Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in Popular Acne Products, Lab Warns

Several well-known acne treatment products from major brands like Clinique, Clearasil, and Up & Up have been found to contain high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, according to independent laboratory Valisure. The Connecticut-based lab has filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to recall the affected products and launch an investigation.

Valisure’s findings revealed that benzene could form at “unacceptably high levels” in both prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide. Among the products identified were Clinique’s acne treatment from Estee Lauder, Target’s Up & Up acne cream, Reckitt Benckiser’s Clearasil, Proactiv, PanOxyl, Walgreens’ acne soap bar, and Walmart’s Equate Beauty acne cream.

The news sent Estee Lauder shares tumbling by 2%. Reckitt responded to the findings, stating that they “reflect unrealistic scenarios rather than real-world conditions” and assured consumers that all Clearasil products were safe when used as directed. Estee Lauder also defended its Clinique product, claiming it was safe for its intended use.

This is not the first time benzene has been detected in consumer products. The carcinogen has previously been found in sunscreens, hand sanitizers, and dry shampoos, leading to recalls from companies such as Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. However, Valisure noted that the detection of benzene in acne treatment products was “substantially different” from the other cases.

“The benzene we found in sunscreens and other consumer products were impurities that came from contaminated ingredients; however, the benzene in benzoyl peroxide products is coming from the benzoyl peroxide itself,” explained David Light, Co-Founder and President of Valisure.

Valisure’s tests indicated that some products could form more than 800 times the conditionally restricted FDA concentration limit for benzene. The lab has called on the FDA to recall the affected products, investigate the issue, and revise industry guidance to address the potential health risks associated with benzene formation in acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide.

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