Last weekend, I happened to come across an article that briefly stated the dangers of Benzene, a substance which has been found in popular dry shampoos. Admittedly, I am quite naive about what is in all my beauty products but this finding left me frustrated as to why am I just hearing about this now?! In fact, just last fall, Unilever voluntarily pulled 19 dry shampoos from their lineup including Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI, Bedhead and TRESemmé, after finding these products contained high levels of Benzene. My anger forged a path ahead of research that I am eager to share with you now.
SO, WHAT IS BENZENE?
Benzene is an organic chemical that is found naturally in crude oil and other fossil fuels. In industry, it is used as a solvent and gasoline additive. It is also part of the process when it comes to the manufacturing of plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers, dyes, lubricants, rubbers, and even some cleaning products.
As for dry shampoos, Benzene is not an ingredient. It is actually an impurity in the petroleum that is found in aerosol cans. Because most dry shampoos are sold as aerosol, benzene can be found where the propellant is not properly purified. This purification process is currently not highly regulated which leads us to the danger of exposure.
“Aerosol sprays appear to be one of the highest-risk categories for benzene contamination in consumer products,” said David Light, the chief executive of Valisure, a New Haven, Conn., analytical laboratory. “We don’t want to scare people into never using an aerosol can ever again, but it is a real risk.” David is who gave warning back in May 2021 of benzene contamination in sunscreen products and deodorant sold in aerosol.
WHY IS BENZENE CONSIDERED DANGEROUS?
The main concern is how it is linked to cancer. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has classified Benzene as a class A1, its worst rating, confirmed as highly carcinogenic to humans. Exposure leads to certain cancers, leukemia, multiple myeloma and Non-Hodgins Lymphoma. The truth is that Benzene is genotoxic and alters your DNA in a variety of ways. According to the CDC, it can cause the bone marrow to produce less red blood cells and lead to severe anemia. This damaging affect to the immune system by changing the blood levels of antibodies leads to the loss of white blood cells.
Before you panic, the CDC does state that, "the likelihood of your dry shampoo causing cancer and other health issues are all dependent on the amount used, the length of exposure, preexisting medical conditions, and other factors." It is not recommended to run to your doctor to screen for cancers but instead be aware and make the necessary changes.
Currently, the CDC lists dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and tremors are signs of high benzene exposure. If you are an avid dry shampoo user and really concerned, I would encourage you to consult with your doctor if you're experiencing any side effects.
WHAT TO DO NOW?
The dry shampoo recall has removed concerning products off store shelves but it is important to access what dry shampoo you have stored at home right now.
Valisure, tested 148 batches from 34 brands of spray-on dry shampoo and found that 70% contained benzene! Thankfully, Valisure has been proactive in filing petitions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have products that contain Benzene recalled.
Brands found to have elevated Benzene levels included Batiste (which is one I use!), Sun Bum, dp Hue, Sebastian and John Paul Mitchell Systems. The highest benzene levels among the dry shampoos were found in the popular brand, Not Your Mother’s. Procter & Gamble Co.’s tested its entire aerosol portfolio after the revelations from Valisure’s work and immediately recalled their Pantene and Herbal Essences dry shampoos.
Many companies are currently working to convert to safer solutions but the changes could take years. In the meantime, the FDA's regulation is not highly monitored in the cosmetics category which does not bring me much comfort.
WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE THERE?
Benzene is highly absorbed through the skin and inhalation, so powder options are generally a safer option. I have compiled a safe list below but, regrettably, I have not tried most. Tomorrow, I will begin purchasing and reviewing some of the options below, so stay tuned! If you have tried any of these, please comment as I would love to hear your feedback!
Before I sign off, please don't let this stress you. I couldn't sleep wondering if I was the only one not aware of these findings which led me to writing this blog. With awareness comes authority, health and a lifetime of vibrancy ahead for you, this is my wish!
Have a beautiful week and much love,
These brands have done the appropriate testing to prove that they are not only safe from Benzene but other possible toxins such as talc, etc.