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Benzene in Sunscreen & How to Avoid It

Benzene in Sunscreen & How to Avoid It

It’s no secret that suncare products are a vital part of any skin care routine, whether you're enjoying a summer vacation or enduring the colder months. A high-quality SPF helps protect you from strong UV rays, as overexposure can lead to skin aging, wrinkles, discoloration, skin cancer, and more. But while sun protection is essential, it's just as important to know what ingredients your SPF products contain. 

If you’ve been following beauty news in recent years, we suspect you’ve heard that the ingredient benzene—a known carcinogen—was found in many household-name sunscreens.

While we’re delighted to say that our COOLA products were found to NOT contain benzene, we know that this type of news—along with J&J’s recall of Neutrogena and Aveeno due to benzene contamination—can be unsettling at best … and at worst, can throw even the most regimented of us off of our regular skincare routine. So before we rethink our suncare habit from top to toe, we wanted to share our perspective on benzene in sunscreens, sunscreen safety in general, and our COOLA approach to sunscreen ingredients.

What is benzene?

Benzene is a solvent used primarily in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. People can be exposed to benzene in many ways, from breathing it in the air to smoking a cigarette. Benzene can be found in several household products, including adhesives, dyes, lubricants, and cleaning products. 

More recently, certain beauty products like dry shampoo and sunscreen have been found to contain trace amounts of benzene.

What are the risks associated with benzene?

While any level of exposure to benzene can be harmful, long-term exposure poses more severe health risks. Excessive exposure to benzene can lead to various health issues such as anemia, irregular menstrual periods in women, weakened immune systems, and in some cases even cancers such as leukemia.

Benzene in sunscreen—What’s the deal? 

This news all came about from a study done by Valisure, an independent lab and pharmacy, that found benzene in nearly a third of sunscreens tested. Many of the products found to contain benzene are common names in the beauty realm… common enough, in fact, that they’re probably in most of our makeup bags. (For the full list of Valisure’s benzene-positive sunscreens here.)

It’s worth noting that benzene isn’t an ingredient in any of the sunscreens tested (or any sunscreens at all, for that matter)—rather, it’s a byproduct of the manufacturing process that’s often detectable in raw materials derived from petrochemicals and petroleum and can be found in trace amounts in some synthetic fragrances. 

Are COOLA sunscreens benzene free? 

Let’s not bury the lede: yes! The COOLA sunscreens tested by Valisure were confirmed to not contain benzene.

COOLA was inspired by the healthy Southern California lifestyle we grew up in, and our desire to create an effective, organic sunscreen that felt nice enough to use every day—we’re believers that clean beauty should feel as good as it is healthy.

That’s why we’re as conscious about what goes into our products as we are about what we keep out. We follow a strict restricted ingredient list that goes beyond industry standards to exclude over 1400+ questionable or harmful ingredients from all of our formulations. In addition to containing 70% or more certified organic ingredients in every formula, our COOLA formulation standards prohibit the use of synthetic fragrance and petroleum-derived ingredients and only allow the use of natural flavors and EU-allergen-free natural fragrances.

What does the benzene in sunscreen study mean for my sunscreen routine? 

We’ve been in the beauty business long enough to have seen a few different cycles of sunscreen ingredient scares, some more serious than others.

While dermatologists are somewhat divided on exactly how much risk benzene exposure poses in our beauty routine—we’re all exposed to small amounts of benzene in our daily environments, for example—we’d obviously prefer our skincare products without known carcinogens (duh).

But … we also know that eliminating suncare from our beauty routine altogether poses even more severe health and cancer concerns, not to mention the effects of aging. Luckily for us beauty mavens and sun indulgers, there are plenty of healthy, benzene-free sunscreen options—yes, that includes COOLA!—that can keep your skin glowing all summer long. COOLA’s matte sunscreen is a reliable solution free from harmful chemicals, offering SPF 30 protection. Experience the benefits of this sheer matte sunscreen, which shields your skin from harmful UV rays without leaving a greasy residue. Leave your benzene worries behind and explore COOLA's mineral face sunscreen collection for a healthier and safer sun care routine. 

Healthy sun protection with COOLA 

If you’re looking for sunscreen without benzene, look no further than our collection of organic face sunscreens and body sunscreens made with clean, nutrient-rich ingredients that are safe for your skin. From classic SPF 50 face cream to dewy illuminating serums, find natural, effective suncare products tailored to your skin needs. 

For more on our strict ingredient standards, take a look at our standards page —and learn why COOLA is committed to a higher standard of suncare. 


National Cancer Institute. Benzene.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About Benzene.