If you’re a skincare product hoarder like us, and sunscreen you purchased 3 years ago finally re-surfaced in your pile of products, you’re probably wondering “When is it really time to say ‘sayonara’ to my old, half-used sunscreen?”. News flash! SPF products DO expire over time. Read on for some tips on how to determine if it’s time to ditch that old sunblock and why using an old product could actually be harmful for your skin.

Does sunscreen really expire and how can you tell once it is?
Yes, it absolutely does! No more slathering on the same sunblock you used on that tropical vacation a few years back. Even though it's currently winter, you will ll still want to make sure you’re wearing sunscreen at all times, even while indoors! So it’s especially important to make sure you’re using one that is still effective.

Every bottle of sunscreen should have an expiration date on the back, but you should also take note of when you bought it and throw it out after 3 years. Expiration dates are put in place to assure product efficacy over time and they shouldn’t be ignored.

Is expired sunscreen less effective?
The answer to this is yes as well. Chemical sunscreen ingredients can oxidize and mineral-based formulas that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can degrade over time, making new sunscreens much more effective than expired ones. If one of your sunscreens is questionable, you’re better off just getting a new one because the last thing you want is to get severely sunburned when you thought you were using effective sunscreen to avoid sun damage.

It’s also a good thing to note that heat exposure can also have a major effect on the active ingredients in your sunscreens. To maintain optimum shelf life, make sure to keep your sunscreens at room temperature.

What happens if I use expired sunscreen?
Using expired sunscreen not only puts you at risk for skin irritations like rashes, it also won’t be able to protect your skin in the way it was intended. The SPF effectiveness will be worn out or gone completely, exposing your skin to harmful UV rays and sun damage. Sunscreens should be looked at in the same way as your over-the-counter medications. You wouldn’t take expired medications would you? Same goes for your sunscreen since it is technically an over-the-counter medication due to its active ingredients. 

Bottom line: it really shouldn’t take you more than 3 years to finish up a bottle of sunscreen. BUT, if you happen to find an old product in your cupboard that just got buried, make sure to check the expiration date before you use it. 

Ready to Replace Your Old Sunscreens?
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If you have any questions at all about your sunscreens or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists, feel free to reach out any time!
Rachelle Riley