There are some expiration dates we know we should trust, like meat and dairy. And others we tend to let go way past the date, like mascara, because who wants to toss and replace a $25 tube of that stuff every few months when it’s still half-full? But one product we really should be watching the expiration dates on? Sunscreen.
You may not have even known that sunscreen expires, but it does. And in case you were thinking that deadline printed on every sunscreen sold in the U.S. was more of a “helpful suggestion” than a non-negotiable toss-by date, here’s the explanation from L.A.-based dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu.
"Expired sunscreen may no longer protect you from UV rays, and it may also be less water-resistant than what it says on the label," she says. But it gets worse! Wu says over time, ingredients can break down and cause skin irritation and allergic reactions, or start to grow mold or bacteria, which can cause skin infections.
And because those expiration dates sometimes rub off the bottle of sunscreen riding around in the bottom of your sand-filled beach bag, Wu says in that case it’s important to pay attention to color and consistency. If it’s runnier than usual, turns yellow, or smells odd, pitch it and treat yourself to a brand new sunscreen. Your skin will thank you!