Does Sunscreen Expire?  

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

A woman examines sunscreen brands at the store.
Picture this: The first 80-plus-degree weekend of the year is here, and you want to soak up the sun by taking a beach trip. While packing towels, water, and your favorite floppy hat, you grab that half-empty bottle of sunscreen from last summer. You apply it generously before getting to the beach. You thought ahead!
Now imagine still being burdened with a painful, awkward-looking sunburn at the end of the day because you didn’t realize your sunscreen had expired.
When stored improperly or owned for too long, sunscreen ingredients can become less effective or ineffective altogether. Before you rely on last year’s sunscreen this summer, give this guidance a glance.

What causes sunscreen to expire?

Sunscreen becomes less potent as it ages, but also when it’s exposed to heat, sunlight and humidity. This is why the temperature at which your sunscreen is stored can have a major impact on its efficacy. You should store sunscreen in a cool, dry, and dark place. Assuming the temperature in your home is between about 60 and 75 degrees, the cabinets in your bathroom or closet are safe spots. Since heat and humidity can accelerate sunscreen’s expiration, avoid keeping it in your car or garage. The cooler the storage spot, the better.
Here are three sunscreen storage tips to consider while out in the sun all day:
  • Keep it in a cooler.
  • Keep it in the shade.
  • Wrap it in a blanket or towel.

How long does sunscreen last?

If your sunscreen has a watery or chunky consistency to it, it could very well be expired. Sunscreen has both active and inactive ingredients in it, both of which can degrade over time.
Sunscreen brands and products are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remain at their original strength for at least three years. The FDA states that all products are required to have an expiration date unless stability testing conducted by the manufacturer shows that the product will remain stable for those three years.
While at the store, check sunscreen bottles for expiration dates. The date of manufacture can be found either on the bottom of the bottle or toward the bottom of the label. Some brands may not list the dates in the standard numerical order we’re used to in the United States. For example, the first two numbers of the code listed on Banana Boat products indicate the year it was produced. The next three numbers are reserved for the day of the year. For example, “25365” means December 31st, 2025, is the expiration date.
As mentioned, any sunscreen that doesn’t have an expiration date should be discarded three years after purchasing. If you buy a product without a date, mark the date you bought it on the bottle yourself. It’s better to be safe and protected than sorry and potentially exposed to skin damage or other conditions.
Check out these blogs for more skin care guidance:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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