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13 February 2018

Warning as Paraffin-based Skin Creams Pose Potential Fire Risk

Care should be taken to keep clothing and bedding that may contain paraffin residue from skin creams away from naked flames.

As you may have seen reported in the news over the weekend, a BBC investigation has raised concerns that paraffin-residue from skin creams can soak into fabrics, including clothing and bedding, and easily ignite if these materials should come into contact with a lit cigarette or naked flame. The BBC also reported that most paraffin-based skin creams that are licensed in the UK do not carry warnings despite being highly flammable. This comes after a similar investigation last year found several deaths in England were linked to skin creams containing paraffin.

Following last year’s investigation, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, asked all manufacturers of skin creams that contain paraffin to carry a fire risk warning. However, almost a year later, only 7 of 38 products containing paraffin that are licensed in the UK have put warnings on their packaging.

The MHRA says it is conducting a review around safety information concerning paraffin-based skin creams and is continuing to “collaborate closely with partner organisations including both manufacturers and the fire service to further reduce the risks associated with paraffin-containing topical products.”

In the meantime, it is important to clarify that paraffin-based skin creams are not, in themselves, dangerous. The creams will not spontaneously combust and are perfectly safe to use as long as they are kept away from naked flames and lit cigarettes. If you are unsure whether or not your cream or emollient contains paraffin, please check the ingredients listed on the packaging. The Psoriasis Association strongly recommends that anybody using paraffin-based skin creams follows the MHRA’s safety guidance.

If you would like more information on different moisturisers, creams or emollients, please click here.

If you have further concerns about paraffin-based creams which are not addressed in this article, please do get in touch.


Since this article was published, the MHRA has made further recommendations regarding the potential fire risk posed by ALL emollients (including those which contain low levels of paraffin, or are completely paraffin-free). 

You can find more information about this here