Is your SPF expired? 5 ways to tell (and why you need to get rid of it)


By Redzhanna Jazmin

Is your SPF expired? 5 ways to tell (and why you need to get rid of it)
From funky smells to a step-by-step on reading that pesky code at the bottom of the tube, here’s your guide to knowing when to say goodbye to that tube of SPF

Alas, the end of 2021 is fast approaching (where did the time go!?), and while lockdown restrictions have eased up recently, the pandemic did resign most of us to the indoors for the majority of the year. Needless to say, the contents of our beauty desks have probably gone largely unused in this time as—let’s be real—even if you were among those tasked with doing supermarket runs or sat at window-facing at-home office desks, no one was really reaching for the makeup essentials this year.

That said, hopefully, we were all staying on top of our SPF application… right? No? Understandable, to be honest. Regardless, whether you’ve gotten good use out of your sunscreens or not, there’s bound to be a few suspect formulations at the bottom of your beauty bag. So, if you’re not confident that your stash is totally fresh, we’re here to help you weed out the more questionable SPFs.

Ahead, here’s how you can tell your sunscreen is expired, and why you definitely should be throwing it away if it is:

Why shouldn’t you be using expired sunscreen?


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Simply put, the SPF factor is no longer guaranteed past the use-by date. While your bottle of five-year-old sunscreen (please throw that out, by the way) may read SPF30 on the packaging, you’re probably only getting a fraction of that sun protection in reality, despite your efforts.

Further, as with any cosmetics, using an expired product can lead to breakouts. This phenomenon is attributed to the fact that cosmetics double as wonderful breeding grounds for all sorts of bacteria and mould. All in all, it’s best not to risk it. So, here’s the real question: How do you know when your sunscreen is expired?

Does the expiration date say so?

Is your SPF expired? 5 ways to tell (and why you need to get rid of it) (фото 1)
Image altered from Banana Boat

A pretty good indication of expiration is, well, the expiration date. On your tube (or bottle) of SPF, there will likely be a little jar icon with a number to indicate how long your product is good for past the opening date (you’ll see this on most of your cosmetics). In these cases, your best bet is to note down your date of purchase (assuming you’ll be using it immediately after). Personally, we prefer to write it down on the bottle itself in order to avoid confusion.

If, however, you can’t see an expiration date, fret not—according to dermatologist Dr Aegean Chan, “sunscreens without an expiration date are good for three years from the date of manufacture”. For this, you’ll need to actually find the date of manufacture. It’s actually really easy—if you refer to the diagram above, you’ll see that there is a code of some sort on the crimp tab at the top of your bottle or tube. From there, just follow where the diagram leads!

Have you noticed any funky smells, textures, or colour changes?


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This is a pretty good indicator for any cosmetic product, and it works like a charm for SPFs. Should your sunscreen leave the bottle smelling, looking, or feeling any different from how it did when you bought it, it’s time to say goodbye.

If you’re not convinced or you can’t really tell, try giving the bottle a shake—if it still looks, smells, or feels suspicious after this, it’s a toss.

Have you been keeping your sunscreens properly?


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Once again, as with any cosmetics, it’s important to ensure that the conditions they are kept in are suitable to preserve the lifespan of your products. As a general rule, excessive heat and direct sun exposure are a no-go for cosmetics.

Sunscreens in particular risk degradation with excessive exposure to heat and UV, meaning that—like regular ol’ expired sunscreen—the SPF factor goes way, way down. So, if you’ve left your sunscreen out on the hot sand all day at the beach or left it in your hot car all year as your SPF contingency plan, you should probably replace it.

How much sunscreen should you be using, anyway?


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A bottle of sunscreen shouldn’t last you more than a few months if you’re using it correctly. We’ve said this before but we’ll say it again: For adequate protection, two to three heaping fingers worth of sunscreen needs to be applied to the face and neck. Further, if you’re bald, you should be adding another two fingers’ worth to that amount—everyday.

On top of that, you’ll also need to reapply your sunscreen every two to four hours, depending on how much sun you’re getting.

READHow to reapply sunscreen over your makeup without messing it up

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