Maria from WIMJ
3 years ago

Nope, benzene in skincare is not OK

Chiming in on the recent "carcinogen found in sunscreens" scandal.

If you were hiding from beauty news over the last couple of weeks, here is what happened: An independent lab tested a bunch of skincare products in the US, and found that some of them contained relatively high level of benzene. Most, but not all, of the products tested were sunscreens, and benzene was detected mostly in sunscreen sprays, but also in after sun lotions. Benzene is a contaminant; it means that manufacturers do not add it to products on purpose, it has no function in skincare and it can appear in a product as a result of impurity of another ingredient. The lab confirmed that sunscreen filters themselves are not the source of the detected benzene. There is no issue with sunscreen safety as such. Please go on using your products unless they are on the list ( Skin cancer is a real danger, and not using a sunscreen increases the risk of developing one.

Out take on the situation: It is extremely sad and disappointing that trusted brands made a mistake in their quality control that resulted in exposing consumers to a substance that is regulated out of most drugs and cosmetics for health safety reasons. It does not mean though that the health of consumers who used the contaminated sunscreens is actually in danger. It is practically impossible that the exposure to benzene via the contaminated products impacted anyone's real chance of getting cancer - simply because there was not enough benzene for it.

However, it does not mean that it's ok for manufacturers to allow the presence of benzene in their products (at the detected concentrations). The whole point of exposure limits set by regulators is that if manufacturers follow the guidelines, it is impossible for a product to harm the consumer's health. Even if a manufacturing mistake like this benzene issue happens, consumers are still safe. The mistake needs to be addressed and corrected though.

This whole scandal is a sign that the consumer safety protection system in the US is working as intended. The regulator set a rule, some manufacturers violated it because of an error in their processes, and now they will most likely face a very hefty class action lawsuit. Their brands reputation will suffer, and it will cost them a lot of money too. It is a huge incentive to not let a mistake like this happen again.

You might be wondering why an independent lab decided to test these particular products all of a sudden. We do not know for sure, but most likely the testing was sponsored by a law firm with an intention to file a class action law suit on the back of the findings. It might have even got a hint on a potential benzene issue from some source. This would explain why they have targeted these particular products. (Plus the fact that sunscreens are regulated as drugs in the US, and one can expect higher $$ compensations from an issue with them compared to cosmetics). This law firm would make a lot of money from the case. Keep this in mind when reading quotes from the original report - it is written with a purpose of being a convincing piece of evidence to justify the highest possible payout to the plantiff. Most of this money goes to the lawyers, not consumers.

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