Updated 07 November 2013

Sunscreen may be a fire hazard

Certain sunscreen sprays worn close to an open flame may catch alight, the US Food and Drug Administration warns.


Certain sunscreen sprays worn close to an open flame may pose a risk of catching fire, the US Food and Drug Administration warns.

The agency said it knows of five incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame suffered significant burns that required medical treatment. The products involved in these incidents were recalled and should no longer be on store shelves.

However, many other sunscreen spray products contain flammable ingredients, commonly alcohol. The same is true for some other spray products – including insect repellents and hairsprays – and even some non-spray sunscreens, the FDA said.

"Based on this information, we recommend that after you have applied a sunscreen spray labelled as flammable, you consider avoiding being near an open flame, sparks or an ignition source," Dr Narayan Nair, a lead medical officer at the FDA, said in an agency news release.

Many flammable products have a label warning against their use near an open flame. Never apply a product labelled as flammable when you are near a source of flame.

However, the five incidents reported to the FDA occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied. The sources of flame included lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a lit citronella candle, approaching a barbecue grill and doing welding.

These incidents indicate that catching fire is possible even if you believe you have waited long enough for the sunscreen to dry and your skin feels dry, the FDA said.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about sunscreens.

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