Is there Benzene in my sunscreen? Neutrogena and Aveeno Recalls

Is there Benzene in my sunscreen? Neutrogena and Aveeno Recalls

4 minute read

As of July 14th, 2021, Johnson & Johnson recalled Neutrogena and Aveeno sprays from U.S. stores after detecting benzene in these samples. The company didn't say whether the recall will also impact other countries.

But what led to this recall in the first place?

In May 2021, a lab known as Valisure released a report stating their results from a study assessing the levels of benzene in sunscreen and after-sun products. Of the >200 sunscreens batches tested, they discovered benzene in 78 of those batches, with nearly 30% reporting levels of benzene that were significantly above the FDA-recommended levels of safety.

As 200+ sunscreen and after-care products did not have benzene, we can confirm that this is an issue in the manufacturing process and not an issue of whether sunscreen itself is safe. See the table at the end for sunscreens highlighted in the Valisure study.

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What is Benzene? 

Benzene is a level one carcinogen that has been studied over many years. It is a known source of cancer, such as leukemia, and is consistently used in a number of products in the US, including rubber, gasoline, and cigarettes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) oversees the recommendations regarding workplace safety and guidelines. The standard is that workers use protective equipment when exposed to benzene at concentrations of 0.1 ppm or higher.

As a reference point, cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the exposure in the United States, and for someone who smokes a pack/ week or more, it equates to ~3 mg/week

In Valisure's study, it found multiple sunscreen products (see table at the end) with benzene levels that significantly surpass the 2 ppm conditional FDA restriction. 

Why Was Benzene in Sunscreen At All? 

Valisure Detects Benzene in Sunscreen - Valisure

Benzene is used in various products, but in sunscreen, it is used primarily to help in spray products - specifically, aerosols. However, there were several lotions that also did have benzene at detectable levels. If benzene is essential for a significant therapeutic advance, then it can be used in concentrations up to 2 parts / million. For example, for a limited period of time in COVID, trace amounts of benzene were found in hand sanitizer when there was a limited supply. In that case, the FDA temporarily removed the ban on benzene in these products at specific levels to help ensure adequate and supply and safety.

Sunscreen can and must be made without benzene. This is unacceptable. 

Is Benzene the Same Thing as Oxybenzone?

No benzene is not the same thing as oxybenzone. In fact, Oxybenzone is a completely separate, incredibly common active ingredient found in chemical sunscreens, which are different, from zinc or titanium-based mineral sunscreens. Oxybenzone is currently under evaluation by the FDA for its safety.

Is The Daily by Modern Ritual a Benzene Free Sunscreen?

The Daily by Modern Ritual is benzene-free, 100% safe and an all-in-one face lotion, moisturizer with sunscreen free from Benzene. The Daily is also free from oxybenzone, avobenzene and all other forms of chemical sunscreen, which the FDA no longer classifies as generally recognized as safe. In order to be qualified as a 'benzene free sunscreen', Get Mr. sent its samples to a third-party lab as soon as the Valisure study was released, and provided samples for its lab to test. All samples showed no remnants or Benzene contaminants. 

Why Did Valisure Look for Benzene? 

Valisure is an online pharmacy testing lab, that conducts independent testing of products. It is not clear why they investigated the levels of Benzene in some sunscreens. Valisure is offering free testing of any sunscreen product that is sent towards them, and we are encouraging all brands to participate. The table below from Valisure showcases in the far right column the level of benzene detected in these products that were above acceptable levels. 

Valisure Sunscreens

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