What We Mean By “Formulated By and For Surfers” - Why White Label Products Aren’t Our Thing

Ever wonder why celebs can go from nothing to full makeup brand in about a month? Or why hair products can so easily stay on the same trend..and deliver the same results brand over brand? Maybe you’ve seen Instagram ads for fully formulated products - so easy to start your own company! - you just have to provide a label design. 

It's very easy to start a cosmetics company. Many companies in the US and abroad specialize in creating formulations that can be purchased and then branded however a company wants. All you have to do is sign up for an account, submit a design and *boom* - you’re workin’ from home. This is called “white-label” branding. 

White label products

While this is fine, and we definitely aren’t knocking it (we would be a lot less stressed if we just did it this way.. Insert nervous laughter..) we were built from the very beginning on certain goals, company mission, and ethics that we strive to abide by. 

The white-label trend has started to happen within the eco-friendly hair product space. Many shampoo bars, face oils, and hair conditioners are identical or eerily similar, with different scents. This is because hundreds of formulations are available for purchase, either just the recipe or the whole run of products sans labeling. Keep in mind, there are no official FDA regulations for some of these ingredients, nor are these products formulated for a truly specific purpose or mission.


At Surf Soap, we have started from day one choosing to formulate our own products.

We do this for a few reasons.


  • To ensure that *every single ingredient* we put in our products has been thoroughly researched for ocean safety.

  • We want our bars to perform a certain way, in a certain environment, and you just don't get that when buying a pre-made formulation or product. 

  • We have control over the sourcing, the certifications, and the quality of our ingredients; each one is handpicked and scrutinized thoroughly before it makes its way into a bar or balm. 

Let’s hit reason number two here. We make surf shampoo. Reef safe and ocean safe conditioner. We serve the surfers, the vanlifers, the body boarders, the scuba divers. Those who find a spiritual home in our planet’s blue waters - salty or not. 

We are the nomads who are often rushing to our day jobs with salty hair, sunkissed skin, and chipped nail polish (IYKYK). We are the earth lovers, the seekers, the goal setters who work to live… not the other way around. The planet is our playground and we want to offer just a small little way to help make it a cleaner place. 

running to the ocean

How Do We Want Our Products to Perform?

Let’s take a little science journey here and look at what happens to the hair when it is filled with salt, sand, and UV rays. 

Sea water, aside from the actual water, contains Chloride, Sodium, Magnesium, Sulfate, Calcium and other elements.

While our hair is hair is comprised of keratinous protein, our strands have crosslinks in between those protein. Crosslinks, or three-dimensional binds, are a formation of covalent bonds between adjacent amino acids. In turn, salt – or sodium chloride and magnesium sulphate – both present in seawater, create extra crosslinks within your hair curving your hair strand and thus, putting the “waves” in the beach waves.

The salt is hygroscopic: it attracts more water to your hair forming more salt crystals, but this process wicks away the moisture from the inside of your hair strand – making it dry and brittle, a process that also reduce the crosslinks between cysteine bonds making it more fragile.

This damage is made even more apparent in chemically treated hair, the chemical treatment already stripped your hair from the nutrients and artificially changed the crosslinks within your hair strands. The hygroscopic properties of salt water already takes away moisture even from healthy hair, but it worsens it further for chemically altered strands.

On the plus side, the “fullness” you experience after being in saltwater is a nice benefit - it’s just important to know that the saltwater lifts up the cuticle of the hair, which makes it susceptible to further moisture loss. 

Enter Surf Soap. Literally. To combat this loss while maintaining the waves we all love, we experimented with thousands of ingredients on ourselves (and our brave friends - called Shapers) in order to find the best blend of ingredients that served our community well. You just can’t get that from an online white label manufacturer. 

What Environments Do We Want Our Products To Perform In?

Again, we were made for the outdoors. The whole idea for Surf Soap was sparked when Kayla noticed signs on beach showers and drains that said “no soaps/shampoos” and “drains to ocean”. Meanwhile, people were bathing in these showers, squeezing sulfate-filled soaps out of plastic bottles, many of which were then discarded in the rubbish bins. 

Plastic Bottle Travel

So, What is wrong with using normal shampoo/soap at an outdoor shower or groundwater drain?

When we use detergent in soaps - often called in the chemistry world "surfactants", these ingredients break the surface tension of the water. (I’m looking at you sodium hydroxide, lye, SLS, and other sulfate surfactants)

This is helpful on our scalps, as the surfactant basically squeaks in between oil/dirt and our scalps to help wash it off, but it's not so great for our sea life, who depend on delicate surface tension and chemical balances in their homes - our oceans, lakes, and rivers. Long story short: broken surface tension makes water "wetter", and reduces the oxygen level in the water, which causes harm to the aquatic wildlife. 

On top of that, certain types of surfactants are much better at this than others, and cause a lot more harm with a lot less ingredient. 

We all know by now that even the tiniest marine animals are important to a fully functioning water system on our planet. With this knowledge, we also know that many of our chemicals make it past our water-processing plants and into our oceans, and this is why it is imperative to educate ourselves on better options - not only for the planet, but for our bodies. 

Surf Soap needed to perform in special circumstances (out in the sunshine - and potentially draining in groundwater), and it also needed to nourish hair and skin that is subjected to some harsh elements. This meant that every single recipe out there was either a no-go, or it wouldn't even stand up to the environment we were asking it to work in. 


Surf Soap's formulations are completely proprietary, and unique to the brand's mission and goals.

Along with pure ingredients, we knew we had to step away from even the thought of using plastic containers for our products. Some companies are doing an incredible job using recycled plastics, and for us, it just isn't feasible right now. We'd like to contribute less to plastic waste, and encourage our Locals to start getting used to packaging with zero plastic. So for now.. we come in tins and paperboard tubes..whatever is the most sustainable option at the time.

 surfer shampoo reef safe

When choosing your products, we encourage you to think about what's actually inside them, and how they're arriving to your home. Support local and environmentally friendly crafters and cosmetic houses and don't be afraid to ask questions. As always, stay safe out there and we'll see ya on the break.🤙



Sources & Credits:

  • The Hair Fuel
  • Jardak, K., Drogui, P. & Daghrir, R. Surfactants in aquatic and terrestrial environment: occurrence, behavior, and treatment processes. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 3195–3216 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-5803-x
  • Surf Soap Blogs
  • Elle Hughes - Pexels



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