Does Sunscreen Go Bad?

After a seemingly endless winter, it looks like we are skipping over spring and going full speed ahead for summer. While you’re making plans for vacation and other fun things, take a moment to think about sunscreen. While you’re hunting down the tube of SPF 30 you bought last year (or was it the year before?), you may be asking yourself, “How long should I keep sunscreen before I have to throw it out?”

The answer depends on a few factors:

Expiration date. All sunscreens should have a date stamped on them to reflect how long the product should remain effective. If you cannot find the date on the bottle at the time you purchase the product, we suggest that you write the month and year you bought it on the bottle in permanent marker. On average, if stored properly, sunscreen will last about three years.

Storage. While sunscreen is used in the sun, it shouldn’t be stored in the sun, by the pool, in your beach bag or in your car for prolonged periods. Most sunscreen manufacturers recommend keeping sunscreen products in temperatures less than 40°C (104°F). Many places in the U.S. can reach these temperatures or higher, as can your beach bag in the back of your car. Exposing sunscreen for temperatures higher than recommended by the manufacturer can reduce their effectiveness and stability. Store your sunscreen in a cool place and use it before the stated expiration date.

SPF. If your sunscreen is less than SPF 30, we recommend that you toss it and buy a product with a 30 or higher SPF rating. Yes, we know that you think you look better with a suntan, but it is time to ditch that SPF 12. Over time, prolonged sun exposure will translate into premature aging symptoms such as sunspots and wrinkles. Prolonged exposure to the sun also puts you at risk of developing skin cancer.

While you’re at it, grab a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, two ingredients that reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Another note about sunscreen: Use it regularly and year-round – even in the winter – to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Have questions about sunscreen or want to reduce the signs of aging caused by the sun? Call Dr. Peterson today at 785-234-9000.