Sunscreen Expires!

They’re designed to last three years.

As the first warm weather weekends slowly trickle in, you dig in your cabinet for last summer’s bottle of sunscreen to slather on any newly exposed skin. But wait. Does sunscreen expire? You bet it does. Here’s how to tell if your SPF is off.

Like food, sunscreen can go bad, and the ingredients can spoil, leading to a watery consistency. They also become less effective, which significantly increases the potential for sunburns, sun damage, brown spots, and the risk for skin cancer development.

There are two main issues with expired sunscreen. One, it won’t protect you. Two, even if the active SPF ingredient is still technically good, changes in the formula over time can make it both ineffective and problematic for skin.

Most sunscreens are designed to last three years. So, the first thing to do is check for an expiration date on the container (though not all brands have one).

But even if your sunscreen is only a summer old, there are other factors that might make the SPF spoil faster than the date stamped on the tube. If you store your sunscreen in a warm place, like a car, by a pool, or in your purse, it will expire faster due to the heat.

Regardless of the date, always test the consistency of your sunscreen before you use it. Check for changes in texture, like clumping or pilling, or changes in smell.

The bottom line? Experts recommend replacing your sunscreen every year. If you use sunscreen generously and appropriately, a bottle shouldn’t last you very long.