Use Sunscreen Spray? Avoid Open Flame
August 30, 2013

You love a good summer barbecue and wisely use sunscreen if you are out in the sun. What you may not know is that if you apply certain sunscreen sprays and then come close to a source of flame, you may risk the sunscreen catching fire and giving you a serious burn.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has become aware of five separate incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame suffered significant burns that required medical treatment. The specific products reported to have been used in these cases were voluntarily recalled from the market, so should no longer be on store shelves.

However, many other sunscreen spray products contain flammable ingredients, commonly alcohol. The same is true for certain other spray products, such as hairspray and insect repellants, and even some non-spray sunscreens may contain flammable ingredients. Many flammable products have a label warning against their use near an open flame.

You should never apply a product labeled as flammable while you are near a source of flame. In the five incidents reported to FDA, however, the burns occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied. The ignition sources were varied and involved lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a lit citronella candle, approaching a grill, and in one case, doing some welding.

These incidents suggest that there is a possibility of catching fire if you are near an open flame or a spark after spraying on a flammable sunscreen—even if you believe you have waited a sufficient time for the sunscreen to dry and your skin feels dry.

"Based on this information, we recommend that after you have applied a sunscreen spray labeled as flammable, you consider avoiding being near an open flame, sparks or an ignition source," says Narayan Nair, M.D., a lead medical officer at FDA.

No children were involved in the reported burn incidents involving sunscreen sprays. However, keeping children safe near flammable materials is very important because burns have the potential to be more severe in children compared to adults.

Parents and caregivers should read the product label and choose a sunscreen that is not flammable if there is a possibility that a child will be near a source of flame.