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When do sunscreens expire – What to watch out for


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A sunscreen can “spoil” and lose its protective properties even if not carefully maintained.

The sunscreen is a person’s best ally 365 days a year for healthy skin that will not show signs of premature aging as it reduces the risk of sunlight penetrating the skin UVA and UVB. A 2020 study showed that sunscreen dramatically reduces the risk of the most common forms of skin cancer. THE SPF protection which offers a sunscreen is essentially an “umbrella” for the sun rays that are known to cause the following:

  • Burn
  • Skin damage
  • Premature Aging
  • Scars / spots (freckles) on the skin
  • Skin cancer
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However, it is important to know that, like any other product, sunscreens have an expiration date, which means that after some time it “spoils” and loses its protective properties. In an expired sunscreen it is possible to notice changes in appearance, e.g. in its color, density or smell. Obviously after its expiration it stops and protects while it is possible to do damage to the skin if used after its expiration.

It is also important to emphasize that a sunscreen can “spoil” and lose its protective properties from careless maintenance, e.g. if exposed for hours to very high temperatures or high humidity.

When does the sunscreen expire?

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The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, requires all sunscreens to have an expiration date on the package unless the company that makes the product tests and publishes the results so that it can be maintained and effective up to three years later. Anyone who acquires a sunscreen that does not have an expiration date on the package, should take it for granted that it has expired after three years in possession.

A smart tip is to write yourself on the packaging of the product that does not have an expiration date the date you bought it to be sure. No one should use a product that has expired or three years have passed since its production because it will provide little protection.

How do I know that the sunscreen is over?

The best way to identify if the sunscreen has expired is to check the expiration date on the package. Most sunscreens have an expiration date on them.

It is usually present in the bottom of the bottle or in the package. It goes without saying that every manufacturer assumes that the consumer maintains the sunscreen properly and does not jeopardize its effectiveness by exposing it to excessive temperatures or humidity that will weaken its properties. A sunscreen should be stored at room temperature and of course not exposed to the sun for hours when we are on the beach but under an umbrella or in a bag.

If there is no expiration date or it has expired and you do not remember when you bought it, take a close look at the look, texture and smell of the product to see if there are any alterations that will mean that it is no longer suitable for use. If it is very watery, has small tumors that it did not have before or smells different, then it is unsuitable.

Dangers of expired sunscreen

If a sunscreen has expired it means that its ingredients are no longer active and are not effective in protecting the skin from sunlight. The two types of sunscreen are natural and chemical. Natural ones contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This type remains stable for longer because of its ingredients and is even more difficult to spread evenly on the skin.

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that block UVA and UVB rays. These types of sunscreens can undergo molecular changes when exposed to high temperatures from prolonged sun exposure. Even though they may offer some protection, they will not be as effective. Without adequate protection a person can be burned by UVB rays or exposed to free radicals by UVA rays and show premature skin aging.

How to keep the sunscreen

  • Keep it in a cool shady place inside the house and wrapped in a towel or under shade on the beach.
  • Handle the package properly, do not open and close it unnecessarily constantly and do not hold it with dirty hands because bacteria can enter.
  • Keep it dry, since in addition to the high heat, a lot of humidity also harms it.

How to use sunscreen

Choose the right one. Sunscreen should cover a wide range and protect against both UVA and UVB rays. The FDA in America recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is waterproof and has an SPF protection index of at least 30 or better above 30.

Put in 15 minutes before leaving the house. Many people make mistakes when it comes to timing sunscreen use, the right thing to do is to use it about 15 minutes before you leave the house because it is estimated that it takes about as long as it takes to absorb and act.

Cover the whole body and face. It is important to have proper protection, not to hesitate to put a sufficient amount and make sure that you cover every inch of face and body exposed to the sun. Even parts of the body that we usually neglect, such as e.g. the neck or parts of the head that have no hair.

Renew every two hours. If you stay in the sun for several hours, it is extremely necessary to renew the product, reusing it everywhere, every two hours. The same is true if you have sweated or swam and it is possible that the sunscreen has been rinsed off.

Do not forget the lips. In addition to body and face sunscreen, it is good to get a lip balm with sun protection for your lips because it is a point that is neglected and exposed more than any other.

NOTE: The contents of this website do not constitute and cannot be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or referral. All information is provided to readers by health professionals, for informational purposes only. There is no intention for this content to replace personalized medical advice, diagnosis, prognosis or treatment.


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