Is Spray the Best Way? Sunscreen Secrets

You wear sunscreen to be safe from the damaging effects of the sun, right? But what if your sunscreen isn’t safe and can actually cause serious health issues such as cancer? 

Just last week, Johnson & Johnson announced their voluntary recall of several types of aerosol spray sunscreens due to these products being contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen. These sunscreens included their popular brands Neutrogena and Aveeno.

While the products were said to contain very low-level traces of benzene, the fact that they had it all can certainly be unsettling, especially when it comes on the heels of a bombshell report released by Valisure. This lab tests consumer products for safety. Valisure found the carcinogen in more than 70 different sunscreen and after-sun care products, including Neutrogena, Sun Bum and CVS Health, of which had the majority of spray sunscreens had the highest levels of benzene. 

The five Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreen product lines recalled by Johnson & Johnson include:

  • Neutrogena Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreen
  • Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen

If you have aerosol sunscreen products, we recommend checking Johnson & Johnson’s press release or the Neutrogena and Aveeno websites.

Johnson & Johnson said that they are still researching how the cancer-causing agent got into the sunscreen.

What Should You Know About Benzene? 

Benzene is an organic compound (it occurs in nature) and is a carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, benzene causes cells in your body to malfunction, including your bone marrow cells, from producing enough red blood cells, contributing to the development of anemia. 

Benzene can also cause damage to your immune system by impacting the levels of antibodies in your blood and lowering your white blood cell counts. 

The CDC also reports that continued exposure to benzene can increase the risk of developing leukemia and other blood cell disorders. 

Benzene is common in many detergents, dyes, drugs and skin care products and is allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in trace amounts. However, despite the limits set forth by the FDA, there are occasions that products exceed that limit.  

Johnson & Johnson stated after the recall that it is very unlikely that the low levels of benzene detected by the test would be an issue or cause adverse health problems in a recent statement.

That being said, we urge you to get rid of any sunscreen listed in the Valisure report. You can request a refund at 1-800-458-1673 or ask questions of the company using this hotline. Additionally, if you have any health issues that you suspect are tied to using one of these sunscreens products, contact your doctor for a checkup.

Don’t Stop Wearing Sunscreen

While benzene is a concern, Johnson & Johnson didn’t add it to its products. Some researchers believe that the trace benzene was a bi-product of the manufacturing process as many chemicals (especially those found in aerosol sunscreens) need benzene to process. Theorists surmise that perhaps the compounds were not purified thoroughly after processing. 

Another theory is that the propellant chemicals used to make the sunscreen an aerosol could be the culprit and caused benzene to develop as a chemical reaction to the bottle itself. 

Whatever the cause, we suggest skipping spray-on sunscreens but not skipping sunscreen altogether. 

Why? Because the sun’s rays are still damaging! Instead of reaching for a spray or taking your chances going au naturelle, we suggest that you opt for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. 

Mineral-Based Sunscreens 

Mineral sunscreen is a sunscreen that uses minerals as its active ingredients to protect you from the sun’s damaging rays. The best—and most common—minerals used in these products are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These products can be created synthetically but do occur naturally. 

The minerals used in mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and physically block the sun’s rays from damaging your skin and underlying tissues by reflecting the rays away from your body.

Are you interested in learning more about mineral-based sunscreens? 

Dr. Jack Peterson offers patients safe, mineral-based sunscreens from Colorescience. These can protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun, which can lead to the development of skin cancer and improve your skin by reducing hyperpigmentation and reducing the signs of aging. 

Do you see the signs of sun damage such as sunspots, fine lines, wrinkles and areas of hyperpigmentation? Ask us about our skin rejuvenating services, including laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels