Independent lab finds cancer-causing chemicals in Clearasil, Clinique, CeraVe and more

A recent study by Valisure reports high levels of benzene in popular brands’ products containing acne treatment benzoyl peroxide.

Users of Clinique, CeraVe, Proactiv, and Clearasil may want to keep reading. This week, Valisure, an independent lab, reportedly detected high levels of the carcinogen benzene in these brands’ acne-treating products.

In light of these findings, WWD reports that the lab filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding the agency “issue a regulation, revise industry guidance and request a recall and suspend sales of benzoyl peroxide from the U.S. market and take such other actions.”

The cancer-causing chemical was primarily found in brands like Clearasil, Clinique, Proactiv, and Target’s Up & Up, products containing benzoyl peroxide. To conduct the study, Valisure incubated these products for 18 days under specific 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,” Valisure stated, per People magazine. “Benzene can be produced in the product itself and potentially escape into the surrounding air.”

As consumers become more aware and concerned about the chemicals in their products, these types of claims can be detrimental to a brand’s reputation and sales, as seen with the once-viral haircare brand Olaplex. In 2022, a study conducted by Valisure reported benzene in dry shampoos, which led to the recall of products by brands like Dove, Tresemmé and Nexxus. Similarly, reports of carcinogens in hair relaxers led the Food and Drug Administration to propose a potential ban on hair relaxer chemicals.

“While product efficacy is important, brand and product perception is often the most powerful in driving consumer purchase decisions. We have seen numerous of examples [sic] where change in brand perception led to a significant decline in sales. For example, Olaplex and concerns around products resulting in hair loss. Despite being disproven by the company, sales remain pressured and require significant marketing to rebuild the brand perception,” Jefferies analyst Ashley Helgans explained, per WWD. “Due to the severity of Valisure’s findings, there is significant risk to the brands listed in the petition.”

However, many of the brands and manufacturers listed in this new study have rejected the claims.

“At Clinique, rigorous safety is our highest priority. Benzene is not used as an ingredient in any product across The Estée Lauder Companies’ brand portfolio,” a company spokesperson told WWD. “Benzoyl peroxide, an FDA-approved and commonly used ingredient for acne treatment, is not benzene. Clinique uses benzoyl peroxide in one product. This product, like all of our products, is safe for use as intended. No other product in The Estée Lauder Companies’ portfolio contains benzoyl peroxide.”

Similarly, Reckitt, the producer of Clearasil, said in a statement to People magazine: “Reckitt is confident that all Clearasil products, when used and stored as directed on their labels, are safe. The safety and quality of our products is our top priority and we work closely with regulators around the world to ensure our products are safe and effective for their intended use. Clearasil products and their ingredients are stable over the storage conditions described on their packaging which represent all reasonable and foreseeable conditions. The findings presented by an independent lab today reflect unrealistic scenarios rather than real-world conditions.”

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