CeraVe Lawsuit Says Popular Acne Wash Contains Toxic Carcinogen

CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser lawsuit. Product may contain benzene, a carcinogen.

L'Oreal Faces Legal Action Over Alleged Benzene Contamination in CeraVe Acne Products

CeraVe, a popular brand known for its face washes, finds itself in hot water after a poprosed class action lawsuit alleges its acne treatment line contains a hidden danger: Benzene, a known carcinogen. The lawsuit claims L'Oreal, the parent company of CeraVe, failed to disclose this potential risk to consumers.

Consumers left in the dark about potential benzene contamination

Alabama resident Ciara Noakes filed the lawsuit against L'Oreal, accusing the company of violating consumer protection laws and unjust enrichment. Noakes claims the presence of Benzene, or the risk of its formation through benzoyl peroxide (BPO) degradation, is not mentioned on CeraVe's product labels. 

She argues that this information is crucial since the scientific community is aware of BPO's potential to degrade into benzene. L'Oreal, according to the lawsuit, has a responsibility to disclose this potential risk to consumers who wouldn't be aware otherwise.

Noakes alleges she was misled into believing the product was safe for its intended use when she purchased a CeraVe acne face wash earlier this year. She claims she wouldn't have bought the product, or would have paid less, if she had known about the potential presence of Benzene. 

The lawsuit emphasizes that consumers purchased these BPO products "with the expectation that the products were safe," free from unlisted carcinogens.

Independent lab findings spark lawsuit

Noakes' discovery of potential benzene contamination stems from the work of Valisure, an independent laboratory specializing in consumer product safety analysis. In March, Valisure filed a citizen petition with the FDA detailing its findings of high Benzene levels in various BPO products, including those from CeraVe.

The petition urged the FDA to recall and halt sales of these products, arguing they violated consumer protection laws. Valisure's testing revealed that BPO in these products decomposed into concerning levels of Benzene under normal storage, handling, and use conditions. 

This meant the products weren't delivering on their promise of safe skincare; some contained up to 12 ppm of Benzene, exceeding the FDA's strict limit of 2 ppm for drug products. The lawsuit concludes by stating that Valisure's testing suggests "on-market BPO products appear to be fundamentally unstable and form unacceptably high levels of Benzene."

What is Benzene?

Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid with a sweet odor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's highly flammable and evaporates quickly into the air, though being heavier than air it can settle in low-lying areas. While it dissolves slightly in water, it tends to float on top. 

Benzene exposure can occur from both natural and human-made sources. The FDA acknowledges its presence in various industrial products like chemicals, dyes, detergents, and some plastics. It's also found in cigarette smoke, car emissions, and the burning of coal and oil.

The World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classify Benzene as a known human carcinogen (Group 1 compound), according to the lawsuit. The Department of Health and Human Services also recognizes benzene's cancer-causing properties. 

Potential health risks associated with Benzene exposure include acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The FDA, recognizing its hazardous nature, has banned the use of Benzene in any drug product component.

Benzene and its prevalence in beauty products

The dangers of Benzene are well-established, yet it continues to be an unwelcome guest in the cosmetics industry. Sunscreen products have also come under scrutiny for potential Benzene contamination. 

In 2021, Valisure detected Benzene in 78 batches of sunscreens and after sun products leading to recalls of popular brands like Banana Boat and Coppertone. The FDA is still investigating the presence of Benzene in sunscreens and has issued warnings and specific brand recalls for those found with concerning levels.

This isn't the first time the FDA has taken action against products containing Benzene. Antifungal foot spray (TING), Americaine topical anesthetic, hand sanitizer (Antica Farmacista), and Suave deodorants have all been pulled from shelves for similar reasons.

How to make informed choices about skincare products

The FDA continues to recommend sunscreen use for sun protection, but emphasizes the importance of reading product labels carefully. This advice extends to all beauty products. Be on the lookout for ingredients like

  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Benzyl acetate
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Benzophenone

Look for products certified by reputable third-party organizations like the Environmental Working Group, the National Eczema Association, or the Skin Cancer Foundation. These certifications often indicate that the product has been tested for safety and does not contain harmful substances like benzene.

If you have purchased CeraVe acne creams, you might be eligible to join Noakes' lawsuit, where she is seeking damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, interest, restitution, and more claiming violations of the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Breach of Implied Warranty, and Unjust Enrichment. She wants to represent consumers from across the country. 

The plaintiff and proposed class are represented by Mark S. Reich, Courtney E. Maccarone, and Melissa Meyer of Levi & Korsinsky, LLP. 

The CeraVe acne cream benzene class action lawsuit is Noakes v. L’Oreal USA Inc., Case No. 1:24-cv-02735-AT, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.