Applying sunscreen is a regular activity but what happens when sunscreen expires? There are a lot of questions that may come up for you when your sunscreen goes bad. To help keep stress levels down and sun protection up, here are the answers to some of those questions.
- Does sunscreen expire?
- Does sunscreen have an expiration date?
- Does zinc sunscreen expire?
- Does unopened sunscreen expire?
- Does sunscreen lose its potency?
- Does sunscreen last all day?
- Does sunscreen go bad in heat?
- Does old sunscreen work?
Does sunscreen expire?
This is a simple question but there are several things that must be considered when answering.
The general rule to follow is that sunscreen will last for about three years. Of course, three years is a long time and particularly if you live anywhere sunny, you will likely run out long before your sunscreen expires.
That being said, if you find that your sunscreen has started to smell, has changed color or the texture has changed, you should throw it out, even if it has not reached its expiration date. Make sure to check your sunscreen bottles before going out for the day to make sure that they are good.
This will keep you safe from the sun and from making you have to run an extra errand to replace a bottle that has gone bad.
Does sunscreen have an expiration date?
Most of the time you will be able to find an expiration date on the bottle of sunscreen itself and you should follow that date if that is the case.
If there is no date written on the bottle some good advice I was once given, is to write the date you buy it with a sharpie directly onto the bottle itself, that way you do not forget how long you have had it. This will save you from the worry of being unsure how old your sunscreen is.
It is also important to keep in mind that there are many different types of sunscreen and they may have different suggestions for how long you should hold onto your sunscreen before throwing it in the trash.
So definitely make sure to check each bottle you have.
Does zinc sunscreen expire?
Sunscreens with zinc in it will expire after about three years like any other sunscreen. Most sunscreen has zinc oxide in it because it helps eliminate any irritation sunscreen causes for those with sensitive skin. But this does not give it a longer shelf life.
Does unopened sunscreen expire?
Sunscreen in unopened bottles will also expire at about the same rate as an opened bottle, especially if kept in poor storage conditions.
The difference between the two is that opened bottles have a larger likelihood of being contaminated by outside forces, such as getting sand in it or germs. In some cases, this can lead to your sunscreen being ruined.
Does sunscreen lose its potency?
Even before your sunscreen has hit the three-year mark, it is possible and increasingly likely, the longer you hold onto a bottle, that the potency of your sunscreen will deteriorate.
Sunscreen does not just go bad in a single day, it will simply just become less and less effective. This is another reason to try and use up your sunscreen before buying more to make sure you are using it while it is in its best and most effective condition.
Does sunscreen last all day?
Sunscreen will only last for up to two hours once applied.
Once it is soaking into human skin the components in it will fade away as they are used up protecting your skin from UVB rays. You should reapply every two hours that you are in the sun and ideally when you are outside at all, as cloud cover does not mean protection from UVB rays.
If you are swimming or sweating you should reapply at least every hour. In these conditions, you should also make sure that you are letting the sunscreen soak into your skin for ten to fifteen minutes before going into the water because if you don’t it will just wash right off.
Does sunscreen go bad in heat?
When sunscreen is exposed to heat, it will go bad much faster.
Make sure that when you are storing your sunscreen at home that you do not keep it in your car or outside but find a cabinet or drawer, the best places being those that are cool, dry and dark.
Equally when you are out enjoying the sun try not to leave it out. Instead, put it in a bag or under a towel.
When exposed to heat for long periods of time, anything above 77 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius, the ingredients in your sunscreen will start to degrade. This means it will not offer the SPF protection signified on the bottle but will be much lower, increasing your chances of getting burned.
Does old sunscreen work?
If you find yourself with sunscreen that is over three years old and you’re in a pinch remember that those dates are somewhat subjective. The dates refer to how long that particular sunscreen was tested for to test its shelf life.
That being said, some health care professionals strongly encourage sunscreen past their expiration dates to be immediately thrown away. If you are not using sunscreen in its best condition, you are increasing the chances of burns and skin conditions.
So, to sum it up. Sunscreen can indeed go bad.
While sunscreen does have a fairly long shelf life it is important to keep up with the expiration of your sunscreen. Unopened sunscreen and sunscreen containing zinc will also expire.
When your sunscreen does go bad the best thing to do is throw it out and buy more. Sunscreen that has gone bad no longer offers the same protection for your skin, making it less effective against the sun.
But there are several ways to keep your sunscreen lasting its full shelf life by storing it correctly. But with three years of good use, there is plenty of time to have fun in the sun.
Photo credit: Mattes / CC BY-SA 3.0
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