A Derm on the Dry Shampoo Recall and the Carcinogen Benzene

The recent dry-shampoo recall sent a lot of us spinning—especially those of us who use it regularly and count on it to extend the life of our hair between washes. We won’t say that it’s not a cause for concern, but there are some facts you should know that will (hopefully) quiet some fears you may have about using dry shampoo in the future. 

Here are the facts: Valisure, which is an independent testing laboratory, reported that high levels of benzene (a known carcinogen) were detected in several dry shampoo products. In fact, according to the report, 11 samples showed over 10 times the FDA concentration limit of 2 parts per million. In response, Unilever, the company behind beauty brands like Dove, Suave, Bed Head, and Tresemmé issued a voluntary recall of select products.

“Benzene is a carcinogen, but it’s more likely to cause cancer with higher doses,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology, Geeta Yadav, MD. “Most of the population is exposed to benzene through gasoline fumes (like filling up your car with gasoline). Though Unilever didn’t specify the amount of benzene found in their products, they did state that ‘daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the risk levels detected in testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.’ The best analogy here is that smoking one cigarette once in your life is not the same risk as smoking every day for 50 years—dose and exposure do matter when discussing the risk of harmful health outcomes.” 

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