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Does sunscreen expire?

Does sunscreen expire?

Sunscreens are designed to stay “fresh” for three years, and the expiration date on the bottle is reliable. As part of our most recent tests of sunscreens, we retested  samples we had stored from the previous year’s testing and found that their performance did not suffer.

It does depend on where the sunscreen has been sitting since last summer, though. If you find a bottle in your trunk or glove compartment, toss it. The active ingredients in sunscreen can break down in the heat. And if your sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date, you probably shouldn’t take the chance that it’s still good. (Next time, use a permanent marker to write the date you purchased it on the bottle.) Ditch any “old” sunscreen that smells funny or has changed color, even if it hasn’t expired.

Perhaps the most important message of all, though, is that you really shouldn’t have any old sunscreen lying around. You need about an ounce (about a shotglass full) to cover your face and body, and you should reapply sunscreen every two hours. An 8-ounce bottle should barely take you through the long Memorial Day weekend if you’re in the sun four hours each day.

—Trisha Calvo

Protect your eyes from UV rays with our sunglasses buying advice.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

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