We all have that one skincare product that often gets forgotten and pushed to the back of our stash. Maybe we’ve used it once, and it didn’t sit right with our skin, or simply forgotten about it. Most of the time, this forgotten product tends to be sunscreen – which, ironically, should be in our daily routine. 

How can you be sure if that long-forgotten bottle of sunscreen is expired or not? Luckily, we scoured the best tips to help you identify whether or not your sunscreen is still good. 

Read more: Getting to know your sunscreen

Wait, sunscreen actually expires?

Unfortunately, yes. Like any other skincare product, your sunscreen has an expiration date which tells you how long you can use it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all sunscreens in the market have a shelf-life of three years. As such, they should retain their initial strength during this time so you can use them year after year. 

Still, the longevity and quality of your SPF products depend on how you use and store them. Heat, humidity, moisture, and bacteria cause sunscreen to break down faster and affect its efficacy. Always store it in a cold, dark, and dry location. And if you’re heading out to the beach, wrap it in a towel to protect it from direct sunlight. You can also store it in your cooler – it also adds a cooling effect to beat the heat!

How do I know if my sunscreen is expired?

Check the expiration date on the label.

Some sunscreens have an expiration date, which indicates when they will no longer be effective. If you see that it’s way past the printed date, throw it away immediately. You may also encounter sunscreens that don’t have expiration dates in the bottle. In this case, you can mark the packaging with the day you bought it. When three years have passed since the purchase date, throw it out and buy a new one.

Check the consistency. 

One of the telltale signs of expired sunscreens? The consistency. If you notice that it has become watery, grainy, or chunky, it’s a sign to let it go. A change in consistency means the ingredients in your sunscreen have broken down and are no longer safe to use. 

Check the smell, too!

You know how you can tell food is spoiled when it smells funky? It’s the same for your sunscreens! If it no longer smells as it did the first time you use it, it’s time for a brand-new bottle.

If you’ve done these and are still unsure if your sunscreen is still good, just don’t use it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, after all! Just toss out your old sunscreen and buy a new bottle to prevent adverse reactions.

What happens if I use expired sunscreen?

It goes without saying that expired sunscreen no longer offers sun protection to your skin. It can no longer bounce off the sun’s harmful UV rays and shield your skin from free radicals. As such, you become more prone to sunburn, premature ageing, and skin cancer. The expired ingredients in the sunscreen can also give your sore, irritated skin, so be careful with the expiration dates! 

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