Holy Crap, Aerosol Sunscreen Can Set People On Fire

They’re two staples of a summer day in the Northeast: a backyard grill and a bottle of sunscreen. Why not reapply some sunscreen before you prepare for a long session cooking some meats? It’s not such a good idea if your sunscreen is the spray-on kind. Sure, the can says “flammable,” but it didn’t occur to a Massachusetts man that this statement is also true after the sunscreen is on your skin, for several minutes after application. He applied some Banana Boat Sport aerosol sunscreen, walked over to his charcoal grill, and was engulfed in flames. He ended up with second-degree burns on his upper body. Way more painful than a sunburn…but no excuse to skip putting on sunscreen.

In a statement, Banana Boat said:

We are unaware of any prior incidents similar to what Brett has described, but because nothing is more important to us than the safety of our consumers, we are taking this matter very seriously.

The most shocking aspect of this story? The burned man has no plans to sue Banana Boat, instead sharing his story with the media in order to protect others from similar injuries.

“I think if people were told this is flammable for two minutes on your skin, people wouldn’t use it,” he told reporters.

Massachusetts Man Catches Fire After Applying Sunscreen [Good Morning America] (via
Consumer Reports)


Edit Your Comment

  1. crazydavythe1st says:

    No plans to sue? It’s one thing to seek a multi-million dollar settlement, it’s another to try to get a company to pay your medical bills and to cover some of your time away from work.

    • That guy. says:

      He says he wanted to get the story out there, to protect other people. I’d imagine that if he just went ahead with legal action, Banana Boat would issue a press release warning customers to avoid open flames for 2 minutes after application, in order to avoid any one else from suing.

      So he’d accomplish his goal, and get compensated.

    • Tim says:

      Banana Boat would probably offer to settle out of court and attach a gag order to the entire situation, so he wouldn’t be able to get the story out and warn people.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    His wife, who loved to suntan, is devastated by what happened to him has vowed never to bring either her or their 6 year old daughter to any more tanning sessions (up to 20 a month).


  3. Herbz says:

    I think the right thing at this point (if he has no plans to sue) would be for Banana Boat to reach out to him, and offer to cover the medical bills + a little extra for what he went through.

  4. mrvw says:

    I am happy that he’s not going to sue. I hope he stays with that mindset. Banana Boat should step up and pays the medical bills.

    • Tim says:

      That’s probably a good idea. But then again, Banana Boat would probably attach a gag order to the money.

  5. That guy. says:

    Well, at least he was protected from the sun’s dangerous rays.

  6. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    What happened was that the Banana Boat basting spray got him the results he wanted – but a lot quicker and a lot more.

  7. jayphat says:

    Ive always been told if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Guess that applies to the grill too.

  8. raitch says:

    The guy who got roasted is a friend of a friend. Now that it’s making the rounds of the media, I really wish I could remember WHICH friend so I could ask her more details.

  9. Invader Zim says:

    Wasnt this story already covered?

  10. Tim says:

    A little bit unrelated, but that new Coppertone stuff with “Duraflex” is awful. It feels like you sprayed yourself with a layer of glue. It’s extremely sticky, and hard to scrub off too.

  11. Driblis says:

    No plans to sue!

    Thanks, man. It sucks what happened to you, but I’m glad you are taking a step in the direction to make America less of a litiginous idiot society.

    • That guy. says:

      I think this justifies a law suit.

      Their product, used according to all instructions and warnings on the product, caused someone to be lit on fire.

      If there was a line between frivolus and justified…I think being engulfed in flames leans toward justified.

      • RandomLetters says:

        I’m with you on this one. If you propel a viscous fluid (the lotion) mixed with a flammable substance (alcohol) you’re just one small spark from having napalm. That little detail should be on the bottle somewhere.

        • CrazyEyed says:

          I’m sure the aerosol bottle already has warnings about dispensing near an open flame.

          Do we really need to have specific instructions for those with little or no common sense? Aerosol cans contain liquid gas. In the future, are warning labels going to be many pages long to outline every specific circumstance we may face after applying the product?

