Does Sunscreen Expire And Put Your Skin At Risk? Expert Guide For 2023

does sunscreen expire

If you can’t remember when you got that bottle of sunscreen, it might be a good time to grab a new one. Yep, sunscreen can expire too. When it’s past its expiration date, it might not work either, and that could mean sunburn or even worse stuff like sun poisoning. 

Having good sunscreen matters a lot. It’s not just about avoiding the burn – it’s also about keeping your skin looking young and steering clear of skin cancer. So, before you hit the outdoors – the park, pool, beach, or backyard – make sure to check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle. 

In this article, I’ll tackle essential questions like “When does sunscreen expire?” and “Is it okay to use expired sunscreen?” That way, you can ensure your family stays safe and comfy during summer fun. Let’s get started.

When does sunscreen expire?

does sunscreen expire

Now that you’re in the loop about sunscreen’s expiration date, you’re likely wondering, “When does sunscreen expire?”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that all sunscreen products display an expiration date on their packaging unless the sunscreen can maintain its effectiveness for at least three years.

If your sunscreen lacks a visible expiration date, you can safely assume that its expiration timeline is three years from the purchase date (remembering when you got it matters here).

So, aside from time passing, what else can mess with your sunscreen’s effectiveness? It’s mainly being out in the sun and getting too much heat. Imagine if your sunscreen is always hanging out in the sunlight (pretty much what it’s meant for, right?), or if you’re stashing it in the garage, it might not last as long as it should. 

Now, for some quick detective work: When does sunscreen expire? How to figure it out? Well, I’ve got a few neat tricks for that.

How to tell if sunscreen has expired?

does sunscreen expire

Let’s dive into the various ways you can figure out when does sunscreen expire:

#1. Check the expiration date

Both chemical and mineral sunscreens come with their expiration dates. Sometimes, these dates are visible in bold black letters, but often they might not be right in your face. For example, on sprays, you might find the date on the bottom of the bottle, while on tubes, it’s typically imprinted at the top. 

But when does sunscreen expire if there’s no date in sight? Don’t worry; there are more clues to explore.

#2. Observe the color

No expiration date? Don’t worry (well, kind of). It could be that the product doesn’t show one or got wiped off from your hands or water exposure. In such cases, a helpful test comes in handy. If the sunscreen was originally white, like many mineral sunblocks, it might appear less vibrant or even take on a slight yellowish hue when it’s past its expiration. 

But does sunscreen expire if the color is still the same? Yes, even if the color is good, other things can tell when sunscreen expires.

#3. Feel the texture

Another giveaway that your sunscreen has gone south is a change in how it feels. Begin by squeezing some of the cream onto the back of your hand. Do you see any lumps or clumps? Is your spray more watery or runny than when you first got it? If you’re nodding along, it might be time to part ways with it for safety’s sake. 

Another good clue about expiration: Look for separation in the formula. If you notice a distinct layer of oil or your lotion isn’t holding its creamy texture anymore, it’s probably lost its mojo. 

#4. Trust your nose

Now, when does sunscreen expire, and what does it smell like? It can be challenging to tell, especially considering many sunscreens are scented. However, any whiff of sourness or an off-putting funkiness (like, you’re hesitating to spread it on your face) is a sign that your sun shield has seen better days.

While these tips are handy, they’re not foolproof tricks. You might still find yourself scratching your head in confusion. What if it doesn’t smell like anything? And when dealing with solid sunscreen sticks, how do you notice changes in texture? Feel free to toss it out and grab a new one when unsure.

Now that you’re well-versed in decoding sunscreen expiration dates and even deciding whether to swap out your old bottle, you’re probably wondering what the fuss is about. Does sunscreen expire and still remain effective? 

Is it okay to use expired sunscreen?

does sunscreen expire

Using sunscreen that’s past its expiration date won’t immediately harm your skin, meaning it won’t cause any instant reactions. However, it could leave you vulnerable to a painful sunburn. And, as you’re well aware, sunburns signal that you’ve been exposed to the sun without proper protection, which directly links to an increased risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

That expiration date on the bottle isn’t just for show – it’s a clear signal of whether your sunscreen is still up to the task. So, it’s wise to pick up a fresh bottle of sunscreen if it expires. 

And if you’re looking for that sun-kissed glow, why not consider using a sunless self-tanner instead of risking it with expired protection under the sun?

What to do with expired sunscreen?

When your sunscreen has hit its expiration date, it’s time to bid it farewell. Expired sunscreen might not give you the shielding you require against the sun’s damaging rays. Here’s what you can consider doing with it:

  1. Dispose of It: The most straightforward choice is tossing expired sunscreen in the trash. Just be sure to stick to your local guidelines for proper disposal, as regulations for getting rid of cosmetic products might vary.
  2. Recycle the Container: If the container is recyclable, consider recycling it following your community’s recycling rules. Remember to empty any leftover sunscreen before recycling. 
  3. Shaving Substitute: Low on shaving cream? No need to dash to the store or resort to soap. Your old sunscreen contains oils that can serve as a handy substitute. For a comfortable shave, smooth it on your face, legs, or underarms. Plus, it’ll help keep your skin nicely moisturized during the process.
  4. Silver and Metal Polish: Tired of tarnish spoiling your stuff? Apply sunscreen to a soft cloth and gently rub it onto your tarnished silverware or rusty metal objects. Watch them regain their sparkle and shine – yes, even rust can’t stand up to it.
  5. Residue Remover: Sticky residue from tape or glue making your scissors sticky and tricky to use? Restore their functionality by massaging sunscreen onto the blades and wiping them down with a soft cloth. This trick works for all sorts of sticky situations.

