What Recent Recalls Mean to You
Special Beauty and Skincare Update By Dr. Liia Ramachandra
In December 2021, Procter & Gamble (P&G), the company that has brought us many of our favorite beauty, skincare, and personal care items, announced voluntary recalls of 30 aerosol spray products. The announcement came with some disturbing news: the products had possible traces of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.
The recalled items included aerosol beauty products like dry shampoo and dry conditioner with the decision to recall the products done under an abundance of caution. Daily exposure to benzene in the amounts found in the affected products is not known to cause any adverse effects; however, companies as large as P&G need to proceed with caution to protect their customers and their companies. To date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects from benzene in P&G products, but the unlikely occurrence that a consumer could be affected is enough for the company to take bold precautions.
Expect More Recalls in the Future
The recall announcement has made its mark on the beauty and skincare industry. What is often not reported but needs to be understood is that the benzene found in the P&G aerosol products was most likely not placed there on purpose. On the contrary, benzene probably found its way to the products through contamination from solvents or machinery. The chemical benzene is found almost everywhere in manufacturing, and it is nearly impossible to avoid altogether.
The recalls of products in November and December of this year tell us that this may not be a one-time situation and that more product recalls may be on the way. After all, the P&G recalls were not the first to make headlines. In July of 2021, Johnson & Johnson issued recalls of aerosol products due to the benzene issue, in a move that P&G mirrored soon after. The industry and consumers can likely and unfortunately stay tuned for more recalls coming down the road. As consumers become more aware of benzene’s presence in products they use every day, they will pressure companies to solve the issue preemptively.
What Can Consumers Do to Protect Themselves?
Benzene is a highly flammable chemical that has a sweet odor. It evaporates in the air quickly but dissolves only slightly in water. It’s found in natural places, like volcanoes and forest fires, and is also found in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. People can get exposure to benzene from various sources, including glues, detergents, and furniture polish. Gas stations are a huge source of benzene exposure for people.
Because many people are unaware of benzene and how prevalent it is, companies will face a battle in convincing consumers that their products are safe. Benzene can be found almost anywhere, and it’s difficult to avoid the chemical altogether. To address the presence of benzene in products, rigorous testing has been implemented by not only Procter and Gamble but also other companies. The issue of consumer safety is not being overlooked but outright addressed in marketing campaigns to put consumers’ minds at ease.
Because of the testing and voluntary nature of the recalls from P&G and other companies, consumers should be proactive with their response but not overreact to the recall announcements. Throwing away any items in their cabinets that show up on the recall lists is suggested.
The Post-Recall Future of Beauty & Skin Care Products
As a healthcare and beauty professional, I understand the importance of knowing what’s in our products. Consumer advocacy groups and watchdog groups are pressing companies to test for traces of cancer-causing chemicals before packaging items and placing them on the shelves. P&G and other companies also offer reimbursement to consumers who purchased the recalled items. Going forward, companies need to be explicit about what is in their products and diligent about looking out for harmful chemicals making their way into products. When issues arise, companies need to continue to be forthcoming with information for consumers and, if necessary, issue further recalls.
Choosing Medically Clean and Hypoallergenic Products
Consumers can be careful when purchasing products, seeking out items that are certified to be hypoallergenic and medically clean. While there’s no way to completely avoid benzene exposure, focusing on medically clean products can ensure you’re using the best possible products for your health and well-being. Stories about cancerous chemicals and recalls can be alarming, but with diligent research and careful shopping, consumers need not be scared to buy beauty and skin products.
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