          Warning: Do not use Aerosol sprays near an open flame
          Step 1 – Make sure you are (insert # of feet here) away from any open flame
          Step 2 – Dispense carefully
          Step 3 – Wait 3-5 Minutes for sunscreen to take effect to mitigate fire risk
          Step 4 – Enjoy
          Disclaimer: Using an Aerosol product near an open flame is potentially dangerous to your safety. Please use caution. By using this product, you waive all rights to sue should you catch on fire as a result of being near an open flame. In addition, the time the product is considered safe to use around a flame could vary due to a number of factors: 1) Time 2) how much of the product is applied, 3) etc etc etc

          • NotEd says:

            You forgot:

            Step 5: Profit.

          • RandomLetters says:

            The propellent isn’t what caught on fire in this case. Alcohol is a major ingredient in this sunscreen. Its the first product listed on the inactive ingredients list. The alcohol evapaorating as the sunscreen dried and the residual alcohol still in the lotion is what caught on fire. When people read the word “use” on a product they assume it means while you are applying it. Most people wouldn’t consider use to mean when the product is on your body. So an additional line saying something like “Avoid ignition sources for 5 minutes after applying” wouldn’t be unreasonable.

      • muceybbds says:

        This might justify a law suit, but he’s setting a good example anyway. Maybe it’ll deter the people who walk into displays because they’re playing on their phone and decide to sue the supermarket.

  12. Bladerunner says:

    I’m really not trying to be a dick or a blame the OP-er, but I don’t really think Banana Boat owes him for his medical bills any more than Everclear would owe someone if they drank half a bottle and went to the ER for alcohol poisoning…

    • That guy. says:

      How so?

      • Bladerunner says:

        The can is clearly labeled flammable. The idea that a flammable object is flammable is pretty common sense…it doesn’t stop being flammable just because it touched you.

        The man used a product in a semi-reasonable way, but that was bad considering certain details of the product that are clearly marked on the can and are, honestly, pretty common sense (a LOT of pressurized-spraycan items use a flammable substance as a propellant).

        In much the same way, someone could be surprised that Everclear is so very alcoholic…it’s on the bottle, but it’s sold next to the vodkas and such and I’ve known people who didn’t know it was ridiculously alcoholic. But if they drank a bottle of a beverage they purchased in a store in the same way they might drink all the other beverages in the store, they’ll wind up in the hospital. They will have used Everclear in a semi-reasonable way, but that was bad considering certain details of the product that are clearly marked on the bottle. Hence the comparison.

        • That guy. says:

          Honestly, I’m aware that a propellant in an aersol can is flamable, but I was unaware that once you spray the contents on an object that the residual fumes coming from the object are still flamable. As in, once the spraying is over, the flamable risk is over.

          I’ve never sprayed hairspray, then walked over to a BBQ though.

          • Bladerunner says:

            It’s only flammable for a little while, until it dries. That’s why I’m not having a lot of sympathy. If you spray something flammable on yourself to the extent that you’re still wet with it (and you are supposed to use a lot of sunscreen, I’ll give him credit for doing that right), going near open flames should be pretty obviously a no-no. If he’d lit on fire after five-ten minutes of rubbing it in, I’d have more sympathy.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              And how long should you wait until you can go near an open flame? Shouldn’t there be a WARNING ON THE CAN that tells me when it is safe?

              • Bladerunner says:

                I think that it should be obvious that “seconds” aren’t long enough.

                • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                  Sure, I’ll grant you that for the sake of argument. But what time frame IS acceptable? How the hell in any way could you say the average citizen knows what time frame is acceptable? We’re talking skin absorption, vapor dissapation, and extremely long chemical bonds and formulas in both categories.

                  I just don’t see you explaining that part of it away.

                  • BennieHannah says:

                    I agree that there should be some direction for the average consumer. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that I needed to wait for the product to dry before coming near flames. When I think of aerosols being flammable, I think of it being flammable during application — not after. Granted, I don’t use a lot of aerosols, and I have been called “stupid” on occasion, in a joking tone I think, but I bet there are a LOT of people who would be similarly unaware. A simple direction on the can telling consumers to wait at least five minutes (or whatever the correct drying-to-nonflammable time would be) before approaching a grill/open heat source would be a wise thing to do.

                    On the other hand, if I had to worry about if my sunscreen was dry enough — given humidity, wind direction and other variables — to prevent me from becoming a torch, I’d probably decide not to use the product in the first place.

