Dry shampoo is something most of us have used at least once in our lives. Either when running late to work, or when your hair just needs a quick refreshment. We don’t think twice before applying a generous amount of it to our roots. It has been around for decades, so it can’t be bad, right? In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just recently Unilever announced a voluntary recall of 19 of their popular aerosol dry shampoos. The reason behind this recall was that they contained a concerning amount of a known carcinogenic, chemical substance called benzene.
What is benzene?
As I’ve already mentioned, benzene is a classified human carcinogen. Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) considers any product containing 5% or more benzene to be unsafe. Exposure to it can cause blood cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Exposure to benzene
Even if you never used dry shampoo in your life, you’ve still been exposed to benzene. It can also be found in things such as tobacco smoke, detergents, glue, and gasoline. However, things get a lot more serious when you apply concerning amounts of benzene directly to your scalp, and spray it so close to your face. You won’t only inhale benzene after spraying it. There is also a chance that your skin will absorb it after you apply it to the roots of your hair. Things get even worse if dry shampoo is part of your daily hair routine, and not just something you use on rare occasions.
Why is benzene in dry shampoo?
Let’s clear things up — there’s no reason why benzene should be in your dry shampoo. It serves no benefit. But the tricky thing is that it will, from time to time, find its way into the can. Benzene often adheres to butane and propane, which are chemical substances commonly used in aerosols such as dry shampoos. That’s what makes it so difficult to completely separate benzene from butane and propane during the refining process. As a result of that, benzene often ends up as an unwanted residual component in aerosol can products, such as dry shampoo. Why this is inevitable, it won’t cause too much harm if the concentration is kept at a low level.
Should you be concerned?
The complete list of the affected products can be found here. You’re probably freaking out if you found out that either one of the recalled products is your dry shampoo of choice. But the good news is that there most likely isn’t anything to worry about. Unilever announced that they were pulling the products “out of an abundance of caution”, and not because they have received any adverse reports. In addition to that, only products that were produced before October 2021 are related to this issue. All retailers were informed to pull the affected products from their shelves, so you can’t buy any of them in stores as well. If you still own
Opt for natural alternatives
If you want to avoid similar scenarios in the future, then you can opt for healthier, natural alternatives. This won’t only minimize the risk of your exposure to benzene, but it can also save you a lot of money in the long run.
The first and best alternative to dry shampoo is corn starch. Yup, you’ve read that right. Most of us probably already have some cornstarch in the kitchen. This will work especially well for people with light-colored hair. But you can use corn starch even if you have dark brown or black hair. Just make sure to stir some cocoa powder, coffee, or even cinnamon in the cornstarch before applying it. You can put the mixture in a salt or pepper shaker and tap it over your head to make the application easier.
Another great option is dry clay. Dry clay has amazing absorbent properties due to its high concentration in silica, which works like a magnet for oil. Dry clay is also easy to find, and you can even pick from a wide range. Clay is also rich in different nutrients, so the health of your scalp will benefit from it as well. Just sprinkle a little bit of clay on your hair brush, and go over your hair with it. Your hair will look noticeably cleaner in just a couple of seconds, and it will also have a subtle, but nice scent.
While several government agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate benzene levels and exposures, errors can still occur. The recent issue with Unilever is the best proof of this. So are you better off completely giving up on conventional dry shampoo?
This is pretty tricky to answer. If dry shampoo is something you use on a day-to-day basis, it definitely would be a more responsible solution to opt for some of the natural alternatives that we have mentioned. However, if you only use dry shampoo on rare occasions, then you don’t have much to worry about. Benzene is a dangerous chemical substance, that’s not even up for debate. But it’s only dangerous in certain concentrations and after a certain time of exposure.