Nicole Richie's Hair Caught Fire When She Was Blowing Out Candles—Here's What You Should Do in That Situation

© Provided by Health Getty Images

Nicole Richie just turned 40 yesterday. And she said that “so far 40 is 🔥.” Unfortunately, she means that quite literally.

On September 21, the actress posted a clip on Instagram, showing herself leaning down to blow out the candles on a birthday cake. All of a sudden, both sides of her hair become engulfed in flames. Luckily, someone next to her quickly pats out the flames on one side. But the flames on the other side grow larger until they too are put out. When she realizes what’s happening, Richie screams and grabs her shirt as if to fan out the flames.

© Getty Images Whatever you do, don’t run.

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Her friends and family had a field day in the comment section, poking fun at the situation (which suggests Richie wasn’t hurt and is doing OK). “That’s hot,” her husband, Good Charlotte vocalist Joel Madden, wrote, a nod to Paris Hilton’s tagline from when she and Richie starred on The Simple Life together.

“Happy Birthday Sis love you and thankful for you always ❤️🎉 stay lit 🔥,” brother-in-law and Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden said. “I feel awful for laughing I’m sry also happy birthday!!!,” Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski commented. Two other people wrote “‘Twas a hot hot hot night,” and “Happy 40th gorgeous!!! Still on fuego!!!!.”

Some famous followers showed their concern. “My heart just dropped!!!!,” singer Kelly Rowland wrote. “WAIT NO WAY WAIT OMG,” pop star Katy Perry said. “HBD!!! I hope you’re okay! ❤️,” actress Ellen Pompeo added. One commenter asked for an update, though so far Richie hasn’t responded.

Seeing Richie’s mishap might make you wonder what you should do if you were in a similar situation. After all, how many times have you leaned over a birthday candle—or any candle, for that matter—and realized you were scarily close to the flame? Here’s what you should know.

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If your hair is on fire, do this to put it out

Douse the flames with water ASAP. If there’s no water available, smother the flames with something made of cloth. “A blanket or jacket can even work and will allow you to smother the fire,” Marquetta Breslin, a licensed cosmetologist, tells Health. “You want the hair to stop burning as soon as possible. As long as there’s not much product in the hair, the flames should be pretty easy to put out.”

Once the fire is out and if you haven’t already used water, cool your hair by immediately pouring water on it. If the flames reach your clothes or other parts of your body, it’s time to stop, drop, and roll. “This essentially means: Stop where you are, cover your face with your hands, if possible, and roll over and over or back and forth until the flames are completely out,” Susan McKelvey, communications manager at the National Fire Protection Association, tells Health.

Whatever you do, don’t run. “Fire can spread very quickly, causing severe burns within seconds,” McKelvey says. “When a person begins to run or moves around excessively, this adds oxygen to the flames and increases the rate at which the fire can spread, which is why we tell people to stay where they are and not run.”

If the flames spread and left burns on your body, treat them right away, McKelvey advises. To do that, put the affected area in cool water for three to five minutes. Then, cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth. Don’t apply creams, ointments, sprays, or other home remedies. Get medical help right away by calling 911.

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How can fire damage hair?

Some hairstylists actually use fire to shorten and seal the ends of the hair, Breslin points out. But when your hair isn’t burned in a professional setting and instead in an accident like Richie’s, it can have unintended consequences.

“It’s important to note that hair doesn’t generally burn to the scalp. Hair generally singes, so the singed ends are what needs to be trimmed to prevent further damage,” Breslin explains. “The good thing is once the ends are trimmed, the damage is gone, and the hair can grow back like normal.” 

How can you fix your fire-damaged hair?

Breslin says she highly recommends against trying to fix the flame damage at home. “A good salon should be able to help restore the hair back to health by trimming the damage off and applying customized conditioning treatments based on the assessment of the damage,” she explains. “You also want to ask your stylist to help you create an at-home regimen and a salon regimen to help the hair grow back healthy.”

If you can’t get to a professional, DIY it at home until you can get to a salon by applying a deep conditioning treatment and avoiding adding any more heat to your hair.

So next time you’re around a candle, be careful—and maybe pull your hair back so it can’t reach a flame so easily. As McKelvey points out, “candles are among the leading causes of US home fires and need to be used with caution and care.”

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