                  • Bladerunner says:

                    We are not talking vapor dissipation, we’re talking propellant evaporation. This guy waited NO TIME AT ALL with a product clearly marked as flammable. Generally, it’s less than a minute (I’ve gone near open flames with that very brand, in fact), but it’s flammable, and you should wait till it’s dry before you do so, just like you would for every flammable liquid ever.

                    To return to my Everclear analogy, Everclear doesn’t include a time based warning for its flammability either…why, people have lit fireball from their mouth from the alcohol! Why is that allowed not only ON your body, but IN it, based on you guys’ objections? Because everyone knows alcohol is flammable until it has evaporated. Just like the propellant in this product is.

                    More to the point, technically, it NEVER says it’s okay to go near open flames, so there was if anything TOO MUCH warning on there…following the literal warning, there is NO timeframe taht you should go near flame, which is WHY it’s phrased like that.

                • JustAnotherBrick says:

                  I think the fact that there is this much discussion clearly indicates it is NOT obvious.

                  • Bladerunner says:

                    Then it’s not obvious for every flammable liquid ever…paint, booze, lighter fluid…

              • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

                You are correct. The flammable propellant in virtually all aerosols I’ve used have evaporated in a matter of a second or so. A propellant with residual flammability that lasts more than a second has no business being used on bare skin. Them’s my sentiments.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          This is a product absorbed into the skin – that tends to end the flammability of an object. There is insufficient warning on the aerosol spray to warrant no legal liability.

          Everclear says on the bottle, very clearly, MAY CAUSE BLINDNESS, as well as other clear warnings of its dangers. Just because you ignore it doesn’t make it the same situation here.

          No warning about how sunscreeen will catch fire once on your skin exists, that I am aware.

          You seem to be confusing human nature with legal liability. Ignoring a warning and the absence of a warning are not the same thing.

          • Bladerunner says:

            Flammable. Product is flammable. “”Flammable, don’t use near heat, flame or while burning”.
            It only takes a few minutes to dry, he didn’t wait for it to dry, it lit on fire, because it’s flammable, just like the can says. This is not hard.

            • dolemite says:

              It doesn’t say “flammable until you are completely dry” on the label. I think most everyone with experience knows aerosol cans are flammable, but you usually have to spray them directly on a flame for any problems. To walk over to your grill a minute or 2 after being sprayed 50 or 100 feet away and to burst into flames…hell no, it’s not reasonable to suspect that.

              • Bladerunner says:


                “I sprayed on the spray-on sunscreen, and then rubbed it on for a few seconds. I walked over to my grill, took one of the holders to move some of the charcoal briquettes around, and all of a sudden, it just went up my arm…”

                That’s the quote from the guy. Let me translate: “I sprayed a flammable substance directly on myself, then walked over to an open flame. And I was surprised when I caught on fire!”

                Again, this is not a situation where it’s flammable after several minutes. This is a situation where it’s only flammable while it’s still wet from the can, which doesn’t take at all long to dry. Skin doesn’t have magical fire-preventing properties that nullify flammability.

                • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                  As a non-scientist, I have no idea what time table to follow from application when it is safe to be near open flame.

                  This is why I, a regular citizen, need’s a label on the can of spray.

                  • Bladerunner says:

                    Spray Paint doesn’t carry a label, yet you don’t generally hold a match to it while it’s wet.

                    In fact, no flammable liquid product I have EVER SEEN has said “flammable until dry”, it’s been presumed. If you have a counter example, please provide it.

                • CrazyEyed says:

                  Since an evaporation or absorbant timeline cannot be established, wouldn’t common sense kick in to realize that using a flammable spray could be potentially hazardous?

                  Do we really need instructions to outline every single possibility or circumstance?

                  Is “Do not use or apply near an open flame” enough to consider other possibilities or should every bottle of banana boat come with an instruction booklet?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Yeah, I need a better explanation than that. Please provide some justification for that statement.

  13. misterfweem says:


  14. Sad Sam says:

    Interesting, I really like the spray sunscreen and we use it regularly in our house, all year round (since we live in Fla.) I’m going to have to do some more research on this issue.


  15. Bagumpity says:

    Really- have we gotten that lazy that spreading sunscreen is a chore that must be made easier?

    And anyways, having Mom scrape the top layer of your skin off while applying Coppertone with a sand coated hand is a childhood rite of passage. It’s character building, just like that awful stinging sensation that comes when your chemical laden sweat gets in your eyes.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Your complaint is that someone made a useful product that people want?

