Does Sunscreen Expire?

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If you are like most people, you have about 10 bottles of half-empty sunscreen from last year in your cabinet. Are they still good? Should you throw them away?

It depends on a few things.

How Long Does Sunscreen Last?

First of all, many sunscreens have an expiration date printed on their label.  If your sunscreen has an expiration date be sure to follow that guideline.  Throw out sunscreen bottles that you still might have around after the date stamped on the bottle.  If your sunscreen doesn't have an expiration on it when you buy it write the date of purchase on the bottle with a permanent marker.  

Active sun protecting ingredients in sunscreen are made to last up to three years. So you should be safe, right?  But there is a catch.  For example, if your sunscreen has been in hot elements such as in your car for a day, the ingredients that are supposed to block your skin from the sun will actually start to break down.

So if your sunscreen has been in your medicine cabinet or somewhere in your house in a cool place, those bottles from last year are just fine to use this year. If you found a bottle of sunscreen in your glove box in your car and you are assuming it was from last summer, toss it. It's not worth the risk of a sunburn in order to find out if that sunscreen is still good.

Additional Sunscreen Info You Should Know

  • The majority of people use far too little sunscreen. Imagine a shot glass full of sunscreen--that's how much you should be putting on your body and at least teaspoon on your face alone.
  • Sunburns most occur in the following places: tops of feet, tops of eyes, between your eyes, ears, neck, and scalp. (And yes, even those with dark skin can get a sunburn.) When you think of how we apply sunscreen, it makes sense! Just make a note of those places and be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen. Nothing is worse than a sunburn on the top of your feet from a weekend outside when you have to put your shoes on to go to work come Monday.
  • Most people don't reapply sunscreen often enough. You should be reapplying every 90 minutes to two hours at the most.  You need to reapply sunscreen after swimming and sweating.  If you can't seem to remember to reapply sunscreen set a timer on your phone so you can remember.
  • No sunscreen is waterproof.  Sunscreens come with a label now that says 40 minutes or 80 minutes of protection from the sun in the water. These are new laws by the FDA to avoid the over exaggerations that sunscreen labels claimed in the past. If you're swimming or sweating a lot, that's a lot of reapplying, but so very necessary.
  • Spray sunscreens get a bad rep. It's because they can be faulty when applying. A gust of wind can blow 90 percent of the sunscreen away. If you love the ease of spray sunscreens and the quick dry they give, spray it into your hand and then apply so you know you're getting it everywhere.
  • Clothes are your number one means of sun protection. But don't think that white tee you put over your swimsuit can keep you safe. Fabric that becomes see-through when wet lets the sun's rays pass easily through. The darker the fabric, the better.
  • You can get melanoma in your eyeball. It's true! It's called ocular melanoma. Wear sunglasses with 100 percent  UV protection. Without the UV protection, they're not going to do anything for you.
  • If there is shade, find it between the hours of 10 and 4, if possible, when the UV rays are the strongest.  Also always wear a broad-brimmed hat.