If you are using sunscreen regularly, you have probably heard about the unsettling news concerning the presence of benzene in these products. In May of 2021, the independent laboratory Valisure from Connecticut made public the results of a thorough study on sunscreen, which sparked outrage among consumers, and for a good reason. Of the 294 sunscreen samples tested, 78 contained benzene in various concentrations. This is the equivalent of roughly 27% of sunscreen samples. 

Since the study results were made available to the public, Valisure has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration. Only two companies have issued a recall on some of their benzene-containing products. More specifically, Johnson & Johnson took off the market five sunscreens, namely Aveeno Protect + Refresh, Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense, Neutrogena Beach Defense, Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport, and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer. The other manufacturer that decided to recall their contaminated sunscreen was Coppertone, which took off the shelves five sunscreens, too.

Benzene is a very toxic chemical, exposure to which can result in leukemia, myeloma, or lymphoma. There is no safe limit for benzene set by the Food and Drug Administration in drugs and cosmetics because the chemical has no place in these products. However, there is a 2-ppm limit that applies in exceptional circumstances, but apparently, sunscreen contamination is not one of them. In addition to avoiding the 78 sunscreens in which benzene was found, which you can find in a list near the end of this official Valisure document, there is a lot more to sunscreen you should know.

If you travel to a sunny place, wearing sunscreen daily is paramount, as summer is the strongest season of ultraviolet radiation. Nevertheless, you should wear sunscreen no matter where you are going, especially if you spend a lot of time outside, sightseeing, for instance, as even during cloudy weather and the winter, ultraviolet radiation reaches our planet’s atmosphere. Clouds filter out only 25% of UV rays. Approximately 9,500 people receive a skin cancer diagnosis daily throughout the United States. The tragic thing is that skin cancer is preventable, and the only way to protect yourself against it is by wearing sunscreen.

The Difference Between Chemical and Mineral Sunscreen

Most sunscreen on the American market is chemical, meaning that it works by your skin absorbing it and breaking down ultraviolet radiation inside the tissue. Furthermore, to keep ultraviolet radiation at bay, chemical sunscreen also contains a lot of harmful substances that are dangerous to you in the long run and to reefs and oceans, such as oxybenzone, homosalate, avobenzone, and octinoxate. These chemicals are linked to an endocrine system disruption, skin irritation, lower testosterone levels, respiratory tract irritation, organ toxicity, higher cancer risk, and severe eye irritation.

On the other hand, mineral sunscreen is mainly made of natural ingredients and chemicals that are not a threat to your health, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two very effective ingredients keep UV rays at bay. Unlike chemical sunscreen, mineral sunscreen is not absorbed by your skin. It remains on the surface of your skin, and when you are exposed to ultraviolet radiation, it deflects it instead of absorbing it and breaking it down. A valuable tip concerning chemical sunscreen is that, if you use it, you should wait 30 minutes before you leave your home, as it requires time to be absorbed entirely.

While you may encounter some difficulty finding mineral sunscreen, as few companies manufacture it in the United States, you can now opt to request mineral sunscreen from ethical companies that test for benzene and other chemicals by virtue of the Benzene Sunscreen Replacement Initiative. You just have to fill out of form at the bottom of the page, and someone will contact you shortly.

Other Tips for Using Sunscreen When Traveling

Perhaps the most important thing you must do before getting to your destination is to make sure you have enough sunscreen for you and your child if you have one. Being prepared is the key, and you may also want to ensure your entire family has enough sunscreen if you are in charge of taking care of this. In addition to wasting precious time and stressing out, you may not find the sunscreen you need in the country you are in now, or you may find it significantly more expensive.

The following are more tips on how to make sure you are fully protected against skin cancer, as well as wrinkles, premature skin aging, and sunburns, by wearing sunscreen while on vacation, especially in a country with hot weather:

  • choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, as this is the only product that protects your skin both from UVA and UVB rays
  • reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when you are outside and every 40 minutes when you are spending time in the water
  • if you plan to spend most of your day in the water, opt for a water-resistant sunscreen, which you will need to apply less often
  • apply sunscreen abundantly until there is a visible layer on your skin, whether you use aerosol, gel, or lotion – one ounce of sunscreen, the size of a golf ball, should be applied to every part of your body exposed to the sun
  • choose SPF 30 or higher, as this will ensure your skin is more protected even if you did not apply the product correctly and thoroughly, as opposed to SPF 15
  • do not forget to apply sunscreen to your face, lips, ears, and scalp
  • take additional protection from ultraviolet radiation, such as wearing a tightly woven hat and seeking shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sunlight is the most powerful


About the Author – Jonathan Sharp is the Chief Financial Officer of Environmental Litigation Group, PC The law firm specializes in toxic exposure and aids people injured by hazardous agents, including those who developed the disease after using benzene-containing sunscreen. Among the responsibilities of Johnathan Sharp, there are financial analysis, the collection and distribution of the funds, and management of firm assets.