Is your hair worth your well-being?

Massive Dry Shampoo Recall | Carcinogenic Ingredient Benzene Found

You have most likely heard by now, earlier in October, the Wall Street Journal and many other news outlets, reported about the very big personal care brand Unilever, who has had to recall a number of their dry shampoo brands – including Dove, Nexxus, Suave, Rockaholic, Bed Head and TRESemmé. A total of 19 dry shampoo products have been recalled due to toxic benzene contamination. 

On October 7th, 2022, Health Canada issued this recall, “Based on exposure modelling and the cancer risk assessments published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (IRIS database), daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.”

And here’s why – because of potential cancer-causing ingredient - benzene.

What is benzene?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “Benzene is a widely used industrial chemical. Benzene is found in crude oil and is a major part of gasoline. It's used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.” 

And according to the American Cancer Society, benzene “Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and lab animals. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and other cancers of blood cells.”

The American CDC agrees: “The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. (Long-term exposure means exposure of a year or more.) Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.

Since the 1920s

In fact, the harms of benzene are not news, actually, we have been known for a long time, since the 1920s. Author James Huff, condensed history of benzene elucidates how industry discounted animal studies, despite ample evidence of carcinogenesis findings.  

And Peter Infante states that, “Petrochemical industry representatives often withhold information and misinterpret positive evidence of toxicity of benzene, even from their own research, also discouraging or delaying disclosure of findings of adverse effects to the public.”

What is a 'Dry Shampoo'? 

The products being recalled are referred to as ‘dry shampoos’. Some have asked, how does benzene end up in my dry shampoo? Well, apparently it’s always been there, just in what some consider, ‘safe’ concentration levels. This recall addresses a propellant issue in the spray cans and is blamed as the source of the benzene. Please check your hair care stock at home.

Try our all-natural aromatherapy alternative with essential oils

If you are in the know, and have used these before, you’re already aware that a dry shampoo absorbs the dirt, oil and grease of your scalp without washing it. Many people use it to freshen their hair after working out, a humid commute, or to extend the life of a blowout. It can also be useful for people with disabilities who have a hard time taking showers without assistance. The ones I am familiar with are made with a starch (rather than a base of alcohol, which is another type of dry shampoo) – this starch absorbs the oil and grease that has accumulated on your scalp since your last wash, making it look cleaner.

I personally do not wash my hair daily (to conserve water and for personal health reasons), so I appreciate a good dry shampoo! I started making my own dry shampoo when I discovered the key ingredients are not so secret or difficult to acquire. Here is a very simple recipe, from Wellness Mama, using all-natural ingredients. 

DIY dry shampoo essential oil recipe by Lisa J Byers, Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional in Guelph, Ontaroi

I highly recommend these essential oils because they work to stimulate your scalp, promote hair growth, while strengthening the hair shaft. Rosemary, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang and Cedarwood Atlas essential oils can also help manage an oily scalp and dandruff.

Good news! I have taken the guesswork out of creating a blend using these essential oils with my blend Restore. Simply add up to 5 drops to the above recipe and stir or shake well.

A your powdered dry shampoo to a bottle with an appropriate lip for shaking a small amount onto your hair part or add to a jar and use a blush brush to apply to your scalp.

Improve the effectiveness of your current styling products, shampoo and conditioner, by adding up to 3 drops of Restore to 30 ml. Shake well to combine.

It is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether their health & well-being is worth the cost of being exposed to carcinogenic ingredients in mass-produced consumer goods.  If you do try this recipe out, please let me know in the comments below.   Happy blending.

Lisa is a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional. They blend and live in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Leave a comment