Does Sunscreen Expire

How to Answer the Question:  Does Sunscreen Expire?

Everyone knows the importance of protecting their skin from harmful UVR rays; however, many people question the viability of the product, asking the question “does sunscreen expire?”

Sunscreen: why we need it

It seems the most natural thing in the world to spend time enjoying the outdoors.  Fresh breezes, lovely blue skies and warm sunshine are “feel good” elements in life that are free to everyone.  But while they are free, there is a price to be paid for spending time out in the sun.  Premature aging of the skin, wrinkling and skin damage are known results of exposing the skin to UVR rays.

Sunscreen was developed to protect the skin from these UVR rays.  Using a combination of physical and chemical ingredients, the product is able to prevent sun damage by either reflecting light away from the skin or by absorbing it into the product.

Ingredients of any type have a shelf life.  When these ingredients are freshest, they are their most potent; providing the best protection.  As they grow older, their effectiveness begins to decrease, which is the normal order of all natural products.


People often tend to associate expiration with edible products; foods, drinks and such.  These types of products let us know when they have reached their end date; milk goes sour, foods mold and eggs smell bad.  However, medications, cosmetics and lotions often show no sign of reaching an end to their usefulness, and many people do not consider them to be susceptible.

Those who ponder the question of “does sunscreen expire” need only to examine the bottle in which the product is contained to find their answer.  The majority of sunscreens are stamped with a clear expiration date, either on the bottom or the sides of the bottle.  Expiration is due to the fact that the ingredients contained within the sunscreen lose their effectiveness over time, rendering them useless for the purpose for which they were designed.  As this aging occurs, the sunscreen stops working; providing no protection whatsoever from the harmful UVR rays.

In some cases, the expiration date of the sunscreen product may not be clearly marked on the bottle.  The lack of the date does not indicate that the sunscreen has an unlimited shelf life, however.  It is estimated that most sunscreen products have an effective life of approximately 3 years.  Using this guide, it can be helpful to remember back to when you may have purchased the product.  If it has been so long that it is impossible to remember, it is likely time to toss the bottle and purchase new.


Possible signs of expiration

There are some instances when the appearance or smell of the product may indicate that its freshness date has passed.  Some types of topical applications will thin and become more fluid as the product ages.  In other cases, perfumes or scents are added to the sunscreen to make them more appealing to the consumer; over time, this additive may turn rancid or odd smelling.  If either of these situations appear in the sunscreen you have on hand, it may be advisable to simply obtain fresher sunscreen.

It is usually at the beginning of the season when the warm sun beckons that people ask themselves, “does sunscreen expire”, as they reach for that bottle of sunscreen.  In order to provide your skin with the utmost of protection from harmful UVR rays, it is recommended to check the expiration date on your bottle of sunscreen before it is needed.