Benzoic Acid & Vitamin C - will they make carcinogenic Benzene on my face?

Dear Beauty Brains,

I’m guilty of having access to enough information at my disposal to freak me out without any of the knowledge to draw any useful conclusions.

Specifically, I’m torn between continuing to buy the sketchy Thai Retin-A Cream .05%  that I buy on e-bay or getting the legit Airol Cream .05%  (the legit Retin-A equivalent in Italy) that I can pick-up at a local pharmacy.  

I’m not asking for medical advice, but some insight the ingredients that make-up 99.95% of the product.  Specifically how they might interact with other products I’m using in my routine.

I stumbled on an article about how Benzoic acid ( turns into carcinogenic Benzene in the presence of  Vitamin C.

“The benzene forms from decarboxylation of the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions (iron and copper) that act as catalysts, especially under heat and light.”

So.. should I be worried about pairing the Italian Retin-A Cream (Airol) with a vitamin C serum.  Would Airol + Vitamin C serum create a carcinogenic cocktail on my face?



The Italian Airol cream contains the following “inactive” ingredients:glicerolo stearato/Ceteareth 20, sorbitolo soluzione 70%, cera di esteri cetilici, peridrosqualene, butilidrossianisolo (E320), disodio edetato, magnesio solfato eptaidrato, acido benzoico (E210), acqua depurata.


The Vitamin C serum I’m using “ Fitocose - Fluido Anti-Age alla Vitamina C” contains these ingredients: Aqua - Aloe barbadensis gel*- Squalane - Glyceryl stearate citrate - Tocopheryl acetate - Phospholipids - Alcohol - Cetearyl alcohol - Glycerin - Sodium ascorbyl phosphate - Helianthus annuus seed oil*- Butyrospermum parkii butter*- Capryloyl glycine - Ceramide 3 - Daucus carota extract - Persea gratissima oil unsaponifiables - Ascorbyl palmitate - Oryzanol - Xanthan gum - Acacia senegal gum - Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate - Tocopherol - Citric acid - Sodium dehydroacetate - Rosmarinus officinalis extract - Brassica napus seed oil - Sodium phytate - Profumo**- Geraniol**- Linalool**- Citronellol**- Limonene*


  • I really doubt this is a problem for two reasons. 

    First, benzene is a much greater health concern if you're ingesting it which was the issue in the case of the benzene in soft drinks.  

    Second, the Italian product also contains EDTA (disodio edentate) which chelates metal ions and reduces the chances of benzene formation.  

    Still, if you're that concerned you could just use the other product. 

    I hope this helps!

  • I, lowly consumer, didn't know about chelating in creams.  Obviously this must have been a concern if the Italian Retin-A formulation (Airol) includes EDTA.  

    Thank for that bit of info.  It sounds like nothing is definitive no actual data on the amount of benzene that is "bad" for the skin and only a buffer that "reduces the chances" of benzene formation. 

    Thanks for all of the info so far.  For now I'm continuing with the Thai Retin-A.  It is doing everything it should and it's formulated in a way that gives me one less thing to worry about.

    Have a great holiday!


  • By the way, just because the Italian product uses EDTA doesn't necessarily mean that benzene formation is a concern. EDTA is most commonly used to boost the efficacy of preservative systems. 
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