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Good to Know: Does sun cream go out of date?

Parenting website Good to Know looked into whether sun cream really does go out of date and advises on how to work out whether it’s expired. 

The feature asked mole removal and skin cancer expert Dr Ross Perry for his advice in their health feature:

“Does sun cream go out of date? Plus the signs it has expired”

Many of us now understand the importance of applying sun cream regularly, but one factor that can be missed is whether it has actually expired. If you have a bottle or two left over from a previous season then you’re not alone! But is it safe to use?

Good to Know asked the experts.

Abbas Kanani, lead pharmacist and health adviser for Chemist Click, told readers:

“Sunscreens are required to work for at least three years by the Food and Drug Administration, however some sunscreens may lose their effectiveness sooner and this can vary from cream to cream depending on brand.”

In general, the longer a bottle has been opened, the less effective it will be. So those nearing or over the expiry date are unlikely to be able to deliver the SPF rating printed on the bottle or tube.

Storage is another factor which can accelerate or prolong the life of sun cream.

Dr Ross Perry(opens in new tab), medical director of Skin Surgery Laser Clinic (Cosmedics Skin Clinics), says

“Storing sunscreen in hot places or exposure to moisture can break down a sunscreen’s components and reduce its effectiveness even before it’s ‘officially’ expired – therefore less effective in blocking UV rays.

“Protect the sunscreen by wrapping the bottles in towels or keeping them in the shade.

“And sunscreen containers can also be kept in coolers while outside in the heat for long periods of time.”

Using out of date sun cream can be dangerous because skin with insufficient protection is more likely to burn. This increases the risk of developing skin cancer in the future.

Signs sunscreen is out of date

  1. Expiry date
    This should be clearly marked on the container. Always err on the side of caution and use up sun cream well before it’s due to expire
  2. Odour
    If your sunscreen smells odd or different, then that’s a sign that it could have changed
  3. Consistency
    Sunscreen that is lumpy or watery is likely to have suffered some deterioration
  4. Colour
    Sunscreen that has gone an odd colour (eg yellow or greyish) could have had some deterioration

If you’re concerned that your sunscreen isn’t quite right, it’s best to use with caution – especially if it isn’t new. Reapply regularly and keep out of the sun where possible. If in doubt, replace it.

Even unopened bottles can expire. Dr Ross Perry told Good to Know to leave unopened sun cream for around 3 years, depending on how it’s stored; and not to risk using it after the expiry date.

“Expired sunscreen will still have some UV blocking power but not the correct strength due to the components breaking down. It will offer you a little protection but not as much as you need.”

To read more, please visit

You could also speak to the manufacturer for further advice on what to expect, as they will have knowledge about their particular product formulation.

Skin Surgery Laser Clinics

Dr Ross Perry is a qualified and experienced London NHS GP, who founded Cosmedics Skin Clinics in 2003, an independent company specialising in skin treatments such as removal of lesions/blemishes.

Cosmedics’ Skin Surgery Laser Clinic offer private mole removal at a selection of clinics based in London and Bristol. Moles are removed using the latest surgical techniques including laser mole removal; with trained doctors and surgeons.

Our team of qualified and experienced doctors and surgeons also treat other skin blemishes, including sebaceous cysts, skin tags, warts and lipoma using  freezing, laser or surgical techniques.

For ultimate peace of mind, Cosmedics Skin Surgery Laser Clinic offer a thorough top to toe mole check carried out by their trained and experienced doctors.

For more information or to book a consultation, please complete the form on this web page or call 020 7386 0464.