Check your dry shampoo: Many contain cancer-causing agent, study shows (2023)

By Anna Edney | Bloomberg

Top-selling dry shampoos including Not Your Mother’s and Church & Dwight Co.’s Batiste contain high levels of benzene, the cancer-causing chemical that led Unilever to yank its product from shelves earlier this month, according to a new independent study.

Valisure, a New Haven, Conn.-based analytical laboratory, tested 148 batches from 34 brands of spray-on dry shampoo and found that 70% contained benzene. The chemical can cause certain blood cancers, such as leukemia. The company filed a petition Monday with the US Food and Drug Administration seeking to have the products that contain the substance recalled.

The results add toconcerns that products sold over the counter in pharmacies and grocery stores across the US could present previously undetected health risks. Over the past year, Valisure has found benzene in popular spray sunscreens, antiperspirants and hand sanitizers. Stores havepulled the products from shelves, while regulators and manufacturers arelooking more closely at whether impurities are slipping by unnoticed in a complex supply chain.

The highest benzene levels among the dry shampoos were found in a popular brand called Not Your Mother’s, which touts its “clean, quality ingredients.”Other brands found to have elevated benzene included Batiste,Sun Bum and John Paul Mitchell Systems.

(Video) Shocking Levels of Cancer-Causing Benzene Found in Beauty Products

Valisure’spetition didn’t include dry shampoos already recalled for elevated benzene, such as Dove, Suave and Bed Head, all from Unilever,as well as Procter & Gamble Co.’s Pantene and Herbal Essences.The benzene levels Valisure found in some of the dry shampoos—used to freshen up hair between washes—are significantly higher than any personal-care products the lab has tested before, the study showed.

When asked if Batiste had been tested for benzene, aspokesperson for Church & Dwight said the company had previously confirmed with its ingredient suppliers that their products didn’t contain the chemical and said it would evaluate Valisure’s petition. Not Your Mother’s, Sun Bum and John Paul Mitchell Systems didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Valisure brings in income by partnerships it has with businesses to check the quality of certain products, such asa deal it has with Gojo Industries Inc., the maker of Purell hand sanitizer. It also has investors, including Realist Ventures, which is also based in Connecticut.

Check your dry shampoo: Many contain cancer-causing agent, study shows (1)


Batiste, Not Your Mother’s and Dove are the top-selling dry shampoo brands in the US, with Batiste making up 44% of the $309 million in sales in the year ending July 10 amongst the top 10 brands, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Dry shampoo sales were up 22% from a year earlier, IRI said.

Church & Dwight Chief Executive Officer Matt Farrell told investors on an earnings call Oct. 28 that Batiste use was up 37% in the third quarter from a year earlier, giving the company a 46% market share. Chief Financial Officer Rick Dierker added:“Batiste is growing like crazy. It’s doing fantastic, we can’t meet all the demand, consumption is up dramatically.”

A spray from one can of Not Your Mother’s Beach Babedry shampoo contained 158 parts per million of benzene, according to Valisure’s findings. In previous studies, the lab found sunscreens with up to 6 parts per million, hand sanitizers with 16 parts per million and antiperspirants with 18. Acan of BatisteBare Dry Shampoo contained 15parts per million of benzene in one spray. The Environmental Protection Agency has said inhaling benzene at levels of 0.4 parts per billion (.0004 parts per million) chronically over a lifetime could result in one additional cancer per 100,000 people, a measure of risk the FDA also uses.

(Video) Cancer-causing agent found in aerosol hair products | Morning in America

“Dry shampoo is not a product you use one time and are done with it,” said David Light, CEO of Valisure. “A lot of people use it once a day, or a few times a week.”The high numbers call into question statements like the one Unilever made when it recalled Dove, Tresemme, Suave, Bed Head and Rockaholic dry shampoos onOct. 18, stating that, “Based on an independent health hazard evaluation, daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.”

Unilever didn’t respond to questions about the levels of benzene found in its products.“We hadseen significant amounts of benzene in Unilever products before they went on recall,” Light said, declining to specify amounts.

P&G was the first to recall dry shampoo in December, pulling Pantene and Herbal Essences versions from shelves. The move came after P&G tested its entire aerosol portfolio following the revelations from Valisure’s previous work.No other major consumer-goods manufacturer has publicly disclosed similar internal testing.

