What Is

Mikaela Walsh, 4ocean Research Analyst

Coral reefs are essential marine ecosystems, inhabiting only 1% of the ocean floor, yet housing 25% of the ocean's living organisms.

Abundant food sources and protective structures make coral reefs a popular home for many organisms. Coral reefs have a vast biodiversity of local marine life. They are magnificent creatures that are essential for a clean, healthy ocean. Coral are colonies of marine invertebrates that are closely related to jellyfish. Each individual coral organism is known as a polyp. Coral secretes calcium carbonate. During coral bleaching, the coral loses its color, and that white, skeleton-like structure becomes visible.

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Coral is an essential animal for many reasons, one of the most prominent being its ability to perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a natural reaction that only a few organisms can undergo. Coral is unique due to zooxanthellae algae cells that harbor inside the coral organisms. When sunlight is present, the zooxanthellae can transform carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. These cells have a mutualistic relationship with coral, which benefits each other. This algae provides the coral with nutrients and sugar from the photosynthetic behavior, while the coral provides the zooxanthellae algae cells with protection and a home. Scientists estimate that the ocean provides at least 50% of the oxygen in the world from phytoplankton and algae in the oceans. As organisms breathe in oxygen, humans included, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Photosynthesis is a cycle that balances the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air and plays an essential role in all life forms. When an environmental effect kills the photosynthetic organisms in the ocean, this creates dead zones where there is no oxygen in certain areas, leading organisms to die from lack of oxygen. A limited number of organisms do this, which is why protecting these organisms is vital for survival.

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Coral reefs are under a great deal of stress in the aquatic environment. Bleaching is a defense mechanism that the coral undergoes when stressed, which is when the white calcium carbonate skeleton is revealed. The coral must expel the photosynthetic algae cells harbored inside the organism. When this happens, the coral does not die rather put under tremendous stress, similar to when organisms get sick and are weak. This phenomenon occurs due to different threats these mighty organisms must overcome. Causes of coral reef bleaching are either natural or caused by humans. One of the more prominent causes of coral reef bleaching events is rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. Natural bleaching events include predators, storms, and diseases. Human activities have created a number of threats to the environment. These include pollution, chemicals, plastic waste, sedimentation, and unsustainable fishing practices. Chemical pollution has harmful effects on local coral reefs and the other organisms that inhabit these reefs. Tourism is directly related to toxic sunscreen use. In Hawaii, scientists took water samples of the beaches with a large tourism presence. The results concluded that these coastal waters had a higher concentration of harmful chemicals found in sunscreens, which can significantly harm the local coral and organisms. Coral is a very vulnerable organism that significantly benefits the aquatic environment.

Check if the active and inactive sunscreen ingredients you use are causing harm to the coral reefs and marine organisms! Hazardous chemicals commonly found in sunscreens to avoid:

  • Benzophenones
  • Camphor derivatives
  • Cinnamates
  • Clear or nano zinc
  • Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclomethicone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Octinoxate lactyl methoxycinnamate
  • Parabens
  • Plastic microbeads
  • Butyloctyl salicylate
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Scientists who specialize in the health of reefs and fish noticed a massive shift in declining coral reefs around the 1980s when toxic sunscreen products became widely used around the world. Even a minuscule amount of sunscreen in the waters has been shown to cause harm to these organisms. Scientists have found that these chemicals, in a concentration of as little as 62 parts per trillion, prevent the coral from replicating and significantly affect the aquatic environment. The number is analogous to one drop of sunscreen in six Olympic-sized swimming pools. This toxic sunscreen not only wreaks havc on coral reefs but also has demonstrated irreversible harm to fish health. This toxic sunscreen is entirely avoidable and does not need to continue to enter our waterways.


4ocean x Stream2Sea
Reef-Safe Sunscreen Balm

Shop now + Clean the Ocean

Sunscreens either have a mineral base or a chemical base. Chemical-based sunscreen is formulated to have the skin absorb the chemicals into the skin. Furthermore, the chemicals are able to change the radiation energy into heat energy. The chemicals wash off the body when entering into bodies of water, allowing the transfer of the chemicals into the water. It was found that chemical-based sunscreens can be detected in urine only 30 minutes after being applied to the body. These chemicals will pass through the septic system through urine. The septic system does not have a way to filter these chemicals out, which causes them to enter directly into the waterways and ocean. Mineral-based sunscreen is when natural minerals coat the top layer of skin to reflect the sun's radiation away from the body. Mineral-based sunscreen has benefits for the skin, not only for reflecting the harmful radiation from the sun, but it also does not have chemicals leaching into the body.

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The founder of Stream2Sea, Autumn Blum, has made it her mission to create skincare products that are safe for the environment and raise awareness about the harmful effects of chemical-based products. 4ocean and Stream2Sea teamed up to make a reef-safe sunscreen for all to enjoy. This product has been scientifically tested to ensure no harm to humans or our aquatic environment. This sunscreen uses EcoSafe Zinc, and it is 100% mineral-based. And on top of all that, it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Scientists have estimated that up to 28 million pounds of sunscreen enters the ocean annually, ultimately leading to coral reefs and marine life. Despite bans on certain chemicals in sunscreen, the issue doesn’t stop there. There are still more chemicals in these sunscreens that harm our ecosystem. Sunscreen and beauty cosmetics are widely unregulated throughout the globe, and you need to ensure the products you use are safe and effective. The skin is the most absorbent organ in the human body; what we put on our bodies goes into our bodies. Many chemicals have been linked with hazardous health effects on humans. All streams and lakes ultimately lead to the ocean. Help protect the seas from chemicals that can have devastating effects on organisms. This product will protect our skin and allow for the healthy maintenance of coral reefs.

No Coral. No Oxygen. 


4ocean x Stream2Sea
Reef-Safe Sunscreen Balm

Shop now + Clean the Ocean
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