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Ask Dr Macrene: Are Sunscreens Toxic?

Posted by Macrene Alexiades MD PhD on
Ask Dr Macrene: Are Sunscreens Toxic?

    Recently, an independent consumer product testing company called Valisure® has reported the presence of benzene, exceeding the maximal allowable concentration, in 21 different sunscreen products on the market (Source: Valisure). Among the 294 sunscreen batches from 69 different companies analyzed, 27% tested positive for benzene, some up to 3 times the limit. The maximal concentration is 2 parts per million (ppm) and at least one sample tested as high as 6.26 ppm; however, this does not take into consideration the amount of sunscreen used, which may likely correlate with thousands of times exposure above the daily limit.

      Benzene is classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO), based on sufficient evidence that it causes acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The toxin has been linked to acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CML), multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Source: Cancer.org). 

      The source of the benzene contamination is still not clear. Benzene is used as a solvent in manufacturing of topical products, in the synthesis of plastic containers, and in the manufacture of sunscreen ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone; however, the discovery of benzene in sunscreens lacking such ingredients suggests that contamination may either due to manufacturing practices or possibly componentry.

      Post-market analysis of all skincare products should be mandated. Here at MACRENE actives, we strive to conduct HPLC analysis on our products to identify all ingredients post-manufacture. This is an additional layer of quality control that we would like to see broadly enforced to ensure clean manufacturing practices (see how Dr. Macrene defines Clean Beauty).

 

Sunscreens reported by  Valisure® that tested positive for benzene contamination 

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