QQ: Does Sunscreen Expire?
We’ve said it a million times over, and we’ll continue to say it: daily sunscreen use is one of the most important skin-care steps you can take. As such, water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher deserves a permanent spot in your skin-care arsenal year-round. That said, you need to make sure the SPF formula you’re using is still good because sunscreen does expire. Find out more, ahead.
Look for an Expiration Date
The first thing you should do before applying sunscreen is check the expiration date on the bottle. This will specify the time limit for the product’s stability and efficacy. If the expiration date has passed, toss it out and buy a new one — seriously, it’s not worth the potential skin damage.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sunscreens are designed to stay at strength for three years. While most formulas should have an expiration date listed, yours may not. If that’s the case, think back to when you first purchased it; if you can’t remember, consider tossing it for a fresh one to be extra cautious. Moving forward, it’s always good practice to write the date of purchase on any sunscreen bottles that don’t list an explicit expiration date. That way you can be sure to throw it out within three years.
To restock, we recommend the CeraVe Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 or the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen for Face & Body SPF 100.
How to Store Sunscreen Properly
Consumer Reports retested samples of select sunscreens and compared them to the previous year’s testing and found that their performance did not suffer. But — and this is a big BUT — where you store your sunscreen matters. Has your sunscreen been sitting in your trunk or glove compartment since last summer? If so, toss it. Active ingredients in the formulas of sunscreen products may be susceptible to breaking down in environments of high heat, which may reduce the formula’s shelf life. For best results, store your sunscreen in a cool place.
How to Check for Changes
As mentioned, sunscreens are designed to stay “fresh” for three years, as long as they’re stored properly. However, it’s smart to check the product for any obvious changes in consistency, texture, smell and/or color before use — even if it hasn’t expired. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, throw it out and get a new one.
Make Sure You’re Applying the Proper Amount
If you consistently have a sunscreen that’s lasting you for three years or more, chances are you’re not applying the proper amount or not applying it frequently enough. Generally, a liberal application is about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to cover exposed parts of the body. This amount can vary from person to person, depending on body size, but reapplications should take place at least every two hours (sooner if you sweat profusely, towel-dry or go for a dip in water). To put the amount per use into perspective, you should use about one-fourth of a 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen during one application. Yes, you read that right; it’s very possible that one bottle of sunscreen won’t even last you through a full weekend if you plan to stay in the sun day in and day out.
Take Additional Sun Precautions
Keep in mind that there’s no sunscreen out there that can fully protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Luckily, there are still ways you can enjoy all that fun in the sun this summer without risking unwanted damage to your skin.
In order to offer the best protection for your body’s largest organ, pair your daily broad-spectrum sunscreen use (and frequent reapplication) with other sun-protection measures. First, wear protective clothing. We’re not suggesting you wear a turtleneck on the beach, but the more skin you can cover, the better. Reach for breathable, lightweight fabrics that won’t weigh you down in the heat. A wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses are also a good investment to help protect your facial skin. Because repeated facial expressions can lead to unwanted wrinkles and expression lines over time, you’ll definitely want to block those rays from causing you to squint. And two, seek shade. As wonderful as the heat may feel on our skin, we could all use a little break from the sun. If you’re laying out, head to a covered awning or head indoors away from direct sunlight from time to time. Keep in mind that UV rays can penetrate through windows, so even innocuous activities like driving or sitting in a window seat can cause harm. And third, avoid peak sun hours. The sun’s rays are most direct and powerful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s ideal to avoid sun exposure completely during this period if possible. If you must be outside, seek shade under a tree or umbrella in addition to wearing broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn