Have you ever gotten a sunburn even though you used sunscreen? It happened to my daughter when she was little. She is fair skinned with red hair and has always had to be completely covered with either clothes or sunscreen. I grabbed a bottle of sunscreen from the cabinet one day (for her it was always SPF 30 or more) and slathered it on her, only for her to come home hours later beat red. Did she stay out too long? Did she rub it off? I was so confused and felt bad that she was in so much discomfort (not to even mention the potential damage to her skin.)
Sunscreen products can lose their effectiveness when stored for a long time. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says that not all sunscreens have the same ingredients and therefore might degrade over time or faster than another.
WV Family Magazine put some common sunscreen brands to the test. Our experiment consisted of using Ultraviolet-sensitive beads and a collection of new and expired sunscreens. (No specific brands will be noted in this piece because we are not promoting brands, this was for experiment purposes to determine if sunscreen expires.)
Our controlled testing compared new and old sunscreen of the same brand and same SPF amounts. Our experiments found that expired sunscreens do indeed lose their effectiveness, and some can even accelerated and/or intensified sun exposure – which was the case with my daughter.
It is a good idea to look at the expiration date before using sunscreen AND when purchasing sunscreen. The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least 2-3 years, however, from manufacturing to boxing, and from shipping to stocking the shelves at the store – dates could be close to expiring. Most expiration dates can be found stamped on the crimp of the product packaging tube, on the lid, or printed on the bottom of the product. Since this requirement became effective just in the past few years, if your sunscreen (whether on your shelf or newly purchased) does not have a stamped expiration date – toss it! No expiration date means that it was manufacturered before the FDA made this a requirement – which therefore means your sunscreen is at least 2-3 years old and may already be expired. (Even if you bought it last year – it may have been manufacturered prior to the new FDA requirement and stuck in a warehouse somewhere. If in doubt, toss it out!)
Carla Cosner, Editor/Publisher