A Carcinogen Was Found in Popular Acne Products

Cropped shot of woman trying to applying acne cream on her skin for solving acne problem.
Photo: Boy_Anupong/Getty Images

Benzene, a chemical determined by the Department of Health and Human Services with long-term exposure to be cancer-causing, has been found in multiple popular acne products, according to the independent-testing facility Valisure. On Wednesday, the company released a petition to the Food and Drug Administration sharing that it found “high levels of benzene” in acne products containing benzoyl peroxide. The brands included Proactiv, Clearasil, PanOxyl, and products from Clinique, Walgreens, and Walmart.

The report says that the specified problem “does not appear to be a contamination issue from a specific ingredient.” Instead, the problem is “the inherent instability of the benzoyl peroxide molecule that breaks down and forms benzene.”

This isn’t the first time Valisure has found high levels of benzene in cosmetic products. It recently shared that the carcinogenic was found in certain chemical sunscreens and dry shampoos. However, the main difference is that those found in the acne products are coming from the benzoyl peroxide itself, not from contaminated ingredients like the prior findings.

Currently, the testing facility’s recommendations to the FDA are to recall the products and notice that the high levels of the alleged carcinogenic were more likely to occur when products were exposed to high heat. During testing, it also stated that high levels were found in the air around incubated products, meaning that the benzene could potentially leak out of the packages and pose an inhalation risk.

In a response statement, Clearasil’s parent company said that it’s “confident that all Clearasil products, when used and stored as directed on their labels, are safe,” and Estée Lauder said Clinique uses benzoyl peroxide in one product, which “is safe for use as intended.”

So what should you do? Cut contributing beauty editor Jennifer G. Sullivan suggested when discussing benzene and dry shampoo, start with a personalized risk assessment and wait for more information from the FDA.

A Carcinogen Was Found in Popular Acne Products