So, while your old sunscreen might not be at its prime for sun protection, there are other ways to give it a second life before bidding it farewell. Now let’s learn more about – does sunscreen expire?

How long is sunscreen good after expiration date?

Sunscreen’s power diminishes as time passes, and it’s essential to respect the expiration date. Dermatologist Rutledge Forney emphasizes this, noting that she has seen many cases of sunburn from people who realized too late that their sunscreen had expired. 

If you can’t find an expiration date on your product, a good practice is to write down the month and year of purchase. Generally, expecting it to remain effective for around three years is safe.

If you’re using the same bottle of sunscreen consistently, like during a vacation where you frequently reapply, a standard eight-ounce bottle should last you about two to three days at the beach for a single person. Make sure to use it all up to stay protected.

How long does sunscreen last?

does sunscreen expire

If you’re using sunscreen as it’s meant to be used, one bottle shouldn’t last you more than a few months. Dermatologists recommend using about an ounce of sunscreen to cover your exposed bits – arms, legs, back, and chest.

Why bother with sunscreen? Well, the SPF does a bunch of good things, like keeping your skin from aging too soon, preventing damage, warding off skin cancer, and stopping those pesky sunburns and spots.

So, how much is an ounce? It’s the size of a regular shotglass. Most sunscreen bottles hold about 4 ounces, which means you might finish one bottle in a single day or just a few weeks if you’re out in the sun a lot. 

But what about those end-of-season sales? Some stores give discounts on leftover sunscreen. Sounds cool, right? It could be okay, but here’s the catch. You don’t know how that sunscreen was kept. Maybe it spent the whole summer in a super hot warehouse. By that point, the important stuff in the sunscreen might not be working so well anymore.

When it’s all said and done, it’s a good idea to get new sunscreen every summer – or even every month if you’re using it a lot. If you’re not hanging out outside too much, keep it in a cool, dry place during the winter. That way, you’ll always have fresh and effective sunscreen ready.

Tips for storing sunscreen

After learning about when sunscreen expires, let’s talk about keeping your sunscreen in tip-top shape. Here’s the deal:

  1. Find a Cool, Dry Spot: Your sunscreen likes it cool and dry. So, look for a nice, dark place for it. I usually keep mine in a drawer in my room and sneak in a bag of silica gels there too. They soak up any extra moisture that might mess with your sunscreen (and other stuff) and make it go bad faster.
  2. Stay Clean: When you’re done using it, ensure the lid is tight. Try to open and close it only a few times. And before you slather on the sunscreen, wash your hands well. Germs on your hands can hop onto the bottle and mess with how well the sunscreen works.
  3. Shade, Not Sun: Your sunscreen doesn’t like direct sunlight. So, please don’t leave it where the sun’s rays hit directly. And when you dip in the pool, don’t leave the bottle in the blazing sun. You can tuck it in the shade or cover it with a towel or blanket.

Overall, putting on sunscreen every day is the goal. That means you might go through sunscreen pretty quickly. But if you’re not hanging outside often, it’s essential to keep an eye on those expiration dates. And remember, store your sunscreen bottles in a cold, dry spot to save everything inside. 

Wrapping Up

So, does sunscreen expire? You bet it does, just like other skincare stuff. Using expired sunscreen might not instantly make you sick, but it could lead to a nasty burn and some bigger troubles down the road.

Give your SPF about three years from when you bought it, even if the label doesn’t have an expiration date and even if you still need to crack it open. 

It’s wise to keep tabs on when you buy your SPF. You can attach a piece of masking tape with the date on the tube or jot it down on your phone. Because, you know, it’s way better to play it safe than end up with sun-caused issues. 

What do you do with expired sunscreen? Comment in the box below!


Does sunscreen expire even if unopened? 

Absolutely, your sunscreen can still expire even if you haven’t popped the cap. Sunscreen’s superpowers fade when exposed to heat, sunlight, and moisture.

Whether you’ve cracked it open, all sunscreens are designed to hang around for up to three years. To keep your sunscreen on its A-game, don’t let it bask in direct sunlight. Instead, tuck it away in a cupboard, away from the heat.

My sunscreen expired two years ago, what’s the deal? 

Expired sunscreen? Toss it out. Using sunscreen that’s past its prime won’t give you the protection you need against the sun. Plus, it might play tricks on your skin, causing rashes and breakouts.

How long does sunscreen last on your face?

An SPF 50 sunscreen can go strong in regular conditions for about 3 to 4 hours. If you’re out and about, remember to reapply every 80 minutes to keep that shield up, especially when you’re getting active.

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