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Your Favourite Sunscreens Were Contaminated With a Carcinogen

But that doesn't mean you have to stop using sunscreen

There’s one summer essential we swear by, and no it’s not a Jacquemus straw hat. It’s good skin. And we’re talking for the long term. With temperatures rising across the globe, it’s imperative to make sure you’re protecting your skin from the harsh sun rays this summer.

But we all know that picking the right skin products for you is always a hassle. Sunscreen is no exception. If anything, it recently got all that more complicated. Valisure, which is an independent laboratory that checks chemical compositions of various medications and products, recently published a study that uncovered that many popular sunscreens are contaminated with a carcinogen.

Traces of Benzene, a chemical tied to blood cancers was detected in some of the most widely used sunscreens and after-sun products. Of 300 sprays and lotions tested, the carcinogen was found in 78—meaning over a quarter of the products contained traces above the 2 parts per million limit set by the USA-based Food and Drug Administration. Some popular Neutrogena and Banana Boat products are among those to contain more than the limit. As result, Valisure kicked off a petition for the products to be recalled.

But how dangerous is it all? Traces of benzene are typically found in cigarette smoke, adhesive and cleaning products, as well as car exhausts. For those who smoke or live in highly populated cities, chances are you’re exposed to benzene on a regular basis. That doesn’t make their presence in sunscreen products ok, though. Benzene is still a carcinogen, and it will always pose a danger—and should be avoided whenever possible.

But the study caused roar in the world of skincare, with experts falling on two sides of the spectrum: those who deem benzene-contaminated sunscreen extremely dangerous and want to see the products pulled from shelves, and those who believe that sunscreen’s benefits outweigh the risk. Among those who subscribe to the latter train of thought is doctor and YouTuber Shereen Idriss.

“One thing is for sure – This does not mean you stop wearing sunscreen!!” she says. “There’s enough fear-mongering out there,” she continues. According to Idriss, further studies are still needed to come to a conclusive stance on the matter. She also explains that it isn’t necessarily only a sunscreen issue.

“Valisure went and did the extra step of studying the six active ingredients in chemical sunscreens, which are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate, and octocrylene, to see if they degrade into benzene over time and they found that they do not” she explains. “Therefore, it is merely a contamination issue.” This means you don’t have to stop wearing sunscreen completely, but if you want to avoid risk, you only have to avoid using the products that Valisure found to be contaminated.  That means, avoiding Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+ and Ultra Sheer Weightless Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70 for example.

So no, not all sunscreens contain carcinogens. And there’s one way to make sure you keep your skin protected across the board, and that’s by making sure you’re using organic products, which alongside being carcinogen-free, are made of biodegradable products that make sure our oceans are protected. After all, approximately 5000 tons of sunscreens dilute in the ocean every year, contributing to the destruction of coral reefs across the globe. So, it’s better to play it completely safe, and use one of these products.

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