A dermatologist has warned that a common French sunburn cream is being wrongly declared as a “miracle moisturiser” on the social media platform TikTok, and could actually cause harm if overused.
In the past few days, TikTok users in the US have picked up on Biafine, a French cream, and are recommending it be used as a daily moisturiser. But as often happens on TikTok, videos and concepts can rapidly “go viral” without being checked for sense or safety.
One such video says that people can “up their moisturising game” by using the cream, and this user says that she now includes the cream in her usual skin routine.
@skin_vestment Biafine saved my skin barrier when it was impaired from retinol overuse, enabling it to heal super fast. It is such an amazing multi use product! #frenchpharmacy #frenchskincare #frenchpharmacie #frenchpharmacyskincare #skintok #skincaretiktok #biafine #tretinoin #dryskinhacks #skinbarrierrepair ♬ Last Christmas - star wars >
Biafine is typically used occasionally to soothe sunburn, superficial wounds and burns, and calm rashes caused by radiotherapy.
‘Biafine should not be used as skincare’
But Biafine can actually be dangerous when used too much, a French dermatologist has said.
Audrey Drey told Le Parisien: “[Biafine] is a medical cream that should not be used as skincare on healthy skin.”
She added that the active ingredient is trolamine, which is a suspected carcinogen (cancer-causing) when used too often, and that parabens in the product “are suspected of being endocrine disruptors” (disrupting the endocrine, hormonal and reproductive systems).
Using Biafine as an everyday cream is therefore not advised, and could even cause health risks.
From chemistry to cult status
This has not stopped the cream from “going viral” online, and it was even recommended by US actor and controversial “wellness” advocate Gwyneth Paltrow on her Goop blog. She said: “I apply Biafine to my daughter's chapped lips and it always does the trick.
“We also keep it in the medicine cabinet for the inevitable burns, bumps and scrapes. This cream cleanses and moisturises the surface, minimises scarring and miraculously heals the area.”
Biafine has a long history in France, and is commonly found in most pharmacies and home medicine cabinets.
It was invented in 1971 by a French chemist, M. Wenmaekers. He created it to help heal a burn for his daughter-in-law, a model for fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, after she burned herself while ironing an outfit for a fashion show.
The cream contained a now-famous mixture of trolamine, stearic acid, paraffin and avocado oil, and works to regenerate and hydrate skin tissue. Such was its success that Mr Wenmaekers sold the formula to scientific labs.
It was then marketed in 1976 by Johnson & Johnson, becoming a flagship product and recommended to treat sunburn and superficial burns or wounds.
Its cult status has since seen it spread to the US, where it has been recommended by publications including Vogue, and New York Magazine.
The latter said it was “the best cult product to be found in French pharmacies” and should be considered alongside other “Frenchie cosmetics”.
And while Biafine may have a place in your medicine cabinet, it is highly recommended not to use it as a moisturiser every day.
One TikTok user has even published a short video warning against overuse, with the caption “Biafine is magical for burns reliefs ONLY! #biafine STOP to use it for your skin! [sic]”.
@chrisvey15 Biafine is magical for burns reliefs ONLY! #biafine ♬ Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz