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With summer right around the corner, it’s just about time to dig up that bottle of SPF you’ve had tossed in the back of your linen closet since summer came to an end last year. Of course, rummaging to find last summer’s tube may have you questioning: Does sunscreen expire? Sure, you make sure to toss expired food in your kitchen cabinets and fridge, but are you as concerned with sunscreen expiration dates? Before you slather your body in last summer’s SPF thinking you’re protecting your skin from sun damage, you’ll want to read the below. Here’s what you need to know about expired sunscreen.
First thing’s first, does sunscreen expire? To answer your question: yes. Sunscreen is a drug—a substance intended for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease—and just as your prescriptions come with expiration dates, your SPF typically should, too. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that all sunscreens are required to have an expiration date unless testing from the manufacturer shows the product will remain stable for at least three years.
So, when does sunscreen expire? There isn’t a hard and fast rule to this question. Some sunscreens will expire after a year, while others can last for three. This is why you’ll want to check for an expiration date. If there’s no date to be found, the Mayo Clinic recommends writing the date of purchase on the bottle so that you know to throw it out after three years have passed.
It’s easy to think that you can get away with using expired sunscreen, but your sun safety isn’t something you want to play around with. If you’ve ever used SPF as directed and taken other sun protection measures, yet still experienced a sunburn, it could be that you used expired sunscreen. Per the FDA, you should discard expired sunscreens since there is no guarantee they will remain safe and fully effective.
While following an expiration date is important, the Mayo Clinic also offers two tips you should keep in mind to ensure your SPF is in good condition.
1. Shield it from the sun. Don’t expose your sunscreen bottle to excessive heat and direct sunlight. Place it in the shade or wrap it in a cool towel when out and about!
2. Pay attention to the formula. If you notice any obvious changes in the color or consistency of your sunscreen, throw it out!
Speaking of expired sunscreen, you may be wondering how long a bottle will last—not in terms of its expiration date, but in terms of how much product is in the bottle! The Mayo Clinic states that if you’re applying sunscreen generously and frequently (as you should be—especially during the summer season!), a bottle likely won’t last long. In fact, they’ve provided some general guidelines so you can get an idea of how much you’ll be using.
1. You’ll use about an ounce to cover each exposed area of your body. Yup, a liberal application is one ounce—the amount it takes to fill a shot glass! But keep in mind…
3. You might need more. As you can probably guess, not everyone is the same size, and the amount of sunscreen you’ll need isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal, either.
3. You’ll likely use a lot of the bottle. Based on the above, if you have a four-ounce bottle, you’ll use almost ¼ of it during just one application. And let’s not forget about reapplying every two hours!
With all of that said, you may not have to worry about your sunscreen expiring after all! You should be using bottles up every summer—and not using the same one for years on end.
Next up: While we're on the topic of expiration, we’re sure your curious about how long you can keep other beauty products. To learn when to toss your makeup must-haves, head over to our article, How Long Does Makeup Last?
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