FDA warns of spray-on sunscreen risk

Experts say popular products shouldn't be worn near flames, cigarettes

Author: Sarah Mayberry, M.P.H., Local 4 Health Producer, @4goodhealth
Published On: Jul 10 2013 04:13:25 PM EDT
sunscreen spray

Sunscreen sprays are very popular because they're easy to apply, especially to children.

But the FDA has become aware of five separate incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame suffered significant burns.

The agency warns many sunscreen spray products contain flammable ingredients, typically alcohol.  Other spray products, including hairspray and insect repellants, and some non-spray sunscreens may also contain flammable ingredients.

The five reported incidents occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied.   The flames were sparked by lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a citronella candle, approaching a grill and doing welding.

Many products state on the label not to use near heat, flames, or while smoking.

The FDA said 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 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," said Dr. Narayan Nair, a lead medical officer at FDA.

No children were involved in the incidents involving sunscreen sprays, but FDA experts warned parents should pay close attention to this issue, because burns in children have the potential to be more severe than in adults.

To reduce your risk, the FDA advised never applying or wearing flammable sunscreen products near an open flame, including cigarettes.  A safer bet -- choose a non-flammable sunscreen product for you and your children.