The use of sunscreen can help in the prevention of skin cancer as it protects you from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Skin cancer can happen in anyone regardless of gender, age or race. Being a necessity in life, people also have many questions regarding its use.

Does Sunscreen Expire? How Long Can I Keep It?

The answer to the question is a big YES.

Sunscreens are so designed that they remain at their original strength for three years. On the containers of sunscreen, expiration dates are stamped to show the time limit up to which the product is stable and effective. For optimum protection from sun’s rays along with maintenance of stability, texture and sterility, it is recommended to use the sunscreen up to the listed and not after that. If you are unable to locate an expiration date on a new bottle or tube, write the year and month you purchased the product on it in permanent marker and be sure that you discard the product after three years. It is recommended to not use sunscreen after its expiration date.

You should keep a point in mind that if used frequently and generously, a tube or bottle of sunscreen does not last long. Usually a liberal application is around one ounce or 30 milliliters-the amount that comes in a shot glass-to cover all the exposed parts of the body. Depending on the size of your body, you may need to apply more sunscreen. If your sunscreen bottle is 4 ounce or 118 milliliter in size, you will use around 1/4th of the contents during a single application.


The answer to the question does sunscreen expire also depends on where the sunscreen was lying since last summer. If your sunscreen bottle was sitting in your glove compartment or your trunk, toss it. The active ingredients present in the sunscreen may break down in the heat.

Tips for Sunscreen Use:

For maximum protection, it is recommended that you use a broad spectrum product that has an SPF of at least 15. Sunscreen should be applied generously and reapplied around every 2 hours-or more frequently in case you are perspiring or swimming. Skin cancer can also occur on the lips. To protect the lips, a lip balm or a lipstick containing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more should be applied.

More You Should Know about Sunscreen Use


What sunscreen should I use?

According to the recommendation of the American Academy of Dermatology, the sunscreen that offers the following should be used:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (provides protection against both UVB and UVA rays)

  • SPF 30 or more

  • Water or sweat resistance (choose as you need)


When should I use sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be used every day if you are going outside. Harmful UV rays are emitted by sun year-round. Even on cloudy days with no sun, up to 80% of the harmful UV rays of the sun can penetrate the skin. The need for sunscreen is increased by sand, snow and water because the sun’s rays are reflected by them.


Protection is provided against both UVB and UVA rays by broad-spectrum sunscreens. What is the difference between the two types of rays?

Two kinds of harmful rays are present in the sunlight that reaches the earth-UVB rays and UVA rays. Skin cancer can be caused by overexposure to either of these. Apart for leading to skin cancer, each of these rays can cause the following:

  • UVA rays, also referred to as aging rays can cause premature aging of your skin leading to wrinkles and age spots. These rays can pass through glass of a window.

  • UVB rays, also referred to as burning rays primarily lead to sunburn and are blocked by window glass

The UV radiation from the sun’s rays and also from artificial sources such as sun lamps and tanning beds have been declared as carcinogens or cancer causing substances by the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer and the United States Department of Health and Human Services.


What are different kinds of sunscreen?

Besides knowing the answer to “does sunscreen expire”, you will also want to use the most effective sun screen. The kind of sunscreen you want to use depends on personal choice. It also depends on the area of the body that needs to be protected. Available options of sunscreens include creams, lotions, gels, wax sticks, ointments and sprays.

  • Creams are generally used for the face and dry skin.

  • Gels are generally used for hairy areas such as male chest or the scalp.

  • Sticks are preferred to be used around the eyes.

  • Sprays are usually preferred by parents as they are easily applicable to children.

  • Sunscreens are also available for specific purposes such as for babies and for sensitive skin.

  • Certain cosmetics and moisturizers also contain sunscreen as combination products. Though these products are convenient to use, in order to achieve best protection from sun’s rays they need to be reapplied.


Is a high SPF sunscreen better than a low one?

According to dermatologists, a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 should be used as it blocks almost 97% of the sun’s rays. Though sunscreens with higher number SPF can block slightly more of the rays of the sun, no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays. Currently, no scientific evidence is present that indicates that using higher than 50 SPF sunscreen gives better protection than using 50 SPF sunscreen.

It is also an important point that the amount of time a sunscreen lasts is the same for both high-number SPFs and low-number SPFs. A high number SPF does not imply that you can spend more time outdoors without reapplying the sunscreen.


How can I protect my toddler or baby from the sun?

Ideally, babies younger than six months should not be exposed to sun’s rays. The best method to protect infants from the harmful rays of the sun is to make them lie in the shade as much as possible, apart from dressing them in pants, long sleeves, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Ensure that they are not overheated and maintain proper hydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If your baby becomes fussy, is crying continuously, or develops redness on any exposed area of their body, take them indoors.

Warning: You should avoid using sunscreen in babies younger than six months.

Parents of babies who are 6 months or older can apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to their baby’s exposed skin, according to the product label’s instructions. You should reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours or as often as mentioned on the label. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide or special sunscreens made for toddlers or infants may lead to less irritation to their sensitive skin.


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