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Combustible sunscreen: What you need to know

Nearly two dozen varieties of Ultra Mist sunscreen

Nearly two dozen varieties of Ultra Mist sunscreen are being recalled by Banana Boat after the company received five reports of burns associated with the use of the Banana Boat Sport Ultra Mist product. The products were sold nationwide between January 2010 and September 2012. Click here for a list of the products and consumer advice. (Oct. 19, 2012) (Credit: Handout)

During the summer months Long Islanders slather sunscreen onto our skin to prevent burns -- but what if instead of protecting you, that sunscreen contributed to getting you burned?

The FDA is warning consumers about possible risks they face when picking up a bottle of sunscreen.

In a post on their consumer updates page, the FDA writes: 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.


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The FDA says that while wearers should never apply sunscreen near an open flame, in these five cases the burns actually occurred after sunscreen spray had already been applied.

Ignition sources varied from lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a citronella candle to approaching a barbecue grill.

Warning labels on popular brands such as Banana Boat tend to be general, saying, "Flammable: do not use near heat, flame."

A previous release from Energizer Holdings Inc., which owns Banana Boat, announced the voluntary market recall of the “continuous spray Banana Boat sun care products” due to a “potential risk of product igniting on the skin if contact is made with a source of ignition before the product is completely dry.” 

However, it's important to note that just because a consumer may consider their skin “dry,” they could still be at risk.

Dr. Narayan Nair, whom the FDA cites as a lead medical officer for their administration, is quoted on the FDA’s Web page as saying, “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.”

In addition, the FDA offers a few safety suggestions:

- When you choose a sunscreen, think about where you'll be using it. If you'll be anywhere near a flame source, avoid any product with a flammability warning and choose another nonflammable sunscreen product instead. This recommendation is particularly important when it comes to choosing a product for children since they are frequently active and may get near a flame source.

- While applying and wearing sunscreen products labeled as flammable, do not smoke, and avoid open flames from lighting cigarettes, lit cigarettes, grilling, candles or sparking materials.

- Do not apply flammable products to yourself or someone else near an open flame.

Have you had experiences with aerosol sunscreens combusting near ignition sources? Let us know in the comments field below.

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