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Can Sunscreen Expire?: How Long Does It Last?


The chemicals in sunscreens are usually pretty stable which means you can use last summer’s sunscreen as long as it’s not past the expiration date listed on the bottle.

Unfortunately, not every sunscreen has an expiration date. To make sure you’re using a sunscreen that’s still up to snuff, look for one that has an expiration date clearly marked. Using expired sunscreen isn’t dangerous, but it could reduce the sun protection you’re getting.

According to some experts, chemical sunscreens are still potent for up to three years, but to be safe it’s best to discard them before the expiration date – or within two years after purchase if the bottle has no expiration date. After all, sunscreen isn’t that expensive and the downsides of getting a sunburn from using expired sunscreen are too high.

Keep in mind that a sunscreen bottle sets on the store shelf for a while before you purchase it, so be liberal with discarding it if there’s no expiration date and you can’t be sure how long you’ve had it.

What about organic sunscreens? Most organic sunscreens have a shelf life of two years and should be kept no longer than this, because they don’t contain the same synthetic preservatives as chemical sunscreens. Their shelf life may be shorter.

Store Sunscreen Properly to Keep It Working:

One thing that can shorten the shelf life of a sunscreen is storing it in a hot place. When the chemicals in sunscreen are exposed to heat or light, they break down and lose their potency. If you keep your sunscreen in the hot glove compartment of your car all summer, you may end up with an expired sunscreen no matter what the expiration date on the bottle says. Store sunscreen in a dark place at room temperature when you’re not using it.

The Bottom Line:

Sunscreens have a limited shelf life so make it easy by buying one that has an expiration date clearly marked and storing it in a dark place at room temperature. Organic sunscreens should never be kept for longer than two years, Chemical sunscreens without an expiration date can theoretically be kept for three if stored properly, but it’s better to discard them at two to ensure maximal potency.

If you’re concerned about the chemicals in drugstore sunscreens, consider buying an organic sunblock that contains zinc or titanium oxide instead of a chemical one. Whatever you do, don’t go out without some type of sun protection.

Dr. Kristie

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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