      • Blueskylaw says:

        You mean the one that burns you when used as directed?

        • Bladerunner says:

          Well, to be fair, it only burns you when used specifically as not directed: “”Flammable, don’t use near heat, flame or while burning”


          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            He didn’t USE near hear or open flame. He used it away from heat then went TO heat.

            Your logic doesn’t even come close to justifying your position.

            • Bladerunner says:

              Loias, you are misuing the term “logic”. In this circumstance, he is “using” the product any time it’s on him. So yes, he was “using” it near a flame when he put it on and went near a flame. The label told him not to (although we all know that, generally, flammable liquids will dry and evaporate…but that’s not on the label. If you’re going to try to plead ignorance in his defense, then he should not have gone near the flame AT ALL after using the product, because that’s what the warning said), but he did anyway. Period. From a literal standpoint, he ignored a clear warning.

              Now, you can CHOOSE to interpret the warning differently, based on common knowledge of flammable liquids. But that requires some knowledge, which you’ve been trying to argue he shouldn’t have. Considering this guy didn’t even wait at all after immediately walking to a flame, my guess is he never read the warning at all.

              • shepd says:

                My paint cans say do not use near heat/flame.

                Does that mean I can’t drive my car… …forever once it’s been painted?

                Or does it mean use as in while you are using the product as in during application?

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I have my iRobot manufactured by Apple that applies my sunscreen for me.
      I know the robot cost $40,000, but it saves me a lot of time at the beach.

  16. RandomLetters says:

    Most likely it wasn’t the propellent that caught on fire but the alcohol thats listed as the first of the inactive ingrediants. A few seconds and then some rubbing is more than enough time to disipate a flamable gas like propane if it was used as the propellent. The alcholol vapors released as the sun screen dries on your skin would persist for quite a while depending on how much you applied. That would be my arguement for the need to have a clearing warning on the product.

  17. jayphat says:

    On one hand I feel for the guy for greeting caught on fire. On the other hand, a few seconds and you thought that would be enough time to dissipate? You might as well have just pointed the can at the grill.

  18. Browncoat says:

    The correct word is inflammable, not flammable.

  19. LMA says:

    So what’s the deal scientifically speaking? Is it flammable as long as it still feels wet on the skin or is there some other cue a person should use to make certain they don’t end up with burns from their sunscreen?

    • Bladerunner says:

      It’s a suspension in alcohol, with a flammable propellant. It’s flammable coming out, then flammable until the alcohol evaporates, so while “until you’re dry” is a good rule of thumb, it’s just wise to be careful near open flame.

  20. GirlWithGloves says:

    Aerosol sunscreen isn’t good for your health anyway. 1. Inhalation of particles. 2. Chemical sunscreens do all sorts of bad things to health (affect hormones, promote cancer especially if it contains retinyl palmitate – Vitamin A, and that goes for any sunscreen).

    Go to ww.ewg.org and check out their 2012 Sunscreen rating list to find the better physical/mineral (zinc oxide is best, higher the % the better) sunscreens out there. The chemical sunscreens found in most stores are usually rated 8-10 out of 10, with 10 being most threatening to health and 1 being least threatening. You can find most of the better sunscreens via Amazon.com.

  21. Rick Sphinx says:

    Most areosals, while being sprayed, will be flammable. Even dry powdered items, when fluffed or spilled, are flammable. Coffee Mate is flammable when in a “dust cloud” form. But as for sunscreen, should not be flammable once it’s on you.

    • RandomLetters says:

      Ever see the episode of Mythbusters where they made the Coffee Mate cannon? THey were pretty unprepared for the fireball they got from it.

  22. clementine says:

    This is only slightly related but has anyone had problems getting the spray stuff off of paint or shower curtains? I used to spray it on in the bathroom before I would get dressed for the day and I think I may end up having to redo the paint in my bathroom and replace the toilet seat due to the excess splatter from the sunscreen.

    • webweazel says:

      We used to put the spray stuff on in the kitchen, but yes, it makes the floor kind of sticky-ish afterwards, so we started putting it on outside on the patio instead. It did seem to go away after a few days. If there is residue left on your surfaces a long time after, try some floor cleaner like a pine cleaner or some Murphy’s Oil Soap in a small bucket of water. If that doesn’t work try some spray cleaner like 409. If not, try some basic Comet cleanser.