• Michael Yi

Benzene and Sunscreen


On July 14, 2021, Johnson & Johnson recalled several Neutrogena sunscreen products, specifically their aerosol sprays, due to traces of a carcinogen named benzene. The products that were recalled are the NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen, NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen, NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen, and NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen.


Sunscreen is an important product of everyone’s daily lives, considering that it plays a crucial role in preventing sun damage and/or skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun is reflected or absorbed by the sunscreen, ultimately protecting an individual’s skin. Considering that Neutrogena is one of the most widespread sunscreen brands, the sudden discovery of benzene is shocking.


The term carcinogen refers to a substance that can cause cancer and functions by damaging DNA or the cellular metabolism within cells, interfering with cellular processes. There are three types of carcinogens, which are chemical, physical, and oncogenic; commonly known carcinogens are asbestos, nickel, cadmium, radon, and benzene.


Benzene is a chemical compound that is very flammable, has a sweet odor, and is colorless or slightly yellow at room temperature; it is used to create plastics, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Benzene prevents the proper functioning of cells. For instance, poisoning could prevent bone marrow from producing red blood cells, changing levels of antibodies, reduce the number of white blood cells, and even cause leukemia. There is currently no antidote; an individual who has been exposed to benzene poisoning should seek medical treatment immediately.


So far, there have been no reported cancer cases or deaths that have been caused by the recalled products. The benzene was initially detected by independent pharmaceutical testing company Valisure. The testing showed that daily exposure to benzene through these sunscreen products is unlikely to cause harm considering that the benzene levels in these aerosol products are minuscule. However, for the sake of caution, these products are being recalled and are not going to be sold in stores. Johnson & Johnson’s recall has been nothing short of an efficient one. These products are no longer sold in major retail stores such as Target and Walmart, and the recalled products have even been pulled off Amazon.


Ultimately, anyone that has been using any recalled products should not have to worry about symptoms of benzene poisoning. Anyone who has recently purchased a recalled product is allowed to apply for a refund on Neutrogena’s website. Neutrogena’s lotions, sticks, and face mist sunscreens are not impacted by this recall.


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