As of Dec. 17, Procter & Gamble — the parent company behind staple personal care product brands — announced it would be voluntarily recalling over 30 aerosol spray hair care products from Pantene, Herbal Essences, Waterless, and Aussie because they could possibly contain benzene, an ingredient that’s been linked to adverse health effects.
Included in the recall are dry shampoo and dry conditioner sprays (specific products are listed on Procter & Gamble’s website). While P&G has not received any reports of adverse reactions, the company is pulling the products from the shelves “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement.
So what exactly is benzene? According to Dr. Liia Ramachandra, M.D., Ph.D., a former Pharma executive and clean beauty expert, it’s a chemical that’s ubiquitous in the environment. “It can be present in the air, it’s present in our drinking water,” she tells Bustle. It shows up in these places because it’s a byproduct of manufacturing processes, she explains. The issue is that it’s classified as a carcinogen, which means exposure — whether by inhalation, topical application, or oral ingestion — can lead to cancer.
Typically, you won’t find high concentrations of benzene in your personal care products, says Ramachandra, which is when there could be health issues. “If the concentration becomes higher than the norm, it can cause issues such as infertility, cancer, and autoimmune conditions,” she explains. “But when there are appropriate regulations, the concentration will be below the limit.”
Benzene isn’t something you’ll find on an ingredients list, BTW. The P&G recall is based on a specific batch of products. “It’s most likely that contamination occurred during the manufacturing process,” says Ramachandra.
If you purchased one of these hair care products, P&G advises you to throw them away and check the brand’s website for info on receiving a full reimbursement.