Banana Boat Sunscreen under fire as Health Canada gets more claims it caused burns

Health Canada received 26 complaints about bad reactions to Banana Boat sunscreen in May. At least 14 of them involve claims using the sunscreen resulted in burned or blistered skin.

The agency received 26 complaints about the product in May

Complaints about the sunscreen include an allegation that it caused 14-month-old Kyla Cannon in Botwood, N.L., to develop a facial burn and blisters. (Rebecca Cannon/Facebook)

Complaints are pouring in to Health Canada about bad reactions to Banana Boat sunscreen. The agency says it received 26 complaints in total last month. At least 14 of them involve claims that using the sunscreen resulted in burned or blistered skin.

The ages of the alleged victims range from three months to 30 years.

"We are looking into this situation closely," said Health Canada in an email to CBC News. It added that adverse reaction reports are not proof that a product has caused harm.

Concerns about the sunscreen came to light earlier this week when Health Canada revealed it was investigating two complaints. In both cases, the parents alleged their babies developed bad facial burns and blisters after using Banana Boat Baby or Banana Boat Kids sunscreen.

Health Canada says at least 14 of the complaints it received involve claims that using the sunscreen resulted in burned or blistered skin. (Charlene Fudge/Facebook)

After CBC news ran a story about the allegations, we heard from other parents who claim the product also caused problems for their children. These parents had not yet reported their cases to Health Canada.

Raphaelle Beaudoin says her 15-month old son's face turned red last week after wearing Banana Boat Baby sunscreen with 60 SPF.

"I was horrified," said Beaudoin, who lives in Chilliwack, B.C. "For a product that's specifically designed for babies, it's scary."

She says her son, Justus, had only been in the sun for a brief period and was protected by both a hat and the sunscreen. Still, he appeared to have developed a bad sunburn.

"His cheeks and his chin right up to his mouth were so, so red," said Beaudoin. "I was worried."

The next day the redness began to fade but Beaudoin was still concerned about what had happened to her son's skin. "It was really, really rough-feeling, almost like sandpaper," she said. "Very reminiscent of a burn."

When Beaudoin heard the news about similar cases involving Banana Boat sunscreen, she concluded it must have been the culprit.

"I think there's an ingredient there that somehow changes with the heat of the sun," she said. "It's doing the opposite of what it's supposed to do."

'Eyes swelled up'

Rory and Monika Truman in Calgary also believe there's a problem with the product.

In April, the family was vacationing in Cancun when their three-year-old son's skin turned red and his face became swollen. He had been wearing Banana Boat Kids SPF 50 spray.

"His eyes swelled up enough that they were almost shut," said Monika Truman.

Convinced he was having an allergic reaction to something, the Trumans took their son, Ryan, to the hospital in Cancun. There he received steroid shots and his condition started to improve.

Ryan Truman's parents say their 3-year-old son developed red skin and his face swelled up after using Banana Boat sunscreen. (Rory and Monika Truman)

Last month his mother applied the same sunscreen to Ryan's skin and once again he had a bad reaction.

"His face was all red. His ears were crazy red as well," said Monika Truman.

"When we were bathing him, he was crying because the skin reaction was so bad," said Ryan's father, Rory Truman.

It wasn't until the couple read a news story about the Banana Boat complaints that they concluded the sunscreen must be the cause.

"We're surprised it's still on the market if there's a possibility of a reaction so severe to it," said Rory Truman.

Company says products are safe

Banana Boat said that it's sympathetic to customer concerns and that consumer safety is a top concern.

"We'd like to reassure families that all Banana Boat products undergo rigorous testing to ensure safety and quality before they are placed in the market," said a company spokesperson in an email to CBC News. It added that the sunscreen cannot cause chemical burns.

Some of the complaints involve the use of Banana Boat Baby sunscreen. (Banana Boat)

Banana Boat said that when it first learned about an adverse reaction to one of its products — Banana Boat Kids spay — it re-tested the batch and has confirmed that the sunscreen is safe for use.

It added that a bad skin reaction such as blisters may be caused by a sensitivity to an ingredient in the sunscreen that can be triggered or exacerbated by sun exposure.

Banana Boat suggests people test the product before use.

But concerned parents believe a better solution would be to stop selling the sunscreen until Banana Boat can figure out what's behind the complaints.

"Pull the product. Figure out what the ingredient in it is that's causing reactions," says Beaudoin. "This is a child's product to keep our children safe."

Earlier this year, numerous Australians complained on Banana Boat Australia's Facebook page about getting burned after using its sunscreen products. Summer season in Australia is from December to February.

Banana Boat is owned by U.S.-based Edgewell Personal Care.


Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Based in Toronto, Sophia Harris covers consumer and business for CBC News web, radio and TV. She previously worked as a CBC videojournalist in the Maritimes where she won an Atlantic Journalism Award for her work. Contact: