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Does your acne product contain benzoyl peroxide? It may be a potential risk to this ingredient

Updated: Mar 9

Benzene carcinogene in acne products
Benzene carcinogene in acne products

You may have heard about how many acne treatments contain a cancer-causing substance. On March 6, 2024, news broke about how Valisure LLC, an independent testing laboratory, filed a petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 5, requesting a recall of products affected by high levels of a known carcinogen, benzene.

So, what is this all about?

This is news for anyone using acne treatments, so here's what you need to know.

Fact #1: Many acne products (both over-the-counter and prescription) contain the acne-fighting ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, which can break down to form benzene.

Fact #2: Benzene is a well-known carcinogen, which is a substance capable of causing cancer. In fact, it's in the same "Group 1 carcinogens" class as asbestos, lead, and formaldehyde.

Fact #3: Valisure LLC, an independent testing laboratory, recently found that many acne products with benzoyl peroxide contain benzene levels that were 2 - 1000X higher than the FDA limit. Most of the reported results derive from testing conditions where the benzoyl peroxide products were heated to very high temperatures that are unrealistic for every day life. However, they also reported high levels of benzene from BPO products that were incubated at 37°C (98.6°F).

You may recall that benzene was recently reported to have been found in certain sunscreens. However, that investigation discovered benzene as impurities from contaminated ingredients. This current investigation with acne products warrants more consideration because the benzene comes from an actual ingredient (benzoyl peroxide) within the acne product itself.

So, what does this all mean?

Based on these reports, some physicians are recommending pausing any product or treatment with benzoyl peroxide in it until more information is provided. More definitive data is definitely needed. But, given the potential carcinogenic risks, and the fact that there are so many other effective acne-fighting ingredients without similar reported risks, one could consider alternative options until more information is provided

What should I do if I have acne and/or are using a product with benzoyl peroxide?

Below is a cautious approach to consider. Firstly, consider seeing a Dermatologist soon, as you could benefit from modifying your treatment. Unfortunately, it's well known that, with less than 700 Dermatologists for Canada's 38 million population, the wait-times to see a traditional in-person Dermatologist at a physical clinic are usually at least 1 - 2 years, if there's even a Dermatologist available in your city. On DermCafé you can connect with a derm in less than one week. Current patients should book via their Portal

Secondly, remove all of your benzoyl peroxide-containing products from any environment that could experience high temperatures. Examples would include a car, or your bathroom.

This is a developing issue, and more information will be posted as soon as it is available.

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