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You may have seen the recent news about a Massachusetts man who reportedly got second-degree burns from a grill after applying a spray sunscreen to his back.
So how real of a risk is this, and do you need to be cautious not only about applying an aerosol sunscreen near an open flame but also about wearing it around an open flame?
Consumer Reports does not test for flammability when we review sunscreens, but in general we recommend applying sunscreen about 20 minutes before you head outside so that it has time to soak in before you go out into the sun. Waiting that 20 minutes could also mean you avoid the scenario reported yesterday from Massachusetts.
An expert from the Burn Prevention Network said that in that instance, the sunscreen might not have absorbed completely into the man's skin and that droplets from the spray could have still been in the air. When he approached the grill, the flame on the charcoal caught the vapor trail and followed it to his body.
We also advise that you don't use any spray sunscreens on your children. The Food and Drug Administration is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens, which are greatest among children. Until the agency completes its analysis, we recommend that spray sunscreens not be used on or by children unless you have no other product available. If that's the case, spray it on your hands first, then rub it on your child. And as with all sunscreens, be especially careful when applying it to a child's face, taking care to avoid eyes and mouth.
For more information see our sunscreen buying guide.
Massachusetts Man Catches Fire After Applying Sunscreen [ABC Good Morning America]