Sunscreen expiration

Sunscreen expiration

August 07, 2021

Does sunscreen expire? 

Sunscreen absolutely expires.  The active ingredients in sunscreen are usually given about a 2 -3 year expiration window.  The FDA has guidelines for any product that contains active ingredients. The only way a product with active ingredients can go without an expiration date is if the company can prove the product is stable for over 3 years.  The concern for sunscreen is that if it can only show the ingredients are stable for a period of about 2-3 years, then it is possible that when you go to apply it after the expiration date, it may not be as effective to block UV.  If there is no expiration date on the bottle, be cautious with any product over 3 years old.  

How long does sunscreen typically last? 

Most sunscreens typically last about 2-3 years.  After this point they may become both less active as far as blocking UV and the product might start to take on a different consistency making it not spread as evenly when applied.  Also remember that other factors could impact the stability of your sunscreen. The expiration dates and effective SPF on the bottle are based usually on ideal conditions of storing the bottle at room temperature avoiding extreme temperatures and keeping the bottle capped and closed to avoid contamination.  If you store your sunscreen in hot or warm environments or forget to close the cap, these factors could impact how much faster your sunscreen could expire.

What are 2-3 signs your sunscreen is expired?

I love this question becomes it gives me the opportunity to remind people that if they were using their sunscreen appropriately, it would not have a chance to expire !  Remember that most guidelines still suggest wearing about a shot glass full or one ounce of sunscreen daily.  Most sunscreen bottles are about 3 to 5 oz. Technically, if we used sunscreen appropriately we would empty at least a bottle a week.

That being said, I understand that not many people do this.  If there are any obvious changes in color or consistency of the sunscreen, it has likely expired.  Color changes could indicate breakdown of ingredients or contamination. Consistency changes can mean that the products ingredients are separating and less likely to provide the effective SPF by not spreading evenly or that some ingredients are also starting to breakdown.

What should someone do with expired sunscreen? 


This is a challenging question since there is no easy answer. The best answer I can provide is that if you find you have an expired sunscreen, then it was not used the right way.  Re-evaluate how you use sunscreen and think of how much you are using and whether it is enough to have been using the same bottle for 2-3 years. Most sunscreens come in plastic bottles simply because it maintains the stability of the product.  If the bottle is almost empty, check to see if your area recycles the type of resin the bottle is made from to put it in the recycling bin. If it is still a pretty full bottle this is where I say that making the right purchasing decision makes for a better solution when it comes time to dispose of the product. Try to avoid purchasing chemical sunscreens to limit how much they end up in the waterways!

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