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Benzene found in acne care products

Following the Valisure report that found the chemical benzene in acne products containing benzoyl peroxide South West Dermatology are providing information to our past, present and future patients of topical Benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide is a common acne-fighting ingredient available by prescription and over the counter, which has the potential to break down into benzene. In March 2024, a petition was filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This petition expresses concerns that benzene, a cancer-causing substance, may be found in acne products containing benzoyl peroxide when these products are exposed to higher temperatures.

No petition has currently been raised in the UK or EU as of March 2024, but this position may change.

Most consumers do not store personal care products in the conditions in which Valisure tested the products. More information is needed to know if/how benzoyl peroxide may degrade into benzene at room temperature. Benzoyl peroxide has been a key acne-fighting ingredient used for many years. While there are no direct alternatives to benzoyl peroxide, your dermatologist can help you find other options if you are uncomfortable using benzoyl peroxide in your acne regimen as we learn more.

Other over the counter or prescription only treatment options include topical adapalene, salicylic acid, or azelaic acid.

Benzene found in Acne care products

Frequently asked questions

What is benzene — and what makes it a human carcinogen?

Benzene is a colourless, highly flammable chemical that is used widely to make products, including drugs, detergents, dyes, plastics and lubricants. It is also found naturally in car fuel and cigarette smoke. Benzene can cause cells not to work correctly, and the seriousness depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and pre-existing medical condition of the exposed person.

Benzoyl peroxide is a common active ingredient in acne-fighting personal care products and some prescription items. Benzene is not intended to be included in these products. In some personal care products contaminated with benzene, benzene is introduced during manufacturing. In the case of products with benzoyl peroxide as an active ingredient, the benzoyl peroxide can break down, which introduces benzene into the product.

What products were found to contain benzene?

Valisure’s research was performed on dozens of over-the counter benzoyl peroxide products. However, little information is provided about which products had benzene detected at baseline (and how much).

How can patients continue treating their acne while avoiding this contaminant?

There are many ingredients that help fight and prevent acne. If your current treatment plan includes benzoyl peroxide and you would like to avoid this ingredient, consult your Dermatologist or GP for alternate options.

How should I care for my skin if I have acne?

We recommend the following to care for your skin during acne treatment:

  • Keep your skin clean. Gently wash your face up to twice daily and after sweating. Choose a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser. Apply it with your fingertips, as scrubbing with washcloths, sponges, and other tools can irritate your skin.
  • Choose the right skin care. Use gentle skin care products and ones that say “alcohol-free” on the label. Avoid products that can irritate your skin, including astringents, toners, and exfoliants. These products can dry your skin and make acne appear worse.
  • Shampoo regularly. The oil from your hair can cause acne on your forehead. If you have oily hair, shampoo more often than you do now and keep your hair away from your face.
  • Keep your hands off. Touching your face throughout the day can cause acne to flare. While it can be tempting to pick, pop, or squeeze your acne, doing so will make the acne take longer to clear and increase your risk for scarring and dark spots called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • Stay out of the sun and tanning beds. Along with increasing your risk for skin cancer, tanning damages your skin and can worsen acne. Some acne medications can also make your skin very sensitive to damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds.
  • Protect your skin by avoiding tanning — indoors and out — and by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing when outdoors. Look for a sunscreen that says “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores.” For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (or UPF) number on the label.

What else should I consider?

If you are concerned about ingredients in your acne skin care and medications, talk to a registered Consultant Dermatologist to develop an acne treatment plan that works for you.

Call Sarah on 01392 350059 if you have any concerns or would like to see Consultant Dermatologist Dr. Anthony Downs or Dr. Chris Bower to discuss further.

Dr Tony Downs is a member of the British Association of Dermatologists, European Academy of Dermatology (EADV) and the American Academy of Dermatology and a consultant Dermatologist on the UK specialist register.

Dr Chris Bower is a member of the British Association of Dermatologists, the European Academy of Dermatology (EADV) and a consultant Dermatologist on the UK specialist register