Could sunscreen products containing benzene do more harm than good? Local doctor weighs in

As summer approaches, many are reaching for sunscreen more, but could some products do more harm than good?

This time last year, sunscreens started being pulled off of shelves and out of cabinets for fear that items contained a cancer causing ingredient known as benzene.

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Just in the past week, two sunscreen brands, Nivea and Sun Bum, had products recalled in New Zeland and Australia for containing benzene.

News Center 7 talked to a local dermatologist about which sunscreen products we should be using and whether or not we should be avoiding sunscreen with benzene.

Dr. Karl Kellawan, who has been practicing dermatology for years, says benzene is not a major concern for him at this time and has not heard of many people getting sick from wearing sunscreen that contains it.

“There’s been a few articles out there that it might be harmful, but not all of them—not a significant amount of evidence to know for sure,” Kellawan said.

Several sunscreen products were pulled off of shelves last year for having trace amounts of the chemical.

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An independent lab called Valisure tested 69 popular sunscreen brands for benzene.

They found that 26 had benzene levels between .11 ppm and 1.99 ppm.

Four batches were found to have levels between 2.78 ppm and 6.26 ppm.

The FDA limits benzene levels in sunscreen to 2 ppm.

“The amount that you might absorb is probably very minuscule,” Kellawan said. “People don’t put on enough sunscreen.”

For that reason, Kellawan says the benefits of wearing sunscreen far outweigh any risks.

“Everybody should wear it. Very fair complexed people obviously, but even dark skin people,” Kellawan said. “I tell people to use a number 30 or higher sunscreen. You can use it in a cream, a gel, a lotion.”

Kellawan says if you are concerned about benzene, you can simply find a product without it, but that the benefits of wearing sunscreen far outweigh the potential risks