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Sun 101: What You Need to Know About Sunscreen Expiration Dates

Does sunblock expire? Here, we talk about how to read the sunscreen expiration date and the risks of using expired sunscreen.


There are two types of people: those who throw everything away by the expiration date listed on the package and those who like to live on the edge and extend the shelf life of their beauty products.


In most cases, it’s not the worst thing to do the latter (you’ve probably put on a serum that’s past its expiration date and there was no harm), but the truth is, these dates on beauty products are there for a reason, and with sunscreen, the reason is pretty important.


Let’s cut to the chase: Your sunscreen expiration date matters.


Expiration dates are important to follow,” says Dr. Tara Rao, a dermatologist in New York City. “This has to do both with the active ingredients (like zinc oxide or avobenzone) and the inactive ingredients, which actually work to keep the active ingredients fresh and the formulation of the products agreeable to your skin.”


Since the ingredients in any cleanser, serum or moisturizer degrade over time, your products just simply won’t work as well as they once did after they expire. This isn’t always the worst thing when it comes to a moisturizer or serum, but when it comes to sunscreen, you really do want to keep a good eye on that expiration date.


Think about it: If the ingredients in your beauty products degrade over time and the expiration date is an indicator that those ingredients may no longer be effective after that date, and the actives in sunscreen are the very ingredients that work to protect your skin from the sun, then you’re not getting the SPF protection you need once the expiration date is up. And if you’re wearing ineffective sunscreen, you’re basically just putting on a lotion that won’t help protect your skin from skin cancer, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging.


Here’s why sunscreen expires...


All skincare products contain ingredients that start fresh and eventually lose their potency or efficacy over time. This is especially true with the actives in both chemical and mineral sunscreens. With chemical sunscreens, the issue is that the ingredients like avobenzone and homosalate will start to oxidize after prolonged exposure to the air––and every time you open your products, you’re exposing them to air, even if just for a little bit. With mineral sunscreens, the main concern is that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will simply start to degrade over time.


Here’s how you can tell that your sunscreen is expiring...


Just because your sunscreen bottle has an expiration date listed on it doesn’t mean that the formula can’t degrade faster than the date printed. The FDA has established that, unless otherwise noted with a clear expiration date, all sunscreens sold in the US should have sufficient testing to prove that the formula will last for at least two years. Here at Supergoop!, we clearly list an expiration date that has been thoroughly tested on each and every product. The date is easy to find, easy to read and we can always ensure that the sunscreen is effective through the last day of the month and year that’s listed.


There are, however, some rogue factors that could speed up the degradation process of a sunscreen. For starters, you’ll want to make sure to store your sunscreen in a dark place away from sunlight. Excessive heat can cause the actives in sunscreen to break down, so when you bring your SPF to the beach, try wrapping it in a towel or keeping it in your cooler. And when you aren’t using your daily sunscreen for your face, the same rules apply - keep it in a cool, dark place, like in your makeup bag or inside your vanity.


If you just have a hunch that your sunscreen may be past its prime, then use your senses to make the final call. Does it smell strange? Is the color different? Does the texture feel weird? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there’s a really strong chance that your gut is right––or at the very least, your SPF just isn’t living up to its full SPF duties.


Plot twist… Here’s why you don’t need to worry too much about your sunscreen expiring.


In all honesty, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about your sunscreen expiring. Why? Because you should be wearing so much sunscreen (and even layering different kinds––after all, we’re all about an SPF wardrobe) throughout the day that you’ll go through tubes in no time! Don’t forget––adequate SPF application for protection is about a quarter-sized amount for your face and a shot-glass-full for your body. And then you need to reapply every two hours.


Take it from us… We go through a tube of Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 and a jar of Superscreen Daily Moisturizer SPF 40 every month. And even when it comes to the bigger bottles, like our 18 oz Everyday Sunscreen pump, those only last about two to three months, because we like to cover every exposed inch of our skin when we’re exercising or just hanging out outside (or “living bright” as we like to call it around here).

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