We’ve all been there: it’s the day before your holibobs and you finally uncover that leftover stash of sunscreen from last year, when everything in Boots was on ‘3 for 2’ and you got a bit over-zealous with your purchasing. As you try to work out what’s full and what’s nearly empty, you wonder whether you should be actually re-packing this into your suitcase and taking it off to a tropical destination – or if you should be chucking it away in favour of something shiny and new from the airport once again? (Thank goodness for those last minute Boots dashes eh!) Do you risk it, or play it safe? Can sunscreen even ‘go off’ or is it good until the very last drop? Don’t worry, because I’ve got all the answers and the reassurance you need to make good decisions this summer…
IF MY BOTTLE IS UNOPENED, HOW LONG CAN I KEEP IT?
The standard industry practice during sunscreen development is to test the stability of a formula under conditions that equate to three years sat on a shelf, i.e. out of direct sunlight and at ambient temperatures. This means your unopened bottle should be good for around three years – however, you don’t know how long that sun cream has been hanging around before you bought it (i.e. in a warehouse and then in the store,) so I would personally recommend you only ever keep a bottle for no more than two years to be safe. I know they can be expensive, but your health (and skin) is worth so much more than a new bottle of Soltan.
IF I’VE OPENED MY BOTTLE, HOW LONG SHOULD I USE IT FOR?
Generally speaking, your bottle of SPF should be effective for up to a year after its been opened – as long as it isn’t left out in full view of the sun. The heat can cause the ingredients to degrade and separate, which cause it to be ineffective. If you’re lucky enough to go on multiple holidays in a year, the same sun protection is absolutely fine; however, if you leave it a year or more between each trip it may be worth starting afresh with a new bottle. When you’re on holiday you should always keep your sun protection in the shade or in your beach bag, rather than out on the table or lying on the sand; keep the bottle clean and free from contamination to keep it working properly for as long as possible.
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT’S ‘GONE OFF’?
Every time you re-open a bottle of sun protection it’s important to look at the colour, feel the texture and give it a sniff. If there’s any change to the usual creamy white formula (or whatever form your chosen product comes in,) then it may not be suitable for use. Like with any cosmetic, sun protection will become unsuitable for use at some point – but that differs depending on so many different factors.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I USE ‘GONE OFF’ SUN PROTECTION?
Put simply, you’ll get burned. Literally. The ingredients within the cream will have broken down and won’t provide the level of protection you expect, so it becomes incredibly hard to estimate when you need to re-apply or if it’s even doing anything at all. Old and ineffective formulas could also cause skin irritation, which is the last thing you want when you’re enjoying some much needed sunshine.
HOW CAN I ENSURE I REMEMBER WHEN I BOUGHT IT?
The best tip I’ve ever been given is to write on the bottle with a Sharpie the date you bought it, so you can keep track of how long you’ve had it and when you should chuck it away. Although many cosmetics come with an expiration date, the majority come only with a ‘PAO’ or Period After Opening number which is dependent upon when you first opened the bottle. Writing the date on the bottle yourself is the safest way to know whether it’s good to go or better off in the bin.
If in doubt, chuck it out. Your skin and overall health isn’t worth sacrificing for the price of a new bottle of SPF – which equates to only one less cocktail when you get to your destination anyway!
Want some suncare recommendations to keep your body protected and nourished this summer? Check out my post here, with a tonne of top picks I know you’ll love!
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