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Staying Sunscreen Safe: The Sunscreen Debacle (Benzene)

June 11, 2021

With the summer months upon us, it is critical now more than ever to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. SPF should be a part of your daily routine – all year round – to prevent skin cancer and premature aging. It is essential to ensure that the sunscreen protection you are using is safe not only in function, but in application. This is especially important this summer surrounding the news that Benzene, an organic compound known to be a carcinogen, has been detected in over 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products. 


At the end of May, Valisure, a pharmacy group that conducts routine audits on consumer goods, released data that concluded 78 of 294 tested batches of sunscreen and after-sun care products had detectable amounts of Benzene in their formulas. Research shows that repeated exposure to amounts of Benzene at concentrations of less than 1one part per million (ppm) have been associated with the development of cancers affecting the blood, specifically leukemia. Valisure’s report found that 40 batches of sunscreen contained .11-6.26 ppm of benzene. Absorption of Benzene through the skin and blood is especially concerning because if contaminated sunscreen is properly applied: full application all over the body and reapplication every two hours,  – there is an even greater risk for increased exposure to this harmful carcinogen. Take a look at Valisures published list of contaminated sunscreens to cross-reference your products with the recalled ones.


It is important to note that the presence of Benzene in these sunscreens is due to contamination. Benzene is not an ingredient that is supposed to be in sunscreen. Its presence is due to issues in the American consumer product supply chain. There are plenty of other sunscreen products that were tested by Valisure in this study that do not contain Benzene. The findings of this report aren’ not to discourage people from using SPF, but it should inform people of the products that may have been contaminated and are not to be used. Sun protection products that are free from this harmful chemical are more than safe, and should be applied regularly to prevent skin damage and sunburns. The large amount of sunscreen products that are presumably safe and free of Benzene should be used in conjunction with other sun protection measures like wearing hats, sunglasses, covering up when outdoors, and avoiding direct sunlight between 10:00AM and 2:00PM. 


At SkinDC we recommend mineral/physical sun protection over chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays whereas mineral sunscreens reflect the harmful UV rays. Mineral/physical sunscreens are preferred as they work immediately after application, don’t contain harmful ingredients, are safe for the environment, and tend to be less harsh on the skin. Check out SkinDC’s online skin care store to purchase the dermatologist’s approved picks for sun protection, free from Benzene.