Dermatologist and parents alike constantly reinforce the importance of sunscreen for unprotected or vulnerable skin. In recent years, sunscreens have become more sophisticated in their efforts to protect skin from the broad spectrum of the sun’s rays. Not only does sunscreen protect the skin from the sun’s harmful effects, it also prevents premature aging and lowers the risk of developing skin cancer. In fact, sunscreen is an essential part of a complete sun protection strategy that includes wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, and avoiding the sun’s peak hours. But what happens to sunscreens when their expiration date has passed? If you are wondering if expired sunscreen is better than none at all, read on.
Why an Expiration Date
Because the ingredients in sunscreen can go bad or spoil, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires sunscreens to carry an expiration date. That date indicates when the FDA deems the product no longer effective, which is usually three years after the product was made. The ingredients of your formula dictate how fast the product will lose its effectiveness; those that contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and homosalate may start to oxidize, while those that contain zinc oxide will start to lose potency. The safest decision would be to throw expired sunscreen away and purchase a new one.
If there is no expiration date on the packaging or the expiration date was recent, you can look for indicators that the product has gone bad. If your sunscreen has lost its original color or consistency, throw it out. Storing your sunscreen in a warm place, like a gym bag or car, or exposing it to UV light, will cause the product to expire faster. Clumping or a loss of consistency also is an indicator that the product is bad; a bad smell may indicate the produce has been exposed to bacteria. Sunscreen bottles are also tested to ensure they do not react to the sunscreen. Over time, chemicals from the containers may actually seep into the sunscreen so a damaged or broken container may be an indicator to throw it out.
If your sunscreen has expired but does not have any of the above indicators, you may be able to use the product for no more than six months after its expiration date. However, do this with caution. Expired sunscreen, even after just a few months, will reduce your level of skin protection. This means that you are more prone to sun damage and skin cancer. On the other hand, if your sunscreen has expired long after the six-month grace period, even if it seems okay, discard it.
Family Dermatologist in Miami
Applying sunscreen regularly and in generous amounts is one of the most effective ways to protect your family’s skin against damage. Another way to protect your skin is with regular visits to a board-certified dermatologist. In South Florida, the Children’s Skin Center offers a wide range of cutting-edge dermatological services for the whole family. To learn more about us or make an appointment, call (305) 669-6555 or request an appointment online for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy skin.