SHOULD YOU BE THROWING AWAY SUN CREAM EVERY YEAR?
Having just returned from a well earned week in Tenerife, sun cream and SPF protection is top of my mind. As such a pasty and pale Brit abroad, I have to cover myself from top to toe in sunscreen before I step out the door in order to prevent those unwanted sore red bits catching me unawares. A golden glow is great, but sunburn and skin cancer is definitely not. One of the things that concerns me every time I’m packing my case and rummaging around trying to find my leftover sun cream, is whether or not I should really be trying to use up opened bottles or sticking with fresh batches instead; a bottle of sunscreen can be pricey, especially if you’re going through multiple bottles during a holiday, so it can be tempting to keep reaching for a tube that’s been lingering at the back of your bathroom cabinet for longer than you probably care to admit. So the question is, should you be throwing away sun cream every year or can you keep using old bottles of SPF safely? Here’s when and why you should be getting rid of your sun cream…
IF MY BOTTLE OF SPF 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 OF SUN CREAM, HOW LONG CAN 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 MY SUN CREAM HAS ‘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. If it doesn’t look, feel or smell right then you really should you be throwing away sun cream every year.
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 MY SPF?
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.
Sun protection is SO important, especially as us Brits aren’t the best when it comes to looking after our skin. We so rarely see the sunshine that we forget how powerful and damaging it can be, and how quickly we can turn a nice shade of tomato red – but looking after your body is the key to healthy skin for years to come.
Want to learn more about SPF and ensure you’re protecting yourself as much as possible?
Check out my post: Everything You Need To Know About SPF, Sunscreen & Sun Protection This Summer