We first learned about benzene in early 2021 when its presence in a long list of sunscreens shook the beauty industry (and pretty much all sunscreen users across the country), and recalls ensued. And unfortunately the scare didn’t stop at sunscreen. In October 2022, more than 1.5 million dry shampoo products were recalled due to traces of the chemical, which can pose some threatening risks.
So what is benzene exactly? “Benzene is a volatile chemical used in the production of a wide range of industrial products, including chemicals, dyes, detergents, and some plastics,” explains Ron McLaughlin, senior vice president of product development for Living Proof. “Benzene is formed from both natural processes, such as volcanoes, and from human activities, such as tobacco smoke, emissions from automobiles, and burning coal and oil. Unintentionally, benzene can also show up as a by-product, or impurity in what is known as ‘trace amounts in certain raw materials.”
McLaughlin continues, explaining that the majority of aerosol dry shampoos on the market utilize hydrocarbon propellent (gas) and ethanol in their products at various levels to deliver the product onto hair. “Most hydrocarbon aerosol propellant blends are made up of propane, n-butane and iso-butane, and have the potential of having benzene as an impurity due to their source materials.”
Without strict quality control measures in place, McLaughlin says both ingredients are possible pathways for low levels of benzene to make it into the final dry shampoo products. “It’s important to note that just because you see these ingredients like propane and isobutane listed on packaging does not mean that benzene has made its way into the formula. This is where strict quality controls and testing come into play. Not every brand does this thorough level of due diligence.”
At the end of the day, no one should have to worry about breathing in harmful chemicals while trying to hide greasy roots, so for now, we’re sticking to the formulas that have been tested and proven safe, like these 20 dry shampoos.
A NewBeauty Award winner that’s beloved for its oil-absorbing, talc-free formula and signature scent, we’re thankful this dry shampoo is part of this group.
Here’s a statement from the brand: “amika’s first priority is always the safety of our customers and the integrity of our products. Benzene is a chemical often found in aerosols that expel propellant and is known to cause harmful health effects when exposed to high amounts. Earlier this year, we tested all in-market aerosols for benzene content, all of which came back with no detectable benzene—down to 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Our propellant suppliers test our materials before using them in our formulas to ensure the benzene levels are below the tolerance level as set by the FDA for pharmaceuticals and EU regulations. All our results showed we remain far below the tolerance level, and the recent spot testing seen in the press confirms this. We remain committed to continuously monitoring our products to ensure that they remain safe.”
One of the best-selling dry shampoos on the market, this talc-free formula makes second- and third-day hair look and feel clean rather than just masking a dirty situation. It also has that classic citrusy Living Proof scent many of us love, and it doesn’t weigh down fine strands.
“Living Proof follows stringent safety protocols, and we have been working closely with the FDA to ensure we follow their guidance on testing and tolerance levels,” says McLaughlin. “Our Research & Development and Compliance Teams take it a step further to work with raw material suppliers to establish thorough safety testing, parameters and specifications on incoming lots of raw material to test for benzene before going into production.
When each individual lot of products is delivered, they each come along with their own Certificate of Analysis (COA), a standard document that suppliers and manufacturers produce to verify it conforms to our demanding and exacting safety standards. In our case, the COA informs that all safety protocols and tests results around our dry shampoos are in place. We also brought in an independent, third-party safety expert to conduct an assessment of our dry shampoos, and the assessment has concluded that these products are safe to use and do not pose a health risk.”
This was one of the first shampoos I tried many, many years ago that my hair just fell in love with. It does leave a little bit of a light residue in my hair, but that’s OK with me because I’m blonde, and I actually think it helps hide my dirty roots even more. In regards to benzene testing, though we only have one Batiste Dry Shampoo pictured here, the statement below from the brand’s parent company, Church & Dwight, applies to all of Batiste’s aerosol dry shampoo products (there are more than 20!).
“Consumer safety is of the utmost importance,” says a Church & Dwight spokesperson. “When propellants had been reported to be the source of benzene in competitors’ recalled products, we contacted our propellant suppliers and confirmed with those suppliers that the propellants used in our Batiste products do not contain benzene.”
Another signature scent we’ve loved for years is Oribe’s Côte d’Azur, which lingers in your hair all day with a few spritzes of this blowout-extending dry shampoo.
A statement from the brand reads: “In response to the recent aerosol recall due to elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogenic substance, Oribe Hair Care has conducted an investigation to determine whether our aerosol products—including dry shampoo—are contaminated with benzene. Our products are not formulated to contain benzene, and after reviewing the data, our technical team has concluded that our aerosol products are unlikely to be contaminated by the said substance. Oribe Hair Care is committed to providing safe cosmetic products to our customers and we will continue to monitor the quality and safety of our aerosol products.”
Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo ($26)
If you’ve ever had a blowout at a drybar and didn’t snag a bottle of this dry shampoo before heading home, it’s not too late—just click to add to cart. Micro-fine rice powder absorbs oil and also adds volume to flat roots, and the vanilla-y scent is a crowd-favorite.
“At Drybar, our philosophy is simple: Focus on one thing and be the best at it. In doing this, we believe our products can be formulated without parabens, sulfates or phthalates, and be cruelty-free with no animal testing. This includes formulating our Detox Dry Shampoo to be free of benzene and other potentially toxic chemicals,” says Anna Kimble, hairstylist and senior director of education for Drybar. “And we don’t just stop there. You will also find many of our products are also formulated without gluten, keratin, honey, nuts, or nut oils.”
Olaplex used ultra-fine micro starch sourced from brown rice in this formula to sop up oil without creating buildup—it’s so light, it feels like nothing in the hair. It’s also infused with the brand’s famous Bond Building Technology to add softness and strengthen damaged areas.
The brand has provided the following statement about benzene: “We understand the public concern with aerosol products potentially containing benzene. Like all OLAPLEX products, No.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo was designed with the health and safety of our customers in mind. Third-party lab testing has confirmed that it does not contain any traces of benzene down to 0.1 parts per million.”
There are so many options to consider from the Not Your Mother’s Dry Shampoo collection, whether you want something that works overnight, something that smells sweet or something that also adds texture for that beachy effect. The statement below from DeMert Brands, the parent company of Not Your Mother’s Hair Care, applies to the full line of the brand’s aerosol dry shampoos.
“The safety of our consumers is our highest priority,” says a spokesperson from DeMert Brands. “We are concerned about a recently published report linked to the dry shampoo category, raising questions about levels of benzene detected in propellent used in aerosol products manufactured on or before Fall 2021.
This report is inconsistent with the data provided by our suppliers and the rigorous ongoing testing to ensure the safety and integrity of our products. These tests show no traceable amounts of benzene. We are committed to continuous evaluation to ensure the utmost safety and quality of all our products.”
Verb Dry Shampoo ($20)
This dry shampoo comes in two versions to suit both lighter and darker hair colors, and as of this month, the packaging has been updated and now comes in a bigger size (5 ounces instead of 4.5).
The brand has provided the following statement surrounding benzene: “Verb uses the finest raw materials to provide our customers with high-quality products. We are aware of the questions that have arisen with respect to the use of the benzene in dry shampoo. All Verb products, including our dry shampoos, do not use or have added benzene, and any presence of this chemical is only as a by-product and well below the FDA safety standards.
Our raw materials undergo rigorous testing to ensure they meet our safety standards and we can confidently say our dry shampoos are safe to use. We aim to be transparent about our products and the ingredients we use.”
Part of the brand’s big Clean Stylers launch this summer, this vegan, talc-free dry shampoo is incredibly sheer (great for darker hair) and doesn’t leave buildup in the hair. Instead, it actually helps hydrate the hair and fight frizz with vitamin E and glycerin, and the citrusy-woodsy scent is nice, too.
“At Fekkai, we pride ourselves on creating high-performance, clean haircare that is safe for people and the planet. Our clean, vegan, sustainable formulas are gluten-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, phalate-free and also benzene-free,” says founder Frédéric Fekkai. “Our talc-free, Invisible Sheer Dry Shampoo is formulated with kaolin clay to absorb oil along with edelweiss and apple extracts to nourish and protect the hair. Even better, it’s powered by Solstice by Honeywell, the first earth-friendly, non ozone-depleting aerosol propellant, so you can spray responsibly without any compromise on performance. I remain committed to our conscious effort to create salon grade products that do not harm humans, animals or the planet.“
“When it became known that propellants were a source of benzene in some hair products, we contacted our propellant suppliers and confirmed to those suppliers that the propellants used in our Orlando Pita Play Dry Shampoo were benzene-free,” says Irena Lebedev, director QA & Regulatory at HatchCollective, Orlando Pita’s parent company.
“We actively test our products because continuous, rigorous testing of every batch of products is key to ensuring the safety and integrity of our products. These tests found no traces of benzene in our Orlando Pita Play Dry Shampoo.”
Housed inside 100-percent recyclable aluminum, this vegan formula freshens up greasy strands (it’s great after a gym sesh), smells like a fruity perfume, and doesn’t leave behind a white residue.
“Earlier this year, we tested all of our in-market aerosols for benzene content, and all came back with no detectable benzene (down to 0.1 parts per million),” says Jane Moran, brand president. “We test our materials before using them in our beloved formulas to ensure the benzene levels are below 2 ppm—the tolerance level as set by the FDA for pharmaceuticals—and we are down to 0.1 parts per million (ppm). All the results showed our products remained far below the tolerance level, and we remain committed to continuously monitoring them to ensure they remain safe.”