benzene in sunscreen

June 9, 2021: Last week, virtual pharmacy Valisure released a study revealing that several popular sun-care products contain potentially harmful levels of benzene (a known carcinogen) and called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall the affected batches.

“Benzene is a compound that is a known carcinogen and importantly is not considered a sunscreen ingredient,” dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, tells GRAZIA. “In the recent controversy, it was found to be present in sunscreens, but is likely considered a contaminant from the manufacturing process rather than an ingredient that is intentionally formulated in the sunscreen.”

Valisure, which also has a lab that tests products, explains in its May 24 report that after analyzing 294 batches of sunscreen and after-sun products from 69 brands, benzene was detected in 78 of those batches. For those of us who aren’t math wizards, that means 27 percent of samples contained the carcinogen, and 14 of them contained up to three times more than the FDA’s limit of 2 parts per million (ppm). “Sprays, gels, and lotions with both chemical and mineral-based formulations contained benzene,” the company wrote in its report.

Researchers said they found 27 percent of samples tested contained benzene and some batches had up to three times the conditionally restricted concentration limit of 2 parts per million allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Sprays, gels, and lotions with both chemical and mineral-based formulations contained benzene,” Valisure wrote in their report.

Valisure has petitioned the FDA to recall the affected batches with concentrations of at least 0.1 bpm and re-examine the use of the chemical in cosmetics, where it serves zero beneficial purposes. “[Benzene] should not be used as an ingredient in skincare or personal care, and the FDA classifies it as a Class 1 Solvent which means that it should not be used in the manufacturing of drugs or drug products unless necessary,” Dr. Garshick explains.

All this said, don’t take it as a sign you should skip on your SPF. “At this time, it is best to avoid the specific recalled products listed (examine the full list here) and it is important to remember it does not apply to all sunscreens or even to other products within the same brands found to have benzene detected in some of the products,” explains Dr. Garshick. “Of the products tested, there were many confirmed to have no benzene present, so for now, it is best to stick with those sunscreens until we learn more.”

Ahead, we’ve rounded up five SPF formulas that do not contain benzene, per the company’s findings.

ELTAMD UV DAILY BROAD-SPECTRUM SPF 40, $31 VIA ELTA MD. SHOP NOW
LA ROCHE-POSAY ANTHELIOS MELT-IN MILK BODY & FACE SUNSCREEN LOTION BROAD SPECTRUM SPF 100, $25 VIA LA ROCHE-POSAY. SHOP NOW
COOLA CLASSIC BODY ORGANIC SUNSCREEN LOTION SPF 50 IN GUAVA MANGO, $28 VIA COOLA. SHOP NOW
SUPERGOOP! PLAY BODY MOUSSE SPF 50 WITH BLUE SEA KALE, $34 VIA SEPHORA. SHOP NOW

All products featured on GRAZIA are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, Grazia may earn an affiliate commission.

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