Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)  on 03rd Nov 2020

Does sunscreen expire? Why and how?

Does sunscreen expire?

Are you pondering on the fact that you can use the same sunscreen for years? Or is the expiration date in sunscreen or any cosmetics is inconsequential?

What's remaining from the previous summer probably isn't as compelling as you anticipate that it should be — and using it past the expiration date can put your skin in danger. 

Why you shouldn't use expired sunscreen  

There are two primary issues with expired sunscreen. One, it won't do its work. As per Dr. Dray, a board-certified dermatologist, sunscreen is an FDA-approved medication to prevent UV rays. Like other medications, it is not advised to use expired sunscreen.

The expired product begins to lose its efficacy, she adds. Expired itself means that the item isn’t capable of accomplishing the SPF rating mentioned on the label. That goes for both mineral and chemical sunscreens.

Chemical sunscreens that contain ingredients, for example, avobenzone, oxybenzone, and homosalate after expiration, can be oxidized and turn out to be less viable. Mineral sunscreens — those with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide on the mark — don't have that issue, yet they do degrade.  

We will learn it thoroughly below-

Expired mineral sunscreen would incorporate graininess, additive breakdown, shading, and odor changes. So, while the sunscreen ingredients work, it may not spread appropriately on the skin to get the necessary coverage that gives the insurance.

This drives us to the second issue with expired sunscreen. Regardless of whether the SPF ingredient is still acceptable, changes in the equation can make it both inadequate and risky for the skin.  

Is sunscreen from a year ago still great? When does sunscreen expire?  

According to the Food and Drug Administration, sunscreen maintains its original strength for three years. This implies that you can utilize extra sunscreen starting with one year then onto the next.

A few sunscreens incorporate an expiration date — a date demonstrating when they're not, at this point, viable. It is important to Dispose of sunscreen that is past its termination date. If you purchase sunscreen that doesn't have an expiration date, compose the date of procurement on the container. Toss out the product when three years have passed since the purchase date.

To keep your sunscreen in great condition, abstain from presenting the compartment to extreme warmth or direct sun. Dispose of sunscreen that has any undeniable changes in shading or consistency.  

Why and how sunscreens expire?   

There are two primary kinds of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Both secure against UV beams; they utilize various ingredients to do as such.  

How chemical sunscreens expire-  

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are compositions of benzene rings, which have a steady structure that permits the particle to retain UV rays.

After some time and under outrageous conditions, the bonds holding the ring together will start to break, and the compound will not be compelling at impeding destructive UV beams.  

There are a lot of inactive ingredients in chemical sunscreen that benefits:  

How physical sunscreens expire?  

For physical or mineral-based sunscreens, the ingredients reflect UV rays as opposed to absorbing it.

These sunscreens typically come as a cream. The active ingredients, similar to titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, are suspended in the inert fixings that permit you to apply the sunblock to your skin.

Nonetheless, the fine nanoparticles in zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are denser than their environmental factors and, after some time, will bunch together, getting unevenly dispersed in the cream.

Accordingly, when you apply the sunscreen, you won't get as even a layer of coverage — since you'll have clusters of defensive minerals in certain spots and no insurance at all in others. 

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What factors influence the shelf life of sunscreen or any other skincare item, and how?  

An item's "shelf life" defines the time allotment you can anticipate that an item should work and look the expected way. This period fluctuates, contingent upon the sort of item, how it is stored, and how it is utilized.  

After some time, skincare begins to debase or break down. Here are some basic reasons:  

  • Dipping fingers into an item include microorganisms, for example, fungi and bacteria, which should be controlled, for instance, by preservatives.  
  • However, over time, preservatives can separate, permitting fungi and bacteria to develop.  
  • Applicators, particularly mascara wands, are exposed to microscopic organisms and parasites each time you use them.  
  • Emulsions, which are combinations of water and oil, can isolate.  
  • Exposure to moisture, for example, in a restroom, may make it simpler for fungi or bacteria to develop.
  • Products can dry out, making them solidify and break.  
  • Temperature changes and introduction to daylight and air can cause changes in shading and texture and may make the items smell. 

