Johnson & Johnson Recalls Several Sunscreen Products Due To Benzene? How You Can Be Proactive and Protect Yourself




By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder 


Pharmaceutical and packaged goods giant Johnson & Johnson recently recalled five of their aerosol spray sunscreen products:

  • Neutrogena Beach Defense
  • Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport
  • Neutrogena Invisible Daily
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer
  • Aveeno Protect + Refresh.

Apparently, they found low levels of benzene in these products. According to CNN Business, the levels found "would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences," and they are taking this action “out of an abundance of caution.” They are also investigating how benzene got into these products. 

This is a wise decision on Johnson & Johnson’s behalf. For one, I appreciate being more safe than sorry. I want to know that products I buy and place on my skin (the body’s largest organ) are safe and healthy (especially when something such as sunscreen is intended to protect me). 

Secondly, it is probably in the best interest of Johnson & Johnson to be very cautious after the talcum powder lawsuit.

What exactly is benzene?

Essentially, it is a carcinogen (something that is believed to cause cancer, in this case particularly blood cancers such as leukemia).

“Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities,” according to the American Cancer Society.

Benzene is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the United States. It is used mainly as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. In the past it was also commonly used as an industrial solvent (a substance that can dissolve or extract other substances) and as a gasoline additive, but these uses have been greatly reduced in recent decades.

In addition to this, benzene is a natural part of petroleum and gasoline (so benzene is found in motor vehicle exhaust). Benzene is even found in cigarette smoke. The American Cancer Society states that cigarette smoke is responsible for about half of the exposure to benzene in the United States! Yet another reason to quit smoking now if you are a smoker.

The truth is that it’s probably not possible to entirely avoid exposure to benzene.

Some of the highest exposures to benzene mainly used to occur in certain work environments. For example, those who worked at gas-related industries, oil refineries and chemical plants. Fortunately, more state and federal regulations have come into play in order to help protect workers.

Benzene is present in our air, but the levels are usually very low. You are even exposed when you burn a candle. Liquid benzene evaporates very quickly, but it can be absorbed through the skin (which explains why Johnson & Johnson issued this recall). 

Johnson & Johnson is not the first to recall sunscreens due to benzene contamination.

Just this past May, Valisure detected benzene contamination in 78 sunscreen and after-sun care products.

Valisure is asking for a recall of the contaminated batches and requesting FDA better define limits for benzene contamination in drug and cosmetic products,” according to the report from May by Valisure. 

Do not be afraid to use sunscreen.

It can definitely be more damaging to avoid using sunscreen due to fear of potential exposure to benzene. I understand that potentially being exposed to benzene is scary, but we really have to protect our skin when spending time in the sun (especially during these hot summer months).

The good news is that there are many mineral-based (instead of chemical-based) sunscreens you can buy that will likely decrease your chances of exposure. You may find this article and list helpful. Also be sure to wear protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats while spending time in the sun.

Finally, I think it is important to always keep in mind that we are all exposed to carcinogens to some degree. Unfortunately, this is just a part of currently living on this planet. This is why lifestyle is so important, and you can be proactive about minimizing the potential damage of exposure to carcinogens by eating healthily, exercising, avoiding smoking at all costs and drinking alcohol in moderation if at all. 

You can also avoid these toxic chemicals in your home.


Enjoy your healthy life!


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.                                       


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here. 


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