Can Your Trusty Sunscreen Expire?

If you're reading this article, there is a good chance that you already use sunscreen some of the time, although sunscreen is something that you should use even in winter. You probably know where, when, and how often you should be applying your sunscreen to your skin depending on your activities, and you have probably picked out the best sunscreen for your skin that you prefer to use as part of your daily skincare routine. In short, you know the drill.


While we can't deny that these are all important tips for keeping your skin healthy, they aren't the end of the story, either. This is especially true if you've been using the same container of sunscreen for a while now (or you happened to find one that you forgot you had purchased some time ago). Let's explore whether or not your sunscreen expires and how often you need to replace it to make sure you're getting the right amount of sun protection.

Your sunscreen does expire

Sunscreen, like many other products, does expire, but it might last longer than you think. According to the Mayo Clinic, the United States Food and Drug Administration (better known as the FDA) actually requires the sunscreens it approves to be good to use for at least three years. The same website also points out, though, that a bottle of sunscreen probably shouldn't last you this long if you're applying it as frequently as you should be.


Consumer Reports notes that your sunscreen's three-year expiration date won't be affected by when you open its container, either, as long as it has not yet reached its expiration date. This is good news if you are purchasing sunscreen in larger quantities, for example.

If your sunscreen doesn't include an expiration date, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends jotting down the date you bought it on the bottle so that you'll know when it's no longer good to use.

You should store your sunscreen safely to ensure that it remains effective. Dermatologist Alok Vij told Cleveland Clinic, "The general shelf life of sunscreen is about three years, as long as it's been stored in a cool, dry area. Storing the bottle in a hot or humid area can quickly break down many of the active ingredients that block UV rays."


Know when to replace your sunscreen

Apart from the date on your sunscreen, are there any other signs that it's time to toss it? Yes, there are. According to dermatologist Shari Marchbein's comments to Allure, "Like food, sunscreen can go bad and the ingredients can spoil, leading to a watery consistency."


If you notice that this has happened to your sunscreen, or if your sunscreen develops a change in texture (such as clumping), you're better off replacing it. The American Academy of Dermatology also gives this advice and mentions that changes to your sunscreen's color are another indication that it's expired.

Dermatologist Erin Gilbert told Allure that it's likely that your nose will also know if you need to get rid of your sunscreen, saying, "If your sunscreen starts to have a funny smell, it likely indicates that it has been contaminated with bacteria."

Finally, stay aware of any sunscreen products that you might have that have been recalled. Per Cleveland Clinic, many sunscreens have been recalled because they contain unsafe levels of benzene, which is not an intended ingredient, and might be a carcinogen.