You’re looking for a bottle of sunscreen before you leave home with the kids and find one in the depths of a beach bag and wonder: how long has it been since I bought this? While you might be thinking “she’ll be right,” lathering up with expired sunscreen might not provide you the protection benefits you need.
Does sunscreen have an expiry date?
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requires all sunscreens to have an expiration date printed on the bottle to indicate the timeframe of its effectiveness. Storage instructions must also be labelled as it won’t work as well if it’s past the use-by date or has been stored incorrectly. According to the Cancer Council, sunscreen should be out of the sun and at temperatures below 30°C, so not left in the car while you go out for a swim.
Can you use expired sunscreen?
It’s a fairly good indication that if the sunscreen doesn’t look, smell or feel the way it did when you first purchased it, you should discard it. A change in its consistency might signify its ingredients are no longer active, giving you less protection against the sun, or none at all.
Does sunscreen expire if it’s not opened?
The expiry date printed on the bottle indicates how long the sunscreen is effective for. Even if the bottle hasn’t been opened, it can still lose its effectiveness over time. Sunscreen is typically designed to remain at its original strength for protecting you from the sun for up to three years.
How to read sunscreen expiration dates
The expiry date of the sunscreen is typically preceded by the expiry date prefix ‘Expiry Date’, ‘EXPIRY DATE’, ‘Expiry’, ‘EXPIRY’, ‘Expires’, ‘EXPIRES’, ‘Exp. Date’, ‘EXP. DATE’, ‘Use before’, ‘USE BEFORE’, ‘Use By’, ‘USE BY’, ‘Exp’, or ‘EXP’.
In some instances, the date of manufacture is used, and it can be found either on the bottom of the product or towards the bottom of the label, which is demonstrated below (picture courtesy of Banana Boat). The first two digits is the year it was manufactured, while the next three are the day of the year. As an example, a label ‘15090CF’ would mean it was manufactured March 31, 2015 and in turn, expires in three years on March 31, 2018.
Which sunscreen lasts longer?
On average, products with SPF remain effective for three years from the date of manufacture, while sunless tanning products are effective for two years, according to Banana Boat. It’s a similar story in regards to other brands sold in Australia.
You may also be interested in:
How to reduce wasting sunscreen?
If you use sunscreen properly, you shouldn’t have too many bottles left lying around. According to the Cancer Council, sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going in the sun. Sunscreen should also be applied liberally with approximately 35ml for a full body application and reapplied at least every two hours, no matter if its water resistant or not.
So, let’s do the math. To use up a 1L bottle of sunscreen, it should take you less than a month if you spend each weekend out and about.
With Australia having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, it’s important to take sun protection seriously. So, remember when you’re out and about – slip, slop, slap, sleek and slide!