“Going forward, companies need to be explicit about what is in their formulas and diligent about looking out for harmful chemicals making their way into products.”

Recalled Skincare

What Recalls Mean for the Future of Beauty and Skin Care

By Dr. Liia Ramachandra 

As of December 2021, Procter & Gamble (P&G), the company behind many favorite beauty, skincare, and personal care items announced voluntary recalls of thirty aerosol spray products. The announcement came with some disturbing news: the products had possible traces of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer. 

The items recalled include beauty products like dry shampoo and dry conditioner.  The recalls are happening under an abundance of caution, as daily exposure to benzene in the amounts found in the affected products is not known to cause any adverse effects.  To date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects from benzene in P&G products, but the unlikely occurrence that a consumer could be affected is enough for the company to take precautions. 

More to Come 

So what influence does this recall have on the beauty and skincare industry?  What needs to be stressed, and what is very often left out of recall reports, is that the benzene found in the P&G aerosol products was most likely not placed here on purpose. On the contrary, the benzene probably found its way to the products through contamination from solvents or machinery. 

The recalls of products that occurred in November and December of this year tells us that this may not be a one-off issue and that more product recalls may be coming.  The P&G recalls were not the first to hit the market.  In July of 2021, Johnson & Johnson issued recalls of aerosol products due to the benzene issue as well.  The industry and consumers can likely and unfortunately stay tuned for more recalls coming down the road. 

What’s a Consumer to Do?

One uphill battle following the well publicized recalls will be convincing consumers that products are safe.  Benzene is a very bad chemical that can be found almost anywhere.  It’s difficult to avoid the chemical altogether.  To address the presence of benzene in products, rigorous testing has been implemented by not only Procter and Gamble but also other companies.  The issue of consumer safety is not being overlooked but outright addressed in marketing campaigns to put consumers’ minds at ease. 

Because of the testing and voluntary nature of the recalls from P&G and other companies, consumers shouldn’t overreact but instead be proactive with their response.  Throwing away any of the items in their cabinets that show up on the recall lists is suggested.  

The Future of Beauty & Skin Care Products Post-Recall

As a healthcare and beauty professional, I understand the importance of knowing what’s in our products.  Benzene is used in so much of our manufacturing, it’s nearly impossible to avoid it altogether.  Consumer advocacy groups and watchdog groups are pressing companies to test for traces of cancer-causing chemicals before packaging items and placing them on the shelves.   P&G and other companies are also reaching out and offering reimbursement to consumers who purchased the recalled items.  Going forward, companies need to be explicit about what is in their products and diligent about looking out for harmful chemicals making their way into products.  When issues arise, companies need to continue to be forthcoming with information for consumers. 

Consumers can try to be discerning when purchasing products, seeking out items that are certified to be hypoallergenic and medically clean.  While there’s absolutely no way to 100% avoid benzene exposure, focusing on medically clean products can ensure you’re using the best possible products for your health and well-being.  Stories about cancerous chemicals and recalls can be alarming, but with diligent research and careful shopping, consumers need not be scared to buy beauty and skin products. 

“I wanted to meet the needs of people who are sensitive to gluten, allergens and other types of preservatives that are in everything we put on and in our bodies.”

Dr. Ramachandra explains why she created Dr. Liia®

They say ‘Necessity is the Mother of All Inventions.’  Dr. Liia® came out of my own needs and experiences.  At the prime of my professional career as an executive at one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world, I was dealing with health issues.  I had experienced Psoriasis my entire life, I had just delivered my third child, my blood pressure was sky-rocketing and I had been diagnosed with Preeclampsia.  I was warned that if I were to bear any more children my condition could worsen.  

I doubled down on my professional career while my health deteriorated even further.  I was being put on more and more medications for psoriasis and hypertension.  Despite my career further flourishing, I wasn’t happy.  The more I dove into work, the more detached I became towards my family and myself.  I needed a change but I had little inspiration to do so. 

One day, as I stood in front of the mirror and looked at the bright red spots on my skin, knowing that my blood pressure was also not under control, I broke down.  I confessed to my husband that I needed to find something that would bring me back to my family and allow me to follow my passion in healthcare.  

My husband and I both work in the healthcare field.  He has been a senior executive in large healthcare companies since 2005.  He is a physician, a scientist, and a business leader (he has an M.D., Ph.D. in Cancer Immunology, and an MBA).  I have a Doctorate in Pharmacy and I am a scientist (a PharmD and a Ph.D. in Chemistry).  Although many people had told us that we would make a wonderful team in solving difficult medical problems and such, we had never actually worked together.  

Due to my health issues I decided to start my own business to develop Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free, Vegan and Clean Skincare that would be the best on the market.  I didn’t know how to begin or whether I could even be an entrepreneur.  I had to start somewhere, so I started with myself.

I needed to decipher what was wrong with me.  After my third delivery, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety.  It took a while to find the proper medication to treat those issues. Once my mental health was steady, I decided to focus on my physical health.  I was athletic but I needed to focus on my diet.  I decided to cut out carbs completely and something strange happened once I did so.  My skin lesions/psoriasis symptoms started to reduce and my blood pressure lowered.  I noted that a diet with less bread, pasta, and pizza would give me these results, so I started researching this phenomenon and came upon several articles about the effect of gluten on inflammation in the body. 

I decided to cut out the most obvious sources of gluten in my diet.  Once I did this, I didn’t need to go to UV light therapy anymore for my psoriasis.  My blood pressure was still high, but getting better.  My discovery was that gluten was to blame for the symptoms of my ailment.  I researched various skin care and household products and found that gluten is everywhere.  As I eliminated gluten in my life, slowly but surely, the lesions on my skin started disappearing.

Using the skills I have learned as a scientist along with my husband’s expertise in providing solutions to problems, I knew I could help an innumerable amount of people. Thus, Dr. Liia® was created.  We focused on curating products for those with gluten sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune conditions and sensitive skin.  Our products are made with natural ingredients, no parabens or phthalates.  We developed Dr. Liia® ‘s serums and creams that help improve skin health and complexion.  

It is hard to eliminate gluten completely from your life but you can do it, if you dedicate it.  The key is to know what you are buying, check ingredients, look at reviews and be aware of what is actually inside of the product.  It may claim to be natural and kind, but that does not mean it is free from chemicals.  Never buy without checking ingredients, it is crucial for your own health that you take responsibility for the products you use to care for your own skin.

About Dr. Liia

Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D. is a serial entrepreneur, a healthcare executive and the founder and CEO of EpiLynx, Gluten-Free Skin Care and Cosmetics Brand, with a Master’s degree in Pharmacy and Doctorate in Pharmacy from Groningen University, Netherlands and Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands.  Having vast experience in Global Medical Affairs, Global Ethics and Compliance, Clinical Research and Global Publications, Dr. Ramachandra has worked with multiple companies like Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc, Pfizer, Astellas.  

Dr. Ramachandra fills many roles in her day to day life, from being a CEO and a mother to being a doctor and a patient.  It was her role as a patient that instilled her a desire to create the skincare and cosmetics brand Dr. Liia®.