health and soon after that trip I began to look for ways to maintain a level of fitness, which in turn led to an interest in nutrition, breathing, stretching and ultimately the study of kinesiology.”
A by-product of his new interest was opening the door to one of the mysteries that Dan felt was holding him back from achieving his full potential; fear.
“I used to find there was a lot of noise inside me and when it came to surfing big waves, it was really dialled up. On the surface it looked like I was enjoying myself out there, but deep down I was scared and just full of fear.
Studying kinesiology gave me an understanding of how the mind and body is connected and I learnt how to embrace and even enjoy fear and the whole process of working through it. It also led me to want to know more about what we put in our body.”
Already a healthy eater, the one sticking point for Dan was sunscreen. Like so many other surfers around the world, he’d happily spend hours in the ocean but felt uneasy using conventional sunscreens.
“I researched what was in sunscreen and was left with all these questions. On one hand, it seemed to work but surely all those chemicals must have some sort of detrimental effect on your health?
It just seemed a bit odd that we were willing to cover ourselves in this product that you don’t really know how it’s made. You can’t even pronounce 99 per cent of what goes into it. There’s no doubt they absorb or deflect the UV rays, but what are the side effects? It started to really interest me so I started toying around with the idea of making something that would not only work, but also have a proven, beneficial result on your health.”
Thus began a period of experimentation using natural products including bee’s wax, coconut oils and cacao butter before arriving at the first incarnation, which were tested under the harsh tropical sun of Tahiti and Indonesia.
“It worked, it really worked. I’d be out in the water for hours and wouldn’t get sunburnt.
For a while I was happy just to make it, give some away to friends and keep going in that direction, but I had this little thought that kept gnawing at me. I had a bit of a epiphany that if I didn’t pursue this thing I truly believed in, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.”
It didn’t take long for Dan to realise coming up with a product and actually selling a product were two completely different disciplines, especially when it came to sunscreen.
For starters, for it even to be labelled sunscreen, it would have to pass standards set by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), a body Dan wasn’t particularly enamoured with, but one he was prepared to deal with for the greater good of his product and the health of sun lovers world wide.
“That was a tough one to deal with. I don’t really respect the TGA, and there were a lot of expenses, rules and regulations involved in the process but without its approval, you can’t label a product ‘Broad Spectrum Sunscreen.’
I understand if it came down to choice mums and dads will look for that tick of approval before they buy a sunscreen for their kids, so I was prepared to let go and work through the process for the greater good.”
It also became obvious early on that convincing manufacturers to take a chance on a product made entirely of natural and organic compounds was not going to be an easy sale.
“There was a lot of resistance and scepticism straight away. People would straight up say it couldn’t be done and I’d never get the TGA approval. Then I had my accountant in my ear at the same time saying it was just a ridiculous idea. I finally found a company in Byron Bay that believed in it and were keen to hear what I had to offer.”
With interest piqued, Dan began a back and forth with the company until they arrived at a product he was content with, one made up of, among other things, cacao and shea butters, jojoba, carrot and red raspberry oils and vitamin e.
Not that the process was not without its frustrations though.
“A lot of it was from my end and mainly due to me failing to keep accurate notes. I’d make up one batch and be really happy with it then realise I’d forgotten the order or cooking temperatures so it’d be back to square one. Then the company would send me a sample and it wouldn’t be right but we just kept at it until we got the right formula. It was a bit of a process but I believed in my product and they did too, so it was destined to work."
With the product in the can, Dan then added the next component, a way of fulfilling another long held desire, to make a difference to those less fortunate with the sale of each tub or stick of his product.
“I became a Partner in the Global Giving Iniative Buy One Give One [B1G1]. It ensures every cent you give goes directly to some amazing, high-impact projects around the world. You can actually track your giving impact in real time too and see exactly where it ends up.
The giving back side of this was a really important aspect of this whole journey. Ultimately what I’m making is a product, but I also want it to be a movement. I want mums and dads to be encouraged to buy something healthy for their kids and make a difference to our world at the same time.”
Of course, getting to the final stages of the journey hasn’t come cheaply; each role of the dice with the manufacturers required substantial investment and the option of crowd funding the process became an obvious alternative.
“A lot of people suggested crowd-funding the process but it wasn’t for me, I wanted it to be my thing and I wanted to do it for myself so when people ask how I did it, I can say I went out and worked hard to earn it.
So that’s what I did. I’d go out bush or up north and do a stint and it would fire me up to get through it. It was all about that end goal which in my heart, I always honestly believed would work.”
So as he inches closer to realising a dream, Dan also moves into that small percentage of achievers who’ve taken a gamble on themselves and come out the other end, slightly scathed, but all the better for the experience.
“It’s just a dream I didn’t want to let go of because just like riding big waves, it felt true to me.
There were a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially financial, just to get to this point, but early on someone told me, it’s not about resources, it’s about being resourceful. And it’s about perseverance too.
The process involved overcoming a lot of fears, but just like riding big waves, there’s something special about pushing through the fear and coming out the other end a better person.
Ultimately, we’ve created an epic all natural high performance sunscreen.
But if the story of making it all happen inspires someone else to do the same then that to me would mean more success than any type of financial reward.
If we can all get that together we can achieve great things, this part of the story is even more worthwhile."
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