Can You Still Use Expired Sunscreen? (And How To Tell It’s Gone Bad)

by Gio
has sunscreen gone bad

“To use or not to use – that is the question,” I pondered, as I was staring at last year’s (expired?) sunscreen bottle in my hand.

On the pro side: it’s barely used. Wouldn’t it be a waste to throw it away?

On the con side: a year’s a long time. It’s probably gone bad already.

You don’t want to use expired sunscreen. Here’s why:

Does Expired Sunscreen Work?

That’s the million dollar question: does expired sunscreen still work?

Nope. Sunscreen ain’t like other skincare products. An anti-aging moisturizer will still moisturize long after its winkle-fighting heroes have lost all their strength.

But a sunscreen with UV filters that don’t do their job well anymore will leave you helpless against attacks from UV rays. It may cause irritations, too.

“But wait, Gio,” I hear you ask, “I used an old sunscreen once and didn’t get a sunburn. That means the sunscreen is still good, right?”

Not so fast, my smart friend.

Just because you didn’t get a sunburn doesn’t mean your sunscreen is still good. It just means you didn’t stay in the sun long enough to get one. Or maybe the sun’s rays weren’t too strong that day.

But a sunburn isn’t the only type of damage ultraviolet radiation wreaks on your skin. UV rays cause wrinkles and dark spots, too, remember?

Unlike a sunburn, those don’t show up straight away. When you use expired sunscreen, you’re completely defenceless against them.

Trust me, it’s not a risk worth taking just to save a few bucks. And yet, how can you tell if those UV filters have already stopped working?


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How To Tell If Your Sunscreen Has Expired

Here are a few warning signs that let you know when your sunscreen has expired and it’s time to throw it in the bin:

Check The Sunscreen Expiration Date

First things first: check the sunscreen expiration date. But, mind you: the expiration date is a good starting point but it DOESN’T tell you the whole story. The way your store sunscreen matters, too.

Let’s say, your sunscreen has a shelf life of 3 years. But once the beach holiday’s over, you forgot that bottle on you car seat. For days afterwards, it was left baking under the hot sun for hours.

The heat has probably damaged the formula, making it useless – even though the expiration date says it has two more years of use.

That’s why you can’t rely only on the expiration date alone to make your decision.

bioderma photoderm max spf 50 aquafluid review

Has Your Sunscreen Changed Texture, Colour Or Smell?

If the expiration date says your sunscreen still has one or two years to go, move onto step 2 and look for clues something may be off.

Here’s the thing: your sunscreen isn’t supposed to change. It should feel, look, and smell on day one as it does on day 650. Pay attention to:

  • Texture: Has it become too thin or thick and can’t spread easily anymore? Toss it.
  • Colour: Has it changed in some way (for example, become a little yellowish)? Toss it.
  • Scent: Does it have a weird, off smell? Toss it.

These are all signs of an expired sunscreen. It won’t be of any use to you, now.

paula's choice super-light daily wrinkle defense spf 30 review

Has Your Sunscreen Separated Into Two Layers?

If you can see two layers in your sunscreen, something’s way off. Here’s what’s going on:

One of the layers has the active ingredients. They’ve separated from the rest of the formula. Shaking it all together again won’t work.

Even if you manage to put everything back together, the damage’s already done. Those UV filters have stopped working and nothing will bring them back to life. *sighs*

Has Your Sunscreen Become Gritty?

Does your sunscreen feels gritty to the touch? This means that the UV filters have crystallized out into sharp crystals.

Translation: they’re completely useless now.

Has your sunscreen expired or did it pass all these tests with flying colours? If it failed even one, do your skin a favour and toss it!

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2 comments

Geo March 2, 2019 - 5:33 am

I read that a sunscreen if stored properly should be good for 6 months after the expiration date. Makes sense to me that it’s not as if spf 30 becomes spf 0 one day past the expiration date.

Gio March 8, 2019 - 3:37 pm

Geo, depending on the preservative system, if a sunscreen is stored properly then yes it could still be good after the expiration date. But as sunscreen is so important, why take the chance?

Comments are closed.