Benzene Has Been Found in Dozens of Acne Products

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Benzene Has Been Found in Dozens of Acne Products featured image
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Another benzene scare has hit the beauty industry, and this time the culprit is acne products. A chemical used in the manufacturing of many dyes, glues and other industrial products, benzene is a known carcinogen that has been linked to cancer. Unfortunately, over the past several years, we’ve learned that it can also show up in beauty products (sunscreen and dry shampoo) as an impurity in trace amounts. This may not sound so threatening, but when those products are used daily, or consistently, the exposure can add up.

Which Acne Products Contain Benzene?

Valisure, a pharmaceutical quality assurance company, discovered through extensive testing that the affected acne products are those containing benzoyl peroxide, or BPO. Though benzoyl peroxide is available over-the-counter, it’s also a prescription medication for acne treatment, and therefore it’s considered a drug and regulated by the FDA. According to the report from Valisure, “tests show that on-market BPO products can form over 800 times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million (ppm) for benzene.”

Valisure analyzed 175 acne treatment products—a mix of creams, lotions, gels, washes, liquids, and bars—and 99 of them contained benzoyl peroxide. Eighty-three of them were over-the-counter products purchased from major retailers, and 16 were prescription products purchased from licensed wholesalers. The other 76 products tested were those containing other acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid and adapalene. Data showed that the acne products containing salicylic acid or adapalene “do not appear to have this problem.”

What the Testing Shows

Valisure’s report shows that “high levels of benzene were not only detected inside BPO products, but also in the air around incubated BPO products.” This means that “benzene can leak out of some product packages and pose a potential inhalation risk.” In Valisure’s testing, “the incubation of a Proactiv product at the temperature of a hot car resulted in the detection of benzene in a compact car’s volume of air at approximately 1,270 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculated threshold for increased cancer risk by long-term inhalation exposure to benzene.”

“This discovery of benzoyl peroxide’s fundamental instability and formation of benzene is substantially different than Valisure’s previous findings of benzene in sunscreens, hand sanitizers and other consumer products,” said David Light, Valisure’s cofounder and president, in a press release. “The benzene we found in sunscreens and other consumer products were impurities that came from contaminated ingredients. However, the benzene in benzoyl peroxide products is coming from the benzoyl peroxide itself. Sometimes, at hundreds of times the conditional FDA limit.”

Photo by Valisure

The Brands That Are Affected

Valisure names a long list of brands with products containing benzoyl peroxide. These include Proactiv, Clearasil, PanOxyl, Walgreen’s brand, Sandra Lee MD, Target’s Up & Up, Clinique, La Roche-Posay, CeraVe, Differin, Equate, Humane, Vie Naturelle, Neutrogena, Urban Skin Rx, Clean & Clear, and more. As a result, Valisure is requesting further investigation by the FDA. The company wants products containing benzoyl peroxide to be removed from the market.

Click here to read the full petition and report.

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