How To Tell If Your Sunscreen Is Expired

There are a few telltale signs.

If you bitterly toss mostly full bottles of sunscreen at the end of the summer, you'll be happy to learn that it's possible to get a couple more seasons—or even years—out of that tube. Sunscreen should remain effective for three years from the date of manufacture, though it could expire sooner if you're not careful about how you store it. Here's how to tell if your bottle of sunscreen is still effective.

Mother Applying Sunscreen to Daughter at Beach
Getty/Uwe Krejci

Change in Appearance

It can be pretty easy to spot sunscreen that's expired just by the look of it. It might have a yellow cast, have taken on a different smell, or have changed consistency. Even with brand-new bottles, it's important to look out for any of these signs and discard them if or when they arise.

Expiration Date

Some sunscreens will have a very clear expiration date on the bottle or tube, usually on the bottom of spray sunscreens, on the labels of bottles, or across the top edge of lotion tubes. According to Banana Boat, like most sunscreens, their products remain effective for three years from the manufacture date, which can be found on the bottom of their products or labels. Check for either an expiration or manufacture date in the store before you buy to make sure you aren't buying an old product. It may be helpful to label new bottles of sunscreen with the purchase date so you'll know how long you've had them. If you can't find the expiration or manufacture date on your sunscreen tube, regardless of brand, it's best to do a quick online search to figure out what you're looking at.

Remember, there is a big difference between three years from the date of purchase and three years from the manufacture date. The manufacture date is when the clock starts. Some stores have been known to carry expired sunscreens on their shelves—a fact that Good Morning America uncovered back in 2018. The rule of thumb is to use your best judgment, even if the bottle is dated. If the color changes, the consistency changes, or the smell changes, it's best to toss it.

Safe Sunscreen Storage

Though sunscreen should have a three-year window for use, that's only if the proper care is paid in regard to storing. It's a good idea to check your sunscreen supply before you head to the soccer field or the beach. Check the dates and the contents. If sunscreen is expired or hasn't been stored properly, it's not as effective. It's important to keep your sunscreen cool and out of direct sunlight, even when you're at the beach, pool, or lake. The FDA suggests wrapping it in a beach towel, tucking it in your bag, or storing it in your cooler.

Types of Sunscreen

The FDA recommends applying at least an SPF 15 broad-spectrum sunscreen, higher for fairer skin, 15 minutes before you go outside. When shopping for sunscreen, look for a sunscreen you don't mind applying frequently. If you don't like it, you may not use it effectively. With so many different variations, there is a sunscreen for every preference. Besides lotions and sprays, sunscreens come in gels, sticks, and pastes. The FDA has not authorized sunscreen wipes, powders, or shampoos.

Proper Application

Once you've established that your sunscreen is still good, make sure to apply it properly. Reapply sunscreen to your face and body every two hours and after getting wet. Sunscreens labeled for swimming or sweatproof aren't waterproof and still need to be reapplied frequently. You should use at least one ounce to evenly cover your entire body for each application. Don't forget areas that are easily forgotten, like the scalp, back of neck, ears, lips, tops of feet, and along the hairline.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles