Has your sunscreen 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 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 could have gone bad already.

You don’t want to use sunscreen that’s good bad. 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.

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? Maybe they’re still alive and kicking?

Here are a few warning signs that let you know when your sunscreen has gone bad:

Check the expiration date

First things first: check the 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 sunscreen is stored matters, too. Let’s say, your sunscreen has a shelf life of 3 years but you’ve kept that bottle baking under the hot sun in your car for hours. The heat may have damaged the formula, rendering it useless. That’s why you can’t rely only on the expiration date to make your decision.

Change in texture, colour or smell

  • Has the texture of your sunscreen become too thin or thick and can’t spread easily anymore? Toss it.
  • Has it changed colour (for example, become a little yellowish)? Toss it.
  • Does it have a weird, off smell? Toss it.

These are all signs your sunscreen has already begun to go bad. It won’t be of any use to you, now.

Separation into two layers

Has your sunscreen separated into two layers? One of them has the active ingredients, which have abandoned the rest of the formula. Shaking it all together again won’t work. Even if you manage to put it all back together, the damage’s already done. Those UV filters have stopped working and nothing will bring them back to life.


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.

Sunscreen isn’t the only product that goes bad. Click on the image below to sign up to my newsletter and receive the Skincare Products Expiration Dates Cheatsheet to know exactly when it’s time to ditch them:

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How has your sunscreen fared? Has it passed ALL the tests? If it failed even one, do your skin a favour and toss it!

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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?


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