Skip to content
22 November 2021

Neutrogena sunscreen pulled from shelves after benzene detected 

Company’s website advises people to stop using Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF50+, but there won't be a public recall. 

A Neutrogena sunscreen has been taken off shop shelves after testing found low levels of a known carcinogen – benzene – in some samples. 

But while there have been public recalls in other countries there won’t be one here – leaving most people who have bought it unaware of the issue. 

A Neutrogena sunscreen is being recalled after traces of benzene were found.
A Neutrogena sunscreen is being recalled after traces of benzene were found.

Brand owner Johnson & Johnson pulled Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF50+ aerosol sunscreen (140g) from sale and put a notice on the Neutrogena website telling people to stop using the product and throw it out.  

In May, the sunscreen was found to contain benzene in testing carried out by US lab Valisure. It tested 294 sunscreens from 69 companies and found 27 percent had benzene contamination.  

Johnson & Johnson then did internal testing of its sunscreens and found low levels of benzene in some samples. It recalled the sunscreen in the US, along with others sold there –under its Neutrogena and Aveeno brands – that also tested positive.

The sunscreen was also recalled in Australia because the levels of benzene were above the threshold set by their Therapeutic Goods Administration.  

While Johnson & Johnson has withdrawn the sunscreen here, it wasn’t required to issue a public recall. 

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which manages the product recall register, said the company had provided evidence that exposure to benzene at the levels detected “would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences … As the danger cannot be confirmed in this case, a voluntary product recall notice has not been published”. 

We think Johnson & Johnson should have issued a public recall for this sunscreen to help ensure customers were made aware of the problem and the advice to throw it out. 

Benzene is not an ingredient in sunscreens, but a contaminant by-product introduced during manufacturing. Benzene is banned in cosmetics in New Zealand under the Cosmetic Products Group Standard, except at trace levels that are “technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice”.  

Valisure said the fact its testing found most sunscreens did not contain benzene showed it was avoidable. 

A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson said the voluntary withdrawal of this aerosol sunscreen was made out of “an abundance of caution”. 

If you’ve bought this sunscreen, you can find a refund form on Neutrogena’s website.  

Member comments

Get access to comment