We first learned about benzene early last year when its presence in a long list of sunscreens shook the beauty industry, and recalls ensued. But it didn’t stop at sunscreens. In October, more than 1.5 million dry shampoo products were recalled due to traces of benzene.
So what is this harmful chemical? “Benzene is a volatile chemical used in the production of a wide range of industrial products, including chemicals, dyes, detergents, and some plastics,” explains Ron McLaughlin, senior vice president of product development for Living Proof. “Benzene is formed from both natural processes, such as volcanoes, and from human activities, such as tobacco smoke, emissions from automobiles, and burning coal and oil. Unintentionally, benzene can also show up as a byproduct, or impurity in what is known as ‘trace amounts in certain raw materials. The majority of aerosol dry shampoos on the market utilize hydrocarbon propellent (gas) and ethanol in their products at various levels to deliver the product onto hair. Most hydrocarbon aerosol propellant blends are made up of propane, n-butane and iso-butane, and have the potential of having benzene as an impurity due to their source materials.”
Without strict quality control measures in place, McLaughlin says both ingredients are possible pathways for low levels of benzene to make it into the final dry shampoo products. “It’s important to note that just because you see these ingredients like propane and isobutane listed on packaging does not mean that benzene has made its way into the formula. This is where strict quality controls and testing come into play. Not every brand does this thorough level of due diligence.”
At the end of the day, no one should have to worry about breathing in harmful chemicals while trying to hide greasy roots, so for now, we’re sticking to the formulas that have been tested and proven safe, like these six benzene-free dry shampoos.
1 / 6
amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo ($26)
A NewBeauty Award winner that’s beloved for its oil-absorbing, talc-free formula and signature scent, we’re thankful this dry shampoo is part of this group.
Here’s a statement from the brand: “amika’s first priority is always the safety of our customers and the integrity of our products. Benzene is a chemical often found in aerosols that expel propellant and is known to cause harmful health effects when exposed to high amounts. Earlier this year, we tested all in-market aerosols for benzene content, all of which came back with no detectable benzene—down to 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Our propellant suppliers test our materials before using them in our formulas to ensure the benzene levels are below the tolerance level as set by the FDA for pharmaceuticals and EU regulations. All our results showed we remain far below the tolerance level, and the recent spot testing seen in the press confirms this. We remain committed to continuously monitoring our products to ensure that they remain safe.”
2 / 6
Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo ($48)
Another signature scent we’ve loved for years is Oribe’s Côte d’Azur, which lingers in your hair all day with a few spritzes of this blowout-extending dry shampoo.
A statement from the brand reads: “In response to the recent aerosol recall due to elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogenic substance, Oribe Hair Care has conducted an investigation to determine whether our aerosol products—including dry shampoo—are contaminated with benzene. Our products are not formulated to contain benzene, and after reviewing the data, our technical team has concluded that our aerosol products are unlikely to be contaminated by the said substance. Oribe Hair Care is committed to providing safe cosmetic products to our customers and we will continue to monitor the quality and safety of our aerosol products.”
3 / 6
Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo ($30)
One of the best-selling dry shampoos on the market, this talc-free formula makes second- and third-day hair look and feel clean rather than just masking a dirty situation. It also has that classic citrusy Living Proof scent many of us love, and it doesn’t weigh down fine strands!
“Living Proof follows stringent safety protocols, and we have been working closely with the FDA to ensure we follow their guidance on testing and tolerance levels,” says McLaughlin. “Our Research & Development and Compliance Teams take it a step further to work with raw material suppliers to establish thorough safety testing, parameters and specifications on incoming lots of raw material to test for benzene before going into production.
When each individual lot of products is delivered, they each come along with their own Certificate of Analysis (COA), a standard document that suppliers and manufacturers produce to verify it conforms to our demanding and exacting safety standards. In our case, the COA informs that all safety protocols and tests results around our dry shampoos are in place. We also brought in an independent, third-party safety expert to conduct an assessment of our dry shampoos, and the assessment has concluded that these products are safe to use and do not pose a health risk.”
4 / 6
Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo ($26)
If you’ve ever had a blowout at a drybar and didn’t snag a bottle of this dry shampoo before heading home, it’s not too late—just click to add to cart. Micro-fine rice powder absorbs oil and also adds volume to flat roots, and the vanilla-y scent is a crowd-favorite.
“At Drybar, our philosophy is simple: Focus on one thing and be the best at it. In doing this, we believe our products can be formulated without parabens, sulfates or phthalates, and be cruelty-free with no animal testing. This includes formulating our Detox Dry Shampoo to be free of benzene and other potentially toxic chemicals,” says Anna Kimble, hairstylist and senior director of education for Drybar. “And we don’t just stop there. You will also find many of our products are also formulated without gluten, keratin, honey, nuts, or nut oils.”
5 / 6
FEKKAI Clean Stylers Sheer Dry Shampoo ($26)
Part of the brand’s big Clean Stylers launch this summer, this vegan, talc-free dry shampoo is incredibly sheer (great for darker hair) and doesn’t leave buildup in the hair. Instead, it actually helps hydrate the hair and fight frizz with vitamin E and glycerin, and the citrusy-woodsy scent is nice, too.
“At Fekkai, we pride ourselves on creating high-performance, clean haircare that is safe for people and the planet. Our clean, vegan, sustainable formulas are gluten-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, phalate-free and also benzene-free,” says founder Frédéric Fekkai. “Our talc-free, Invisible Sheer Dry Shampoo is formulated with kaolin clay to absorb oil along with edelweiss and apple extracts to nourish and protect the hair. Even better, it’s powered by Solstice by Honeywell, the first earth-friendly, non ozone-depleting aerosol propellant, so you can spray responsibly without any compromise on performance. I remain committed to our conscious effort to create salon grade products that do not harm humans, animals or the planet.“
6 / 6
Eva NYC Freshen Up Invisible Dry Shampoo ($13)
Housed inside 100-percent recyclable aluminum, this vegan formula freshens up greasy strands (it’s great after a gym sesh), smells like a fruity perfume, and doesn’t leave behind a white residue.
“Earlier this year, we tested all of our in-market aerosols for benzene content, and all came back with no detectable benzene (down to 0.1 parts per million),” says Jane Moran, brand president. “We test our materials before using them in our beloved formulas to ensure the benzene levels are below 2 ppm—the tolerance level as set by the FDA for pharmaceuticals—and we are down to 0.1 parts per million (ppm). All the results showed our products remained far below the tolerance level, and we remain committed to continuously monitoring them to ensure they remain safe.”
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