PORTLAND, MAINE - It’s the time of year again for Maine’s biggest nuisance; Browntail Moth season is upon us! As Maine brings its beautiful summer weather, the Browntail Moth caterpillars are awakened. Browntail moth caterpillars have tiny, poisonous hairs that cause skin rashes and irritation when in contact with human skin. These creatures are back, at a scale larger than we’ve ever seen.
“Last year, the infestation was the worst in the state’s history,” reports Patrick Whittle for the Associated Press. “This year, the Maine Forest Service predicts encounters with the moths and their hairs to be as bad or worse than 2021”.
Last summer, Maine residents scrambled to concoct their own homemade remedies to combat the irritation. In the midst of the scramble, this up-and-coming Maine skincare brand using lobster as an ingredient, stumbled into a solution. Amber Boutiette and Patrick Breeding, two recent University of Maine graduates, started Marin Skincare to bring relief to people struggling with dry, ‘upset’ skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The duo launched the business in October of 2020 and have experienced incredible growth.
“Well, we actually use a protein found in lobsters, which is responsible for their ability to pop off and regenerate limbs. It turns out, in the same way it does this, it is really good at repairing the skin barrier. So far, we’ve used it to help tens of thousands with dry, dermatitis-prone skin, starting with me.”- Boutiette.
Last year, Marin’s very ‘Maine’ cream started to get reviews for our very ‘Maine’ caterpillar problem.
“At first we were like, oh cool Browntail moth rash, that’s kind of weird that it’s working, but that’s great! Then as more and more came in, we started to ask ‘what’s going on here?’” – says Boutiette.
As scientists themselves, they knew there had to be a connection between their remedy and the Browntail Moth rash. What they found confirmed their curiosity. According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the rash is actually furs from the caterpillars getting stuck in your skin barrier, causing physical and chemical irritation, otherwise known as contact dermatitis. Now it all made sense, Boutiette describes.
“When we realized it was actually contact dermatitis, it all made sense. Eczema is just another term for dermatitis, and contact dermatitis is a sub type of dermatitis. This whole time we’ve been helping people with contact dermatitis caused by many things; everything from skin-irritating makeup, excessive hand washing… now from Browntail moth rash. It all made sense.”
Last year, local pharmacies couldn’t keep the shelves stocked with solutions. Nathan’s Pharmacy, a Wellness Pharmacy and Apothecary out of Boothbay Harbor explains, “All of the skincare products we had to help were sold out, and even the suppliers of ingredients for homemade remedies were backed up.” This year, Marin is prepared.
“We over-invested in inventory because we know the problem’s only getting worse. We want to be able to help people in the summer with Browntail moth rashes and sunburns, as well as in the fall and winter come dry skin season” – says Breeding.
For Marin, bringing relief to people of Maine and New England has come full circle.
“It’s so cool that we’re able to take this protein, a natural, upcycled byproduct of our iconic lobster fishery, and use it to help everyday people in Maine, New England and beyond” – says Boutiette.
You can find Marin products online at www.MarinSkincare.com, on Instagram at @marinskincareus, and at select local retailers ahead of the Browntail moth caterpillar surge!