Benzene is a carcinogen that is banned as an ingredient in products intended for use in the home and is never intentionally put in beauty products, but may appear as a trace contaminant in the production process—and this isn’t the first time it’s happened. This past August, a benzene contamination led to Banana Boat’s recall of three spray-on sunscreens, and in 2021, Johnson and Johnson pulled five aerosol sunscreens from the shelves.
According to a press release from the Food and Drug Administration, an internal investigation has identified the propellant—or the compressed gas that gives aerosol cans the necessary pressure to spray out products—as the source of contamination in the recalled dry shampoos, and Unilever is currently working with its propellant supplier to address the issue.
“The consumer products industry likely has many points of vulnerability to benzene contamination, including aerosol propellants or other petroleum industry-derived inactive ingredients, gelling agents like carbomers, and potentially from unlabeled ingredients that the ingredient ‘fragrance’ comprises,” reads a March 2022 report from Valisure, an agency that performs independent testing for pharmaceutical and consumer health-care products.
Although benzene is a known carcinogen that has been linked to leukemia in high amounts, if you’ve used any of the recalled products, you’ll probably be okay—the amount you may have been exposed to is likely much lower than the levels needed to cause harm. “Unilever U.S. is recalling these products out of an abundance of caution. Unilever has received no reports of adverse events to date relating to this recall,” reads the press release.
“Benzene is an organic chemical compound widely used in industry. It has multiple industrial uses including the production of other chemicals involved in the making of plastics, resins, nylons, detergents, and drugs, among other things. It is also found in a number of foods naturally in trace amounts and is also produced naturally by forest fires, burning a candle, and volcanos,” says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston. “The reality is that modern life has a certain exposure to benzene with a number of factors that are especially germane—Are you a factory worker where it is used in high volume as a solvent? Do you park a car in a garage? Are you a firefighter? All of these are examples where you would have a more significant exposure than what might be potentially possible from a trace contaminant.”
Regardless, it’s good to cut down benzene exposure where you can, which is why recalls like this one are needed. “It’s most easily absorbed by breathing it in, but can also be absorbed by contact on the skin, so having it in [products] is a major issue, and even worse if it is in a spray-on [product] that can be inhaled into your lungs,” says Shirley Chi, MD.
Below are the products that are affected, but know that not every single bottle of these products was found to be contaminated. Check here to see the exact UPCs of the benzene-containing products to see if you purchased one.
- Dove Dry Shampoo Volume and Fullness
- Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh Coconut
- Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh and Floral
- Dove Dry Shampoo Ultra Clean
- Dove Dry Shampoo Invisible
- Dove Dry Shampoo Detox and Purify
- Dove Dry Shampoo Clarifying Charcoal
- Dove Dry Shampoo Go Active
- Nexxus Dry Shampoo Refreshing Mist
- Nexxus Inergy Foam Shampoo
- Suave Dry Shampoo Hair Refresher
- Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo Refresh and Revive
- Tresemmé Dry Shampoo Volumizing
- Tresemmé Dry Shampoo Fresh and Clean
- Tresemmé Pro Pure Dry Shampoo
- Bed Head Oh Bee Hive Dry Shampoo
- Bed Head Oh Bee Hive Volumizing Dry Shampoo
- Bed Head Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo
- Bed Head Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo
“Consumers should stop using the affected aerosol dry shampoo products and visit UnileverRecall.com for instructions on how to receive reimbursement for eligible products,” reads the release. “If consumers have further questions, they may also contact Unilever U.S. by calling (877) 270-7412, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST.”