Sunscreen Warning

Is your sunscreen expired?

Several years ago on one of those morning shows like “Today” there was an interview with a guy about product expiration dates.  The man listed a bunch of products (like many kinds of packaged and frozen foods and film — remember camera film?) where the stuff could be used well beyond the expiration date.

“But the one thing that should not be used beyond the expiration date is sunscreen.”

The reason is that the molecules break down rendering the product ineffective.

When and Where you bought your sunscreen is important.

While most sunscreens have a shelf life for 3 years, that does not mean you have three years to use it.  Let me explain. 

I was at a large Walmart in Texas in March and bought a small tube of sunscreen.  There were 20 months left before the expiration date.

In May I went to a Big Lots and looked at the sunscreen.  The expiration date was in October only 5 months away.  That is okay if you use it up by then.  I figured maybe it was because they bought a lot of close out items.

BUT I went back to the same Big Lots four days later to return something and the canned announcement mentioned that (among other things) they had gotten in a new shipment of sunscreen.  The shelf only had the newer products and these had an expiration on August of the next year, so about 18 months.

I checked the dates at a small outdoor store going out of business.  ALL of their products had expired.

Be careful of buying from a store that has a low traffic volume.  The spa I worked at had a very low turnover of these products and none included expiration dates.

Where to find the expiration date.  It may be hard to find.  I checked name brands in stores and every one I looked at did have expiration dates.  So I suspect all big name brands have them somewhere. 

On tubes it is commonly stamped embossed on the crimped tail end and may be very difficult to see.  On bottles, it could be on the bottom or on the side. 

If it is a European or small company product, it may or may not have an expiration date. 

If you cannot find an expiration date and you’ve had the product last year, throw it out.

In Your Car, Extreme Temperatures Will Reduce the Life of Sunscreen.

It is a good Idea to keep sunscreen handy year round.  But both heat and cold can accelerate the break down.  One suggestion is to transfer some contents from a big container to a smaller one.  You do want to label it though.  In case you are at a picnic you don’t want someone to mistake it for Ranch Dressing.


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