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What if your acne treatment converts to benzene, a carcinogen ?

Turns out that the benzoyl peroxide formulations can break down into benzene !

Typically when we find benzene in a product it’s because of contamination however, in the case of products that contain benzoyl peroxide it’s due to the breakdown conversion of the chemistry. If you’ve been reading our blogs you know that this is not the first time consumers have been exposed to benzene. Remember the hand sanitizer recalls ?

A list of the products tested is at the bottom of this blog.

Who blew the whistle on this commonly used over-the-counter product, a Connecticut-based laboratory Valisure LLC. They filed a citizen petition with the FDA asking for a recall of all the products containing the compound. It’s specifically more of an issue when the products are exposed to heat even as low as 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. You might recall this is the same laboratory that in 2019  alerted the FDA that the prescription medication ranitidine (Zantac tm) is fundamentally unstable and degrades to form high levels of the carcinogen NDMA. It was subsequently pulled from the market in  April of 2020.

You may be asking how will my product ever reach even this heat ? Think in terms of the 3 years and the expiration times on these products and then consider transportation, handling, stocking, and of course what happens when it’s in the sun or you have a hot environment in your bathroom when it’s in the medicine cabinet. All or even one of these exposures increases in temperature will result in the production of benzene.


The World Health Organization (“WHO”) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (“IARC”) have classified benzene as a Group 1 compound which means they define it as “carcinogenic to humans.”

One consideration is that the FDA already has a law restricting benzene from any use in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, and drug products because of their unacceptable toxicity. The chemical is classified as a class 1 solvent by the FDA. This is the highest level of risk-based classes.” Class 1 solvents are known to cause unacceptable toxicities”.

Let’s get clear about how long this has been known. In 1936 the first literature was presented discussing the degregation of benzoyl peroxide products to benzene. If you’re wondering how did this happen you might find the Reuter’s article interesting. It’s about the collusion between industry and the agencies that should be regulating these products.

The list of those in the suit include:

      • Alchemee, LLC and Taro Pharmaceutical USA, Inc. (Proactiv BPO products)
      • CVS Pharmacy Inc. and CVS Health Corp. (CVS Health Acne Treatment Cream and CVS Health Acne Control Cleanser)
      • RB Health, LLC (Clearasil Rapid Rescue Spot Treatment Cream and Clearasil Stubborn Acne Control 5 in 1 Spot Treatment Cream)
      • Target Corp. (Up & Up BPO products)
      • Genomma Lab USA, Inc. (Asepxia Acne Spot Treatment Cream)
      • Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Daily Creamy Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Face Wash and Maximum Strength Acne Foaming Wash)