FDA officials said they were aware of five incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame -- such as a grill -- suffered significant burns that required medical treatment. The specific products reported to have been used in these cases were voluntarily recalled and should no longer be on store shelves.
However, many other sunscreen spray products contain flammable ingredients such as alcohol. The same is true for certain other spray products, such as hairspray and insect repellents.
Just as the alcohol in Cherries Jubilee cooked over a gas flame will ignite and flambe so will some sunscreen sprays, hairspray and bug repellent.
Even some non-spray sunscreens may contain flammable ingredients and flammable products have a label warning against their use near an open flame, said Dr. Narayan Nair, a lead medical officer at FDA.
"You should never apply a product labeled as flammable while you are near a source of flame," Nair said. "In the five incidents reported to FDA, 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, welding."
These incidents suggest that there is a possibility of catching fire if a person is 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, Nair said.
"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," Nair said.