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Now is a good time to check your beach bag, backpack and travel bag to see what type of sunscreen is inside. In July, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled all lots of five Neutrogena and Aveeno and aerosol sunscreen product lines. They did so because internal testing identified low levels of benzene in some samples of the products. Consumers should stop using the affected products and follow the instructions below if you have purchased products in the sunscreen recall.
The only sunscreen products impacted to date are aerosol products, including:
- Neutrogena Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen,
- Neutrogena Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen,
- Neutrogena Invisible Daily defense aerosol sunscreen,
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreen, and
- Aveeno Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen.
Why is There a Sunscreen Recall?
Though benzene is not an actual ingredient in the recalled suncreens, it was detected in some samples of the aerosol sunscreen finished products. Johnson & Johnson is investigating the cause of this issue. According to the company press release, “based on exposure modeling and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) framework, daily exposure to benzene in these aerosol sunscreen products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling all lots of these specific aerosol sunscreen products.”
Should you stop using sunscreen as a result of this recall? Definitely not. Sunscreens are an important aspect of reducing skin cancer risk and skin damage. The risk is growing greater as the climate changes. According to a 2021 study in The International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, a 3.6°F increase in ambient temperature is predicted to increase skin cancer incidence 11 percent globally by 2050. That said, regular daily use of an SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent—and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent—according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
What Can You Do about the Sunscreen Recall?
You should stop using these specific products and appropriately discard them, and you can contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center 24/7 with questions or to request a refund by calling 1.800.458.1673. Contact your healthcare provider if they have any questions or concerns, or have experienced any problems related to using these aerosol sunscreen products.
If you experience any adverse reactions from using one of these products, or any other, you can report it to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail or fax, or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form.
How to Choose a Clean, Reef Friendly Sunscreen
Jessica Tran, ND, FAAEM, MBA, the first naturopathic doctor to serve as president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) advises following the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) recommendations for sunscreen. “Look for a product with a favorable EWG rating. They have compiled an excellent guide detailing the best products and have rated hundreds of different products. It’s the most comprehensive list of safe sunscreens available.” The guide also recommends reef-safe sunscreens that do not damage ocean coral.
The EWG report says three quarters of the more than 1,800 products that the group evaluated did not provide adequate sun protection or included ingredients that may cause harm. Tran recommends zinc oxide as a common sunscreen ingredient that’s generally recognized as safe and is effective at blocking damaging UV rays.
In general, Tran says, choose a sunscreen by activity. “For instance, if you’re going to the beach or the pool, look for want water-resistant sunscreen. It’s best to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15–30. Surprisingly, higher sun protection factor (SPF) numbers may not offer any greater benefit than 15–30 SPF.”