A Fiery New Way to Sunburn

Sunscreen spray danger around open flame warns FDA

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You use sunscreen spray to protect your skin from burning under the sun's harmful rays. But you probably don't worry much about your skin actually bursting into flame — at least not until now.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), several incidents of sunscreen sprays catching fire when exposed to open flames have been reported.

The FDA is recommending that people avoid flames when using sunscreen spray, even after it is already applied to the skin.

"Limit your time in the sun to prevent sunburn."

According to the FDA, five separate burn incidents have been reported. In each of the incidents, people wearing sunscreen spray experienced severe burns and required medical treatment after being near open flames. 

The products used in the reported incidents, which included a variety of Banana Boat UltraMist Continuous Spray sunscreens, have been voluntarily recalled, according to a press release from the manufacturer, Energizer Holdings Inc.

Even though these particular products are no longer on the shelves, there is still a potential for burn risk in similar products. 

According to the FDA, other spray products, like sunscreen, insect repellents and hairspray, and other non-spray sunscreens can contain flammable ingredients like alcohol. In the case of all flammable products, people should never use these items near a source of flame.

However, in these five incidents, the burns did not happen during application, but after the sunscreen spray was already applied to the skin. 

"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," the FDA reported. "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."

The FDA stressed that these warnings do not, of course, mean that sunscreen should be skipped. 

To protect the skin, the FDA maintained that people should regularly apply sunscreen products with a broad spectrum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) value of 15 or higher. Other steps like limiting time in the sun and wearing hats and long sleeves can also help protect the skin.

In light of the new burn-danger developments, the FDA recommended that people read the labels on sunscreen products and think ahead about where they will be using the sunscreen. This especially goes for parents choosing a product for their children to use. 

"If you'll be anywhere near a flame source, avoid any product with a flammability warning and choose another non-flammable sunscreen product instead," the FDA suggested.

The FDA stressed the importance of avoiding open flames, smoking, lighting cigarettes, grilling, candles or sparks when either wearing or applying flammable products. Extra care should be taken to keep children away from flames when they are using any flammable products.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Victoria Sharon, MD, dermatologist with the University of California, Davis Medical Center, also highlighted the importance of reading labels and taking extra care when applying sunscreen sprays.

"Although sunscreen sprays are often easier to use and less messy than lotions, it is at times difficult to ensure thorough coverage, as one cannot easily see the area of application," said Dr. Sharon. "It is therefore important when using a sunscreen spray to apply as thorough and even an application as possible to avoid gaps in skin coverage."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 23, 2013
Last Updated:
July 26, 2013