photo of man applying sunscreen

Stop Using Neutrogena and Aveeno Spray Sunscreen, J&J Warns

July 15, 2021 – Consumers should stop using certain brands of spray sunscreen products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. The company has issued a voluntary recall after finding low levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in some samples.

Benzene is not an ingredient in sunscreen and should not be present in these products. The levels detected were low and are not expected to adversely affect health, but the company said it was recalling the products “out of caution” anyway.

The recalled sun products are:

  • NEUTROGEN® Beach defense® aerosol sunscreen,
  • NEUTROGEN® Cool Dry Sport Spray Sunscreen,
  • NEUTROGEN® Invisible Daily ™ Defense Spray Sunscreen,
  • NEUTROGEN® Ultra transparent® aerosol sunscreen, and
  • AVEENO® Protect + Refresh spray sunscreen.

These products have been distributed across the country through a variety of retail stores. Consumers should stop using these products and throw them away, the company said.

At the same time, he stressed the importance of using alternative sunscreen products to protect the skin from excessive sun exposure, which can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma.

Johnson & Johnson has launched an investigation into how benzene got into these products.

One of the company’s other spray sunscreen products, Neutrogena Wet Skin, was not included in the recall.

Several weeks ago, benzene was found in 78 widely used sunscreen products in tests conducted by the online pharmacy and the Valisure lab. Most of the products were aerosol sprays, and the company has asked the FDA to recall all of them.

This petition suggested that the discovery of benzene was the result of contamination somewhere in the manufacturing process.

“It’s not a sunscreen problem, it’s a manufacturing problem,” said Adam Friedman, MD, professor and chief of dermatology at George Washington University. “We don’t want these things to be blurry.”

There is a risk that people will get the wrong message from these findings.

“People already have ambivalence about sunscreen, and that will only make it worse,” Friedman said in an interview at the time.

He pointed out that benzene is found in car exhaust fumes, second-hand smoke and elsewhere. Exposure through inhalation has been the primary focus of toxicological investigations, as has exposure to things such as contaminated drinking water – not through topical application. “We don’t know how [benzene] penetrates through the skin, if it is absorbed systemically, and how it behaves then downstream, ”he noted.

On the other hand, ultraviolet radiation is a well established carcinogen. Avoiding an effective preventative measure such as sunscreen could prove to be more harmful than exposure to traces of benzene, he said.

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