Dry Shampoo and Cancer Risk: What You Should Know

Written By: Lukas Harnisch-Weidauer
Medically Reviewed By: Timothy Richard Rebbeck, PhD

It was recently reported that a consumer goods company was required to recall over a dozen of their aerosol dry shampoos because they may contain elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogen at high levels of prolonged exposure. Other aerosol products, such as sunscreens and deodorants, have previously been recalled after benzene was found in them.

The company hasn’t learned of any adverse events relating to the recalled products after an evaluation and exposure to those products is not expected to cause health problems, according to The Washington Post. However, the company voluntarily recalled the products when the presence of benzene was found. The list of recalled dry shampoos can be found here.

What is benzene?

Benzene is a highly flammable, colorless chemical that is widely used in the United States. It is commonly found in gasoline, and cigarette smoke, but can also be used to make plastics, rubbers dyes, detergents, and pesticides.

Risks of benzene exposure

Being exposed to high levels of benzene over a long period may have harmful effects on the bone marrow, leading to a decrease in red blood cells and anemia. It has also been linked to an elevated risk of leukemia. Tobacco smoke is a major source of benzene exposure. People working in industries that produce or use benzene may also be exposed to high benzene levels. The exact duration or level of exposure required to cause health issues is not well understood.

Is dry shampoo cancerous?

The exact link between dry shampoo, benzene, and cancer risk has not been studied. Despite the lack of evidence, exposure to the likely low levels of benzene in these products is not expected to cause major health issues, and the recall was likely issued as a precaution. Consumers concerned over levels of benzene in dry shampoo can decide not to use those products or use them in a well-ventilated area.

In the most recent 2022 recall case, the consumer goods company noted that benzene came from the propellant in the cans of dry shampoo. A common propellant, butane, can contain benzene if the refinement process of it is sub-par. The presence of benzene is most likely the result of a contamination of these products, which are usually simple combinations of powder starches, silica, and fragrance.