“Does sunscreen expire?” is something you’ve probably wondered as you’re rummaging around in your old beach bag. It’s easy to find last year’s bottle, but what happens when you don’t know when to toss it? Like cosmetics, sunblock products such as mineral sunscreen and zinc oxide sunscreen do have a shelf life, meaning you have to be mindful of the expiration date of sunscreen for face use, especially as temperatures are rising and we’re heading into the summer. No one likes having sunburned lips or furiously searching for easy sunburn treatments.
I grew up in South Florida applying sunscreen so thick I looked like a snowman in the middle of the summer, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to find 10 to 15 half-empty sunscreen bottles while poking around my bathroom shelf. Ask anyone living near a beach and they’ll tell you the same thing: More often than not, we’re sunscreen hoarders.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and practitioner at 85th Street Skin & Laser Center in New York, also stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen to Glamour—regardless of whether or not it’s expired. From the best sunscreens for your face to benzene-free sunscreen, Dr. Zeichner can’t recommend it enough.
To save you from looking like a bright red tomato this summer—and to help you avoid skin cancer— we’re breaking down every single one of your (sun)burning questions about sunblock. How much is too much? What if it smells weird? Is there a difference between what you put on your face versus your body?
Bottom line though: make sure you apply as much as you can. You don’t want to end up searching how to get rid of a sunburn fast later this summer.
Does sunscreen expire?
According to Dr. Zeichner, sunscreens do have an expiration date, so they should be thrown away after that date passes. After that date, the company can no longer guarantee that a product works at its best.
Is it okay to use sunscreen that has expired?
If the choice is between applying expired sunblock or using none at all, Dr. Zeichner recommends using what you have even if it’s old. “That being said, expired sunscreen likely will not give you the same level of protection that it did when it first was produced,” he explains. How does sunscreen work, you may ask? The more recently the product was created, the higher the chances it will do the job of protecting your skin at the level specified on the label. So if you wear SPF 50 UV-blocking sunscreen that’s been sitting at the bottom of your drawer for years, it may not protect your skin as well as it did when you first purchased it.
How long does sunscreen last after its expiration date?
Sunscreen can last for up to three years after the expiration date, but if you’re in a pinch, you can technically use it unless your skin is extremely sensitive and develops rashes or you experience discomfort. If not, apply ahead! There’s a catch, though—expired sunscreen may not work as well. If you use an expired product, it’s best to reapply it several times on top of wearing protective clothing, glasses, and brimmed hats.
How do you know if sunscreen is expired?
For one, the smell, consistency, and color can be off. Since this varies by brand, it’s best to toss your sun-protection creams every three years.
How much sunscreen should I be using?
According to Dr. Zeichner, a quarter-sized dollop should be good for your face. For your body, an ounce should suffice. “Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours,” he says. “That means the four-ounce bottle you bought for Memorial Day should be gone once the weekend is over if you were using it the right way. If you still have your Memorial Day weekend bottle on Labor Day, then you definitely are not using as much as you should be.”
What can you do with old sunscreen?
Apply it! However, if you have a new bottle of sunscreen, you should probably use that one and toss your older formula to guarantee the best protection from harmful UV rays.
What’s the best way to store sunscreen?
Although most sunscreens can withstand immense heat and sweltering conditions, Dr. Zeichner recommends storing your bottle at room temperature. “I do not recommend leaving a bottle of sunscreen on the dashboard of your car during peak summer heat, as it will challenge the stability of the formula,” he cautions. “Instead, especially on a hot day, store your sunscreen next to your beach cooler to keep the temperature down.”
Whats the best SPF for face versus body?
To be honest, it’s kind of a marketing ploy. According to Dr. Zeichner, face sunscreen and body sunscreen are as equally effective, and the difference mostly boils down to the aesthetics of the product and additives in the formula, like antioxidants.
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Originally Appeared on Glamour