Take expiry dates seriously 

Fortunately, there's a simple method to sort out if your sunscreen is bad. The FDA requires sunscreen producers to follow a similar expiration naming prerequisite as over-the-counter medications. Each product must have an expiration date, except if lab testing has indicated it functions for three years. According to Dr. Dray, expired sunscreen can potentially make your skin vulnerable to sun rays, causing sun exposure than intended and can even cause sunburn.

If you are still confused, there are some warning signs to throw your beloved product. Changes in consistency or color are likewise an ideal symptom.

The FDA suggests manufacturers follow normalized rules for security testing. The rules are loaded with muddled specialized terms and logical obstacles for makers to clear. To summarize it, these suggestions ask that manufacturers uncover any three batches of the item to different capacity conditions through the span of months or years.

Then the product goes through a wide range of tests— microbiological, physical, chemical, and so on—to sort out how long their product will dependably remain effective and secured under various conditions after some time.

So, that tiny expiration date on your sunscreen bottle is worth considering as a lot of effort is bundled to ensure the medication will be as viable as conceivable up to that point.

The degraded ingredients in expired Sunscreen can act as an irritant and can cause rashes and all sorts of skin issues say, Dr. Dray. This is the reason the FDA and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) both suggest throwing your sunscreen when it arrives at its expiration date.

How to tell your sunscreen is expired? It's not as easy to detect- 

Finding a sunscreen's expiration date isn't a simple task. In case you're fortunate, the expiration date will be printed upfront. Shockingly, this isn't the situation for all sunscreens.

You can locate a little open container icon in some bottles alongside a number that shows the expiration date. Different brands print the date in minuscule, white letters on the rear of the container that are not entirely obvious if you don't know where to look. Still, others print a code on the lower part of the box, telling you when the item expires.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) additionally suggests marking the date you purchased the sunscreen on the container with the goal that you'll know when three years have passed and its time to toss it out. If you glance at any visible changes in texture or color in the products, it's time to throw that away.  

Important Note:

Sometimes, when the sunscreen isn’t working properly, the genuine issue isn't that your sunscreen has expired — it's that you're not utilizing enough. If a container of sunscreen is enduring you and your family longer than its known successful life, it is possible that you may not be applying sunscreen appropriately.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests grown-ups apply around 1 ounce of a water-safe, broad-spectrum sunscreen at any SPF 30 or higher every 2 hours when you're outside. That implies a 5-or 6-ounce container could be followed only once a day in the sun!  

How to store your sunscreen to maintain its durability.   

Store your sunscreen in a cool, dull spot. Exposing the product to excessive warmth or direct sun can make its ingredients less compelling.

When outside, you can ensure sunscreen by enclosing the top with a towel or putting it in the shade.

In case you are out in the sun for quite a while, you can store sunscreen in a cooler. Another thought is to apply sunscreen inside so you can abstain from taking it out in the sun.

Do other skincare products expire too?  

Skincare items expire, and the manufacturers are obligated to mention the expiration date on the product label.

Any product in a jar or that accompanies a dropper, similar to a serum, is often exposed to microorganisms and pollution, should be dumped after nine months. Items that arrive in a pump may last as long as a year.

After the expiration date, ingredients won't perform ideal, especially in the case of sunscreen.  


As per FDA guidelines, sunscreen has a timeframe of realistic usability of 3 years. For the best sun security, utilize your sunscreen before the expiration date and store it in a cool, dim spot.

Expired sunscreen might be superior to no sunscreen; however, it's consistently imperative to have a type of sun insurance when outside, no matter what.

Most important, dispose of the sunscreen that has any conspicuous changes in smell or consistency. Keep in mind: When in question, toss it out!

Most importantly, sunscreen is intended to be utilized. A liberal application is around one ounce, so a bottle shouldn't last too long.