It may be hard to toss leftover sunscreen in the bin, but it’s important to consider the effect old sunscreen can have on your skin.

Most sunscreens are consumed within a relatively short period of time, however, with infrequent use, some products can last for years. Sunscreen does not spoil that quickly and can have a shelf life of up to three years if not indicated otherwise by the manufacturer. There are brands that have an expiry date printed on the label, which is the assurance from the manufacturer regarding the quality and effectiveness of the product for a certain time.

It is important to know and stick to the expiration date on your sunscreen. Applying sunscreen that has lost its original strength means your skin is not reaping the full benefits of the product’s sun protection properties.

This is because after the expiry date, the active ingredients begin to break down and the SPF rating stamped on the container degrades. Chemical sunscreens made with ingredients such as oxybenzone can oxidize once you’ve opened and exposed them to air, which is accelerated if you’ve stored them in a warm or humid place. When the formula no longer works like it used to, wearing it puts you at risk of sunburn, sun damage, brown spots and skin cancer development.

Mineral-based sunscreens, those that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the label, are chemically inert and should remain effective in the long-term. However, over time it degrades differently: additives break down and separates ingredients to the point where the sunscreen becomes a watery or grainy mess. Expired mineral sunscreens can also change colour or develop a funny smell.

Moreover, any leftover sunscreen that has been opened and closed for years can become contaminated with bacteria and mold, which, when applied to the skin, can result in allergic reactions, irritation, and skin infections.

With as many different sunscreen brands on the market as the various compositions of active and inactive ingredients in them, it can be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of an expired product, especially considering the storage history of an individual container.  

A good rule of thumb when trying to figure out if you should toss out an expired product is if it does not look, smell or feel the way it did when you first applied it to your skin, you’d be better off throwing it away. However, it would be far safer if you buy a single-use product like our sunscreen snap sachets. Not only do they provide optimal protection, but you also don’t need to worry about bacteria growing on an opened bottle stored in your bathroom cabinet.

You can purchase our snap sachets at Clicks and Spar.

Third Floor Tijger Park 2
Willie Van Schoor Drive
Bellville, Cape Town 7530
South Africa
Tel: 021 914 0281