March 17, 2021

How Long Does Sunscreen Last? – Shelf Life, Expiration Date

How Long Does Sunscreen Last-
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The hot summer months are coming in. With the sun out, people are starting to head to the beach!

You grab the bottle of sunscreen you find that has been in the back of your closet to protect your skin from those harmful sun rays. It should be fine. After all, sunscreen doesn’t expire.

Wrong! According to dermatologists, sunscreen definitely has an expiry date.

Skin health is something you should be mindful of. After all, you don’t want to risk your skin. Skin cancer can be caused by deadly UV radiation, so it’s always best to be careful.

Table of Contents

How Long Does Sunscreen Last After Applying?

Sunscreen lasts for around 2 hours after applying to the skin. This is because the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating won’t be the same after two hours.

Let’s say you applied an SPF 50 sunblock. After 2 hours it probably only provides around SPF 10 protection.

Other than SPF rating, you might want to find out what type of sunscreen you are using, mineral or chemical sunscreen.

  • Mineral sunscreen simply acts like a mirror. It sits on top of your skin and reflects the UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin and dissipate the UV rays.

Typically, chemical sunscreens won’t wash off as easily as mineral ones. But most importantly,  make sure the SPF is high enough to protect your skin from the sun.

Titanium dioxide is a common ingredient that you’ll surely notice when shopping for mineral and chemical sunscreens.

Does Sunscreen Expire or Go Bad?

Expire or Go Bad

Though most sunscreens won’t indicate a specific expiration date, by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, sunscreen should last for at least 3 years, but after that, it’s most likely expired. 

It is also important to note that physical or mineral sunscreens last longer than chemical sunscreens.

One way to extend the life of your sunscreen past expiration date is to keep it in a cool and dark place. If you leave it somewhere hot, it is likely to expire sooner.

If all else fails, look at the expiration date on the sunscreen. If the sunscreen you buy doesn’t have one, take note of when you buy it with a marker on the bottle so that you know when it has hit that 3-year mark.

Signs That Sunscreen Has Expired

So you have a bottle of sunscreen and have no idea when it was bought. It also has no expiry date. How would you know whether it is still effective?

While not always a given, a rule of thumb is that if the sunscreen has a weird texture, color, or smell then it is definitely expired.

Is Expired Sunscreen Better Than No Sunscreen?

The simple answer to this is yes!

Expired means that the product wouldn’t have optimal SPF protection anymore.

While expired product may not be as protective as it was before it was expired, it still offers some protection from the sun. A little sun protection for your skin is better than no sun protection at all.

So if you only had expired sunscreen and can’t get hold of new sunscreen, it is generally safe to use.

Do I Really Need to Reapply Sunscreen Every Two Hours?

You want to apply sunscreen every 2 hours if you’re outdoors for a long period of time.

Unless your purpose is to get a tan or fry the glass skin you’ve worked so hard to achieve, you need to put sunscreen every 2 hours. And this is even if you’re already wearing a BB cream or CC cream that already has SPF.

SPF isn’t as effective after 2 hours on your skin. But if you’re just staying home, or in sheltered areas, it should be safe to skip reapplying the sunblock every 2 hours.

It’s also important to note that if you use a mineral or physical sunscreen, it would be more likely to sweat off than chemical sunscreens. Although mineral sunscreens are arguably more effective.

Just make sure that if you are getting in contact with the sun, you have an effective layer of sunblock on.

Is There a Sunscreen That Lasts All Day?

All Day

While there are sunscreen products that claim to last all day, it is still a good precaution to reapply it regularly.

Furthermore, the SPF ratings vary. Even if it lasts all day, there is no guarantee that the SPF rating remains the same.

The bottom line is, it’s still important to reapply your sunblock regularly, whether or not your sunscreen product claims to last all day.

Other Ways to Protect From the Sun

There are other ways to protect yourself from the sun other than sunscreen.

You can wear UV-protective clothing. So this includes hats, long-sleeved tops, or a bathing suit cover up. You can also find clothes with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor).

However, these don’t protect people entirely. You still need sunblock for protection, so it’s best to have both. Especially if you want to protect your skin from skin cancer.

How to Effectively Use Sunscreen

How to Effectively Use

If you care about your skin at all, you would do your best to protect it from the sun. In order to do this, you have to use sunscreen properly.

You just have to make sure you put on enough sunscreen and apply it religiously. If you make it a daily habit, you’ll be sure to never forget your sunscreen. Don’t forget to apply it to your face as well!

When you do apply sunscreen, don’t skimp on it.

You don’t want to leave the chance for skin cancer. Make sure as well that you don’t miss a spot!

Important areas that should be covered should be the top of the head for men, and the chest for women, as these spots have the most exposure to the sun and will cause skin cancer.

If you want to have a sunscreen that effectively protects you from skin cancer causing UVA and UVB rays, you need to get a broad spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30.

If you live in a tropical area, then SPF 50 would be best.

What Does Broad Spectrum Mean?

Broad spectrum just means that it protects equally against UVA and UVB rays, according to FDA.

Other ways you can protect yourself would be to take antioxidants, like Vitamin C, to nourish your skin, and wear a hat. These can give additional sun protection.

In a Nutshell

In a Nutshell

In short, sunblock typically expires after 3 years, but it’s important to check the expiry date as well. You also need to apply sunblock every 2 hours.

If you care about your skin, then you should definitely invest in a good sunblock and apply it religiously. Note that SPF is important. You want to go for at least SPF 30 or SPF 50.

Now go out in the summer heat and have some fun, while staying free from skin cancer!

Check out our article on the Best Long-Lasting Korean Sunscreens for good sun protection options.

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.