On May 25th, 2021, Valisure released a report on BENZENE levels in sunscreens.

Valisure is a third-party pharmaceutical company that tests medications for safety before they get released to the public.

They tested 294 batches of sunscreens from 69 different sunscreen and after-sun care brands. Valisure reported that 27% of the products they tested were contaminated with benzene.

What is Benzene?

Benzene is a carcinogen, meaning that it is known to cause cancer in humans. (Sources: United States (US) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), US Department of Health and Human Services, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

Unsafe exposures to benzene include:

  • Ingestion
  • Inhalation
  • Eye contact
  • Skin contact (which leads to skin absorption)

Benzene is linked to blood cancers like leukemia. It has been known for over 100 years that Benzene is toxic to humans.

Scientists feel that there is no safe level of exposure to benzene.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a concentration of less than 2 parts per million (ppm) for all products.

Valisure’s Test Results

Valisure analyzed 294 unique sunscreen batches from 69 different brands.

They found that 27% of samples had detectable levels of benzene. Some contained up to 3 times the recommended FDA allowance.

Benzene contamination was found in sprays, lotions, and gels. Both chemical and mineral-based formulations of some products were found to have benzene.

Valisure did not test any powder sunscreens.

Fourteen products from four different companies: Sun Bum, Neutrogena, Fruit of the Earth, and CVS

Health contained between 2.8 – 6.3 ppm of benzene. These levels (greater than 2 ppm) exceed the FDA’s safety limits.

Twenty-six products from eight different brands contained levels of benzene between 0.11 – 1.99 ppm. A level less than 2 ppm is consistent with the FDA’s recommendations.

Thirty-eight products from seventeen brands contained less than 0.1 ppm of benzene.

To review the full list of the sunscreens that were found to have detectable levels of benzene, see Tables 2 and 3 in this pdf document (pages 12-15):

No benzene was found in 273 (73%) of the products tested from 66 different brands.

Sunscreens that you’ll likely recognize that did not contain benzene include:

  • ThinkBaby Lotion SPF 50
  • EltaMD UV Pure Lotion SPF 47
  • EltaMD UV Clear Lotion SPF 46
  • La RochePosay Anthelios SPF 60
  • Bare Republic Mineral Spray Vanilla Coconut SPF 50

Tested sunscreens that were found to have zero benzene can be found in this pdf:

What does this mean for me?

Sunscreens helps protect us from skin cancer. However, some sunscreen products contain the carcinogen, benzene.

Valisure’s testing showed that several spray sunscreens have higher levels of benzene than the gels, lotions, and creams. No powder sunscreens were tested.

These results are important because they help each of us be aware of possible exposure to benzene from sunscreen products.

Fortunately, most of the sunscreens tested were found to be safe and completely free of benzene contamination (73%).

The Valisure data has not been confirmed by other independent testing companies. Therefore, their report may be considered preliminary. Their conclusions could change with additional data and FDA verification/guidance. Additional testing and research are needed to clarify these issues.

The FDA’s 2ppm concentration limit only applies in special manufacturing. It does not apply to sunscreen manufacturing.

However, we recommend avoiding the use of sunscreens that contain ANY detectable level of benzene.

We recommend that you switch to a different sunscreen if your sunscreen is found on the lists in tables 2 or 3:


The EltaMD sunscreens sold at Shea Aesthetic Clinic are ALL benzene-free.

The FDA may recall the sunscreens with the highest levels of benzene, but we suggest switching to a different sunscreen now.

IMPORTANTLY, please understand that these findings are NOT a reason to avoid using sunscreen.

It has been completely proven that sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer by blocking ultraviolet radiation.

Sunscreen is an effective way to prevent skin cancer. Additionally, it also to decrease the sun’s affects that cause skin aging and discoloration.


In addition to sunscreen the following can help you avoid sun exposure and skin damage:

  • Seek shade
  • Avoid being out during peak hours of the sun
  • Wear UPF clothing, sun protective sleeves/gloves, broad-brimmed hats, and sunglasses

** Interestingly, in March 2021, Valisure published results showing high concentrations of benzene in hand sanitizer products (see link below).


If you have questions about sunscreen or your skin care regimen, please call or text us. Our skin care specialists are ready to help you today.

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