Sunscreen Recall

July 14, 2021


A popular brand recalls some of its sunscreen due to concerns about a carcinogen.
What Johnson & Johnson says about the latest news and why it matters.

What Happened:

Johnson & Johnson recalls several AEROSOL sunscreen products:

  • NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense®
  • NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport
  • NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily™
  • NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer®
  • AVEENO® Protect + Refresh

Why The Recall:

  • A chemical called “benzene” was discovered in sunscreen samples, including J&J’s.
  • Benzene is a carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical) we likely confront often, from cigarette smoke to car exhaust – and even in items such as detergent. In high amounts, benzene can be toxic (causing dizziness, drowsiness and, in extreme cases, death).
  • J&J doesn’t know why or how the benzene contamination occurred but says the amount discovered “would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.”

“We’re a month and a half past the big Memorial Day beach weekend that unofficially kicks off summer. How many consumers nationwide have unknowingly been using sunscreen that could cause cancer?"

U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray. Valisure, an online pharmacy known for independently screening products, appealed to the FDA on May 24 to recall 40 sun care products (6 after-sun care products and 34 sunscreens) due to the presence of benzene – some with nearly 3x the limit. Nearly 300 sun care products were tested.

For some perspective, here’s a reminder about why sunscreen matters: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. ~ 20 people will die today from melanoma.

BTW: How Does Sunscreen Even Work? The ingredients either reflect the sun rays (physical blockers like zinc) or absorb the rays (chemical blockers), preventing absorption by your own body.

Johnson & Johnson announcement of recall

Benzene definition from CDC

USA Today Report: Sunscreen recall 2021: “J&J recalling select Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen due to presence of benzene”

“Valisure Detects Benzene in Sunscreen” – Valisure News

Valisure’s Petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Note: Tables listing the sun care products that Valisure recommends “be recalled” are shown on pages 12 – 13 of petition)

Skin cancer stats (American Academy of Dermatology Association)

How sunscreen works (Harvard Health Publishing)

by Jenna Lee,