Sunscreens, sanitizers

Valisure has found high benzene levels in spray sunscreens, including versions of Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena products; aerosol antiperspirants such as Procter & Gamble’s Secret and Old Spice brands; and some hand sanitizers that were introduced to the market at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The supply chains that bring consumers their grooming products are complex, globe-spanning endeavors, making it difficult to determine precisely where the toxins are introduced.

The problems potentially go back “all the way back to a raw material being contaminated and making it thorough the entire global supply chain, through all the various hands it has to touch, and all the various quality check points that are supposed to be there,” Light said. After all that, “it’s still ending up on the shelf in a customer’s hands, in their homes, with such alarmingly high levels of contamination. That’s very concerning.”

(Video) Popular dry shampoos recalled over potential cancer-causing chemical

Some companies have pointed to propellants as the problem. Spray personal-care products, including dry shampoos, often contain propellants like propane and butane that are petroleum distillates made by refining crude oil. Benzene is a known contaminant of petroleum products. The propane and butane used in personal-care products are supposed to be purified so that no benzene is present.

The FDA has confirmed propellants are a potential source of benzene contamination.On July 29, Edgewell Personal Care Co. recalled its aerosol Banana Boat Hair & Scalp sunscreen because of benzene contamination. The company said the “unexpected levels of benzene came from the propellant that sprays the product out of the can.”

The FDA has asked companies that make drug productsat high risk of being contaminated with benzene, like sunscreen,to testfor the toxin.

Dry shampoo is a cosmetic, which the FDA regulates, but not nearly as stringently as it does drugs.

No limits

While the FDA hasn’t set benzene limits for cosmetics, it does say the products shouldn’t contain “any poisonous or deleterious substance.” In drug applications, the FDA allows levels of 2 parts per million of benzene if “use is unavoidable in order to produce a drug product with a significant therapeutic advance.”

Valisure has asked the FDA to clarify that there isn’t an acceptable level of benzene in cosmetic products and to develop guidelines for benzene testing in cosmetics. Valisure’s analysis found extreme variation in sprays, even from the same can, “suggesting inconsistent product composition and/or aerosolization in some products,” the lab said in the petition. While Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak dry shampoo contained 143 parts per million of benzene in the first spray, the fourth spray contained 93 parts per million. Valisure’s findings, including a list of contaminated dry shampoos, can be found in the petition it filed with the FDA.

(Video) 19 dry shampoos recalled over potential cancer-causing ingredient

The contamination could be even higher than those findings, an expanded study showed.

Valisure has been testing for benzene in personal-care products for some time, but with its dry-shampoo probe, the researchers took adeeper approach. The lab partnered with Syft Technologies, a company that designs and sells trace gas analysis equipment,to conduct direct air-measurement tests, which can more precisely capture benzene levels. Syft isheadquartered in New Zealand, with an office in Pittsburgh.

When Valisure tests a product, it uses a standard procedure that requires putting a sample into a vial. This means some chemicals may escape before they’re measured. Syft uses a method that detects chemical levels in the air, including whatever is sprayed from an aerosol can. Using Syft’s data, Valisure determined it’s possible the actual benzene levels in spray-ondry shampoo could be 10 times to 50 times higher than what standard testing reveals.

For example, Syft found benzene levels of 1,600 parts per billion—4,000 times higher than the EPA’s guidance—in the initial cloud of a 10-second spray of Not Your Mother’s dry shampoo. Longer-term exposure showed about 36parts per billion, with Syft taking measurements in a 550 cubic foot space over 15 minutes. Using that data, Valisure calculated the benzene concentration in the Not Your Mother’s can totaled 340 parts per million, or 170 times the FDA’s limit for drugs.

Data based on Syft’s findingslikely more closely mimicreal-world conditions. “This is particularly dangerous,” Light said.

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Check your dry shampoo: Many contain cancer-causing agent, study shows (2)

(Video) Dry shampoo Recall | cancer-causing benzene ending up in hair products!


Do many dry shampoos contain cancer-causing agent study shows? ›

Group Finds 70% of Dry Shampoos Tested Had Cancer-Causing Chemical
  • An independent laboratory showed high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in 70% of dry shampoo samples tested.
  • The amount of benzene in each shampoo varied across brands and different batches of products in the same brand.
Nov 8, 2022

Which dry shampoo brands get recalled? ›

Nexxus Inergy Foam Shampoo. Suave Dry Shampoo Hair Refresher. Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo Refresh and Revive. Tresemmé Dry Shampoo Volumizing.

Which Batiste dry shampoo is recalled? ›

The recall included 19 different brands of dry shampoo, including many popular products such as Dove Dry Shampoo Volume and Fullness, Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh Coconut, Nexxus Dry Shampoo Refreshing Mist, Suave Dry Shampoo Hair Refresher, Tresemme Dry Shampoo Volumizing, Bed Head Oh Bee Hive Dry Shampoo and many others.

What ingredients in dry shampoo are bad for your hair? ›

High levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, have been detected in more brands and batches of dry shampoo products, according to a new report from Valisure, an independent laboratory.

Is dry shampoo safe cancer? ›

Valisure just finished a study on popular dry shampoo brands and found 70% of dry shampoo samples tested had benzene in them. Frequently inhaling benzene at levels of 0.4 parts per billion over time could cause cancer per 100,000 people, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

What shampoo does not have cancer-causing ingredients? ›

List of Safe Shampoo and Conditioner Brands
  • Odele.
  • Ursa Major.
  • 100% Pure.
  • SheaMoisture.
  • Hello Bello.
  • Clean Clean.
  • Kelsen.
  • Yodi.

Should I stop using dry shampoo? ›

Bottom line: While dry shampoo is helpful and safe to use, it shouldn't become part of your daily hair-care routine or replace your actual shampoo. "You must wash your hair with water and a hydrating shampoo and conditioner at least once to twice weekly to maintain normal scalp health," says Gaunitz.

What can I use instead of dry shampoo? ›

Here are five common household substances that you can use instead.
  • Baby Powder. Baby powder's well-known powers of absorption have made it a popular option for DIY dry shampoo. ...
  • Cornstarch. ...
  • Makeup Setting Powder. ...
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. ...
  • Hand Sanitizer.
May 10, 2021

Which dry shampoos do not have benzene? ›

The 7 Best Benzene-Free Dry Shampoos & Alternatives That Will Have Your Hair Looking & Feeling Fresh
  • Hair Co-Wash. ...
  • Eva NYC Freshen Up Invisible Dry Shampoo. ...
  • GRO Dry Shampoo. ...
  • Floof Dry Shampoo. ...
  • ACURE Dry Shampoo - All Hair Types. ...
  • Plant Based Dry Shampoo. ...
  • Prêt-à-Powder Dry Shampoo Powder.
Nov 14, 2022

Is Dove Dry Shampoo safe? ›

Last year was a tough one for dry shampoo lovers. We learned that an independent lab found top brands were contaminated with benzene, a potent carcinogen. Some brands like Pantene and Dove have already been recalled because of benzene.

Do all dry shampoos have benzene? ›

Does Dry Shampoo Contain Benzene? Yes, a 2022 study conducted by Valisure found that 70 percent of those dry shampoos that were tested by the company contained benzene. The study analyzed 148 unique batches of dry shampoo from 34 different brands, which is a significant portion of the market.

Does TRESemmé dry shampoo have benzene? ›

The report comes after certain aerosol dry shampoos, including some Dove, Nexxus, Suave, Tigi and Tresemme products, were voluntarily recalled last month due to the potential presence of benzene.

Does dry shampoo have side effects? ›

Dry shampoo may also leave residue on your scalp. Without regular shampooing with water, that residue will build up. If you don't clean your scalp and use only dry shampoo, you can get rashes and inflammation there. You can also get dandruff if you use dry shampoo too often without properly washing your scalp.

How do I know if my dry shampoo has benzene? ›

Here are some tips:
  1. Check the ingredients list. On a bottle of Not Your Mother's Beach Babe, the brand Valisure found the highest levels of benzene in, the first two ingredients are isobutane and propane. ...
  2. Spot propellants. ...
  3. When in doubt, ditch the aerosols.
Nov 1, 2022

What chemical is dry shampoo? ›

The propellant used in dry shampoo usually consists of butane, isobutane, and propane, which makes up 70–90% of the total composition. Dry shampoos often contain anionic surfactants that do not dissolve in water.

Is powder dry shampoo better than spray? ›

Generally, dry shampoo sprays don't last as long as their powder cousins. Another downside is the list of ingredients we mentioned above, which does make some people cautious of the spray option.

Is all dry shampoo color safe? ›

Here's the first thing to know: “People with color-treated hair should always be cautious of drying out their hair. A dry shampoo with a low alcohol content is always safest,” Scarlett says.

What is the number one bad ingredient in shampoo? ›

Out of all the shampoo ingredients that are harmful, formaldehyde may be the scariest. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and has been proven to be absorbed through the skin in animal testing. Manufacturers often add it directly as a preservative.

What shampoo do cancer patients use? ›

Use baby shampoo or other mild shampoo (such as Aveeno® or Vanicream™). You should also use a cream rinse or hair conditioner. Use shampoos and conditioners that have sunscreen to prevent sun damage to your scalp. Always rinse your hair well and pat it dry with a soft towel.

Is Suave shampoo safe? ›

All Suave formulas are safe to use and meet the highest global standards in safety and quality.

How many days in a row can you use dry shampoo? ›

How often should you use dry shampoo? To keep dry shampoo from damaging your hair and scalp, doctors recommend you use it no more than 2 days in a row.

Can dry shampoo cause hair thinning? ›

As dry shampoo builds up on the scalp it can prevent nutrients from being able to reach the hair follicle. Reavey says overusing the product can result in inflammation of the scalp and blockage of the follicles. "Over time, this can weaken the follicle, causing increased shedding and hair thinning," she says.

How often should you wash out dry shampoo? ›

Gohara and Jones both recommend using dry shampoo no more than two days in a row. "My general rule of thumb is two times a week max for any leave-in product that doesn't involve washing the hair, unless it's a hydrating oil," Gohara says.

What is a natural substitute for dry shampoo? ›

“In a bowl, combine equal parts baking soda and cornstarch with a few drops of essential oil (lavender, tea tree, peppermint, etc.),” he suggests, recommending tablespoon measurements. Once mixed, he says to sprinkle the concoction lightly onto the scalp.

How do you keep your hair greasy without dry shampoo? ›

2. Baby powder. If you have run out of your favourite dry shampoo, here's another product that is just as effective to help get rid of all the excess grease. Baby powder is the multipurpose beauty product that has been handling greasy scalp problems for centuries.

What is a natural dry shampoo? ›

Natural dry shampoo can be made with clay, starch, powders, or colloidal oatmeal. Arrowroot starch works well to absorb oil and disappear into your roots. Some people also use baking soda, although the texture can be grainy and easy to see.

Does suave dry shampoo have benzene? ›

Was there a dry shampoo recall? In October 2022, Unilever recalled certain dry shampoos, including products branded as Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI, and TRESemme, due to the presence of benzene.

Does Batiste dry shampoo have benzene? ›

Church & Dwight Co. has been hit with a proposed class action after some of its Batiste-brand dry shampoos were reportedly found to be contaminated with “dangerously high” levels of benzene, a carcinogen that has been linked to leukemia and other cancers.

Does Pantene have benzene? ›

"While benzene is not an ingredient in any of our products, our review showed that unexpected levels of benzene came from the propellant that sprays the product out of the can," Procter & Gamble said, adding it initiated a review after other companies issued similar recalls.

What happened to Dove Dry Shampoo? ›

Unilever recalled popular brands of aerosol dry shampoo, including Dove, after discovering they were contaminated with the chemical benzene that can cause cancer.

What is the news on Dove dry shampoo? ›

According to US FDA, the Dove dry shampoos - particularly manufactured before October 2021 - contain higher levels of benzene that may cause “leukemia and blood cancer of the bone marrow and blood disorders which can be life threatening”.

How worried should I be about dry shampoo recall? ›

Although benzene is a known carcinogen that has been linked to leukemia in high amounts, if you've used any of the recalled products, you'll probably be okay—the amount you may have been exposed to is likely much lower than the levels needed to cause harm.

Does Dove dry shampoo have benzene? ›

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a nationwide dry shampoo recall due to “elevated levels of benzene” in dozens of aerosol products. Recalled items included Dove, Nexxus, Suave, Rockaholic, Bed Head, and Tresemmé dry shampoo canisters produced before October 2021.

Is dry shampoo still recalled? ›

Currently, the only products being recalled are from Unilever. This includes Dove, Suave, Nexxus, Tresemme, Bed Head and Rockaholic dry shampoo. Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

What does benzene do to your body? ›

Benzene works by causing cells not to work correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.

Does Dove soap contain benzene? ›

Benzene is a known contaminant of petroleum products.

New Delhi: Unilever has recalled popular brands of aerosol dry shampoo, including Dove, after discovering they were contaminated with a chemical called benzene that can cause cancer.

Which Dove shampoo has benzene? ›

The company then recalled its Pantene and Herbal Essences dry shampoos in December, citing benzene contamination.

What dry shampoo has benzene list? ›

Due to the presence of benzene being found in dry shampoo made by Dove, Suave, Nexxus, TRESemme, and TIGI (Bedhead and Rockaholic), a voluntary recall has been made for the following products: Dove Dry Shampoo Volume and Fullness. Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh Coconut. Dove Dry Shampoo Fresh and Floral.

Why does my hair look better with dry shampoo? ›

It's pretty simple, actually. “The alcohol or starch in the product soaks up the excess oil and grease in your hair, giving it a cleaner, fresher appearance,” Dr. Bergfeld explains. At first, dry shampoo makes your hair look and feel fresher and less greasy.

What happens if you use dry shampoo everyday? ›

Don't use it every day.

This weakens hair's strength, potentially leading to hair loss and skin issues like infections, dermatitis, and acne. Instead, give your scalp a chance to breathe between washes: Our pros recommend only using dry shampoo one to two times a week.

How can I keep my hair clean without washing it everyday? ›

Use dry shampoo and use it right

On those unwashed hair days, dry shampoo is definitely your best friend since it's one of the main ways to prolong a regular shampoo. Nothing does the trick of making your hair look clean even when it's not washed.

How often should you wash your hair? ›

When to wash. Rossi generally tells his patients they should wash their hair once or twice per week. But if you've had chemical treatments that can make your hair drier — such as bleach, perms or relaxers — you might want to wash it less than once weekly to avoid breaking or brittle hair or split ends, he said.

What dry shampoo is FDA recalling? ›

The FDA issued the voluntary recall on "dry shampoo aerosol products produced prior to October 2021 from Dove, Nexxus, Suave, TIGI (Rockaholic and Bed Head), and TRESemmé due to potentially elevated levels of benzene." You can find the full list of recalled products with product codes here.

Did Batiste dry shampoo get recalled? ›

Amadril and Skurauskis complaint seeks dry shampoo settlement benefits for all individuals who purchased the recalled Batiste dry shampoo products, and were unknowingly exposed to benzene.

Does Dove Dry spray have benzene? ›

Unilever issued a recall for dry shampoo spray products last week, including brand names such as Suave, Dove and Nexxus, due to a risk the aerosol sprays may contain high levels of benzene; a known carcinogen.

Are the chemicals in dry shampoo bad for you? ›

Some dry shampoo products might contain the chemical benzene, most likely as a contaminant. Although benzene exposure is associated with dangerous health effects, there is no evidence that occasional dry shampoo use is harmful to humans.

What dry shampoo contains benzene? ›

The highest benzene levels among the dry shampoos were found in a popular brand called Not Your Mother's, which touts its “clean, quality ingredients.” Other brands found to have elevated benzene included Batiste, Sun Bum, and John Paul Mitchell Systems.

How damaging is dry shampoo? ›

As dry shampoo builds up on the scalp it can prevent nutrients from being able to reach the hair follicle. Reavey says overusing the product can result in inflammation of the scalp and blockage of the follicles. "Over time, this can weaken the follicle, causing increased shedding and hair thinning," she says.

What is the best chemical free shampoo? ›

The Best Non-Toxic and Natural Shampoos and Conditioners
  • True Botanicals (best of the best winner)
  • Innersense Beauty.
  • BeautyCounter (second best winner)
  • Acure Organics.
  • Rahua.
  • Josh Rosebrook.
  • Dessert Essence (best budget-friendly winner)
  • Evolvh (color treated or curly hair)
Nov 5, 2021

What are the worst chemicals in hair products? ›

Top 7 Harmful Toxic Hair Care Ingredients
  • Parabens (propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl-) ...
  • Synthetic colors. ...
  • Phthalates. ...
  • Propylene glycol. ...
  • Ethanolamines (diethanolamine [DEA], monoethanolamine [MEA], and triethanolamine [TEA]) ...
  • Mineral oil and petroleum (also called petrolatum, petroleum jelly, and paraffin oil)

Does Dove dry shampoo contain benzene? ›

The report comes after certain aerosol dry shampoos, including some Dove, Nexxus, Suave, Tigi and Tresemme products, were voluntarily recalled last month due to the potential presence of benzene.


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