A burning subject!
Have you read those disturbing articles about cosmetic creams which can cause instantaneous combustion? It's a horrible subject to go into but it could, quite frankly, save your life. Skin creams containing paraffin have been linked to dozens of fire deaths across England.
"The products for conditions like eczema and psoriasis can leave people at risk of setting themselves ablaze. If people use the creams regularly but do not often change clothes or bedding, paraffin residue can soak into the fabric, making it flammable." (BBC.)
Deaths in England
The problem is important enough for the medicines regulator (MHRA) to update its guidance and say "all creams containing paraffin should carry a warning." But despite warnings there have been 37 deaths in England since 2010 linked to the creams. It's sad, but true that many so-called top brands with the power of marketing and advertising try to persuade us that their often not so cheap products are good for us. Bio-Oil is a classic example, one of the more popular ones. Unless you're a label reader you wouldn't read past their claims to see that paraffin is the first ingredient. And Bio Oil is safe during pregnancy! Now let's not get sidetracked because that's not the only unhealthy ingredient in Bio Oil, and far from the only suspect brand. For example, how many have used that favourite of many doctors and the NHS, E45?
You get what you pay for
You often hear 'you get what you pay for' but that's not always the case. There's nothing cheap about many of these skincare brands. What the customer is desperate to hear is these products are beneficial for their condition, whether it's a cream, oil, shampoo - basically any topical medication - and that it will make things better. When you've got a bad bout of eczema or psoriasis, you've got stretch marks, or you've ironically just burnt yourself, relief is what you want. The last thought in the real world of the consumer is, hang on, what's the ingredients in these products? Will it set me on fire? Maybe not, maybe you don't use them often enough anyway, to worry.
The UK health authority responsible for efficacy and safety, the medicines regulator, will only give guidance. All creams containing paraffin should carry a warning. Is that going far enough? The problem with many of these creams isn't that they are all that dangerous, although I personally wouldn't put them on my skin, it's the secondary effect. They may become dangerous when the paraffin ingredient soaks into the fabric (which isn't just your clothes but it could be bedding via pyjamas) and are then exposed to fire through any inflammatory source, cigarettes, lighters, fireplace, and so on. And washing your garment isn't always the answer, as London Fire Brigade says:
"...even regular washing of night clothes and bed linen might not eliminate the danger, unless it is washed at a high temperature, as paraffin is invisible and can accumulate over time."
Are you a label reader?
If you're aren't a label reader, then maybe reconsider. What you put on your skin they say absorbs into the bloodstream and becomes part of your body. You're not just what you eat! As shocking as this subject is, it is in many cases, avoidable. Simply, avoid creams with paraffin. There are safer alternatives. Go into any health food store and pick the brains of the staff. Most of them are savvy and can advise; hopefully their products are okay. For example one good skincare range for dermatological problems is - Moogoo. Their products are so pure (and effective) that some of them can actually be eaten (but don't try this at home.) And there's lots of other safe brands too. Use Moogoo instead of E45. Instead of Bio Oil, use - Rio Rosa Mosqueta Oil.
* Recent reported incidents involving paraffin in skin emollient creams: *
Carol Hoe's husband Philip died after accidentally setting himself on fire at Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 2006 when sparks from a cigarette reacted with the emollient cream he was covered in.
"I got a phone call from the ward sister to say can you get to the hospital as soon as possible, Philip's had an accident," she said.
"Philip had caught fire. He had sneaked off onto a landing for a sneaky cigarette, a gust of wind must have caught the lighter, and it set fire to him."
'Engulfed in flames'
Within seconds Mr Hoe, who was receiving treatment for psoriasis, was engulfed in flames and he died shortly after being transferred to another hospital in Sheffield.
"When we got there, the staff came to me and told us he was covered with 90% burns," said Mrs Hoe.
"There was nothing they could do."
Also in 2015, an inquest into the death of 84-year-old John Hills heard he died in a nursing home in Worthing, West Sussex, after setting himself on fire with his pipe.
A paraffin-based cream called Cetraben had soaked into his clothes and was found to have played a part in his death.
The problem has become sadly familiar to Darren Munro, borough commander for London's Wandsworth Fire Station, who has been campaigning to raise awareness...
Christopher Holyoake sat in his living room
Christopher Holyoake died after his bedding, which was covered in paraffin residue, caught fire
"In four out of the last six fatalities that I've personally attended, I would say the emollient cream has had a direct result in the flame spread and the speed at which the fire took hold," he said.