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VERIFY: Yes, sunscreen expires and here's why it matters

The FDA requires all sunscreens have an expiration date unless stability testing has shown that the product will last at least three years

ATLANTA — We all know the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect yourself when you're out and enjoying summer fun, but for how long can you use that bottle of sunscreen from the bottom of the beach bag?

Google Trends reported searches regarding sunscreen reached a record-high recently, with questions about using expired sunscreen making the rounds online.  

Our VERIFY team went to the experts to get answers. 

THE QUESTION

Does sunscreen expire?

THE ANSWER

Yes, sunscreen does expire. The FDA regulates sunscreen products as over-the-counter drugs which requires products go through stability testing to prove shelf life. But not every bottle may be marked with an expiration date.

SOURCES

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The American Academy of Dermatology

Dr. Rutledge Forney, Dermatologist

WHAT WE KNOW

According to the FDA's website, current regulations require all sunscreens to have an expiration date unless stability testing has shown that the product will remain stable for at least three years.  

So, if you buy a sunscreen with no expiration date, the FDA said you can consider it good to use for up to three years after purchase.

But if you can't remember when you purchased it or the expiration date has passed, experts tell our VERIFY team, it's time to toss.

"Once expired you have no idea how much protection you're getting," Dr. Rutledge Forney explained. "And the whole point is to protect yourself from aging, and skin cancