What Should You Know About the Aveeno and Neutrogena Sunscreen Recall?

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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. This week (July 16, 2021), Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) voluntarily recalled all lots of five NEUTROGENA® and AVEENO® 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.

Product images and lot information is available on Neutrogena and Aveeno websites.

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? No, 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% globally by 2050. That said, regular daily use of an SPF 15 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.

How to Choose a Clean and Reef Friendly Sunscreen

We consulted with naturopathic doctor, Jessica Tran, ND, FAAEM, MBA to find out how to purchase and safely use sunscreen. Dr. Tran serves on the Editorial Board for the Institute for Natural Medicine and she is the first naturopathic doctor to serve as president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM). She recommends 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 (see the full report here).” The guide also recommends reef-safe sunscreens that do not damage ocean coral.

sunscreen recall

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 (see the EWG ingredients list here). Dr. Tran says zinc oxide is a commonly found ingredient that is generally recognized as safe and is effective at blocking damaging UV rays.

In general, she says choose a sunscreen by activity. “For instance, if you are going to the beach or the pool, look for want water-resistant sunscreen,” Dr. Tran says. “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.”

What Can You Do about the Sunscreen Recall?

Consumers should stop using these specific products and appropriately discard them. Consumers may contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center 24/7 with questions or to request a refund by calling 1.800.458.1673. Consumers should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have any questions, concerns or have experienced any problems related to using these aerosol sunscreen products. Johnson & Johnson is notifying its distributors and retailers by letter and is arranging for returns of all recalled products.

If you experience an adverse reactions from using one of these products, or any other, please report it to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail or by fax.

This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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About The Author(s)

INM's team is made up of naturopathic doctors and health journalists.

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