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Does Sunscreen Expire? Find Out When To Toss It

Does Sunscreen Expire? Find Out When To Toss It


It’s safe to say that we all know the basics of sunscreen use: Apply broad-spectrum SPF 30 every day. Reapply your SPF every two hours, after working out, sweating, or swimming. However, we often overlook the importance of the expiration date on sunscreen bottles. While it may be tempting to use every last drop, using expired sunscreen can be harmful. Experts explain why paying attention to expiration dates is crucial and offer tips on maximizing the lifespan of your sunscreen before it needs to be discarded.


Does Sunscreen Expire?

In short, yes, even the best sunscreens lose their effectiveness once they are past the expiry date. Experts say that sunscreens are considered over-the-counter drugs and must follow specific testing guidelines. They are required to have expiration dates to be marketed, ensuring the product remains effective until that date. If no expiration date is listed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that manufacturers prove stability for three years, after which the product is considered expired.

Expiration dates can vary based on formulation and on the type of sunscreen. Physical sunscreens (mineral sunscreens) with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are more stable and have longer shelf lives than chemical sunscreens, which contain unstable molecules that oxidize over time. Powder sunscreens, which contain stable minerals, last longer than less stable liquid formulations. Generally, you can expect most sunscreens to last between two to three years.


Can You Use Expired Sunscreen?

The main drawback of using expired sunscreen is the lack of adequate protection from harmful UV rays, leading to premature aging, sunburn, and increased risk of skin cancer. Expiration dates indicate the point beyond which sunscreen is no longer effective. Using expired sunscreen risks sunburn as its protection is no longer guaranteed. Expired sunscreen formulas may separate, causing UV filters to cluster unevenly on the skin.

Additionally, dermatologists warn that expired sunscreen can irritate the skin, as ingredients may break down into irritating chemicals or harbor bacteria and yeast, leading to infections and rashes. Experts and the FDA recommend discarding expired sunscreen. If you must use it and it's only slightly past the expiration date, ensure it looks, feels, and smells normal, and do a test patch first. Expiration dates are stamped on sunscreen containers to specify the time limit for the product's stability and efficacy. For optimal sun protection and to maintain texture, stability, and sterility, use sunscreen before the expiration date.


How Do You Know If Your Sunscreen Is Expired?

The simplest way to determine if your sunscreen has expired is by checking the label. If no expiration date is provided, assume it's effective for up to three years from the purchase date, as recommended by the FDA. Other indicators that your sunscreen may be past its prime include changes in color, consistency, smell, and texture. Even if these changes occur before the expiration date, it's likely no longer safe to use, and it's best to replace it with a new one.


How Do You Safely Store Sunscreen?

To extend the shelf life of your sunscreen, proper storage is key, just as with any other skincare product. Dermatologists recommend keeping sunscreen away from direct light, as sun exposure can cause formulations to break down and separate before the expiration date. Experts advise storing sunscreen in a dry, room-temperature location at minimum, and opting for a cool, dark place for optimal results.


Our Best-Selling Sunscreens

Elta MD UV Daily SPF 40

Serious UV protection and superior hydration join forces in this sheer facial sunscreen. This lightweight moisturizer with UV protection can be worn alone or under makeup.


SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

A sheer, weightless 100% mineral sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection.


Vacation Classic Whip SPF 30

A “lighter-than-air” sunscreen made with eco-friendly propellants and an authentic “tilt valve” actuator that produces perfect, star-shaped mountains of foam, inspired by everyone’s favorite after dinner indulgence.


Alastin SilkShield All Mineral SPF 30

Alastin SilkSHIELD All-Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 - With powerful yet gentle protection, this transparent sunscreen has an exclusive peptide blend that provides anti-aging benefits long after sunset.


Bask Sheer Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 50

This decadent, water-based, light as a cloud lotion smells so good, slides right on, and makes re-applying a dream. A silky smooth application with a sheer finish, zero white cast, and no yellow stains.