Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found in Acne Treatments from Clearasil, Clinique, Target

The carcinogen benzene has been found in high levels in popular acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide, according to researchers

<p>Clearasil</p> Clearasil acne products.


Clearasil acne products.

A recent report has found high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene in acne treatments that contain the popular ingredient benzoyl peroxide.

The report, published in Reuters, shared the results of an independent test conducted by the laboratory Valisure, which has since filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to recall these products. The carcinogen was found in products from well-known brands like Clearasil, Clinique, and Up & Up, Target’s beauty line.

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Benzoyl peroxide is effective in treating acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic, because it "works by decreasing inflammation and killing or preventing the growth of bacteria on your skin."

However, according to Vailsure, it can also create the carcinogen benzene under certain conditions.

"Valisure’s tests on dozens of prescription and over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide products suggest that currently formulated BPO medications are fundamentally unstable and can generate unacceptably high levels of benzene when handled or stored at higher temperatures that the products may be exposed to during handling by consumers," the laboratory reported.

<p>Thomas Iannaccone/WWD/Penske Media via Getty</p> Clinique counter.

Thomas Iannaccone/WWD/Penske Media via Getty

Clinique counter.

"Benzene can be produced in the product itself and potentially escape into the surrounding air."

Vailsure also reported finding benzene in Proactiv, PanOxyl, Walgreens' acne soap bar and Walmart's Equate Beauty acne cream.

According to the CDC, “The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen (can cause cancer). Both the International Agency for Cancer Research and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to benzene may be harmful to the reproductive organs.”

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While benzene has been found in other products before, Vailsure said "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, sometimes at hundreds of times the conditional FDA limit. This means the problem broadly affects benzoyl peroxide products, both prescription and over-the-counter, and necessitates urgent action," said Valisure Co-Founder and President David Light.

In 2021, Coppertone recalled sunscreen for containing benzene, shortly after Johnson & Johnson issued a recall for the same reasons. Dry shampoo has also been recalled due to the carcinogen.

PEOPLE has reached out to the manufacturers of the affected products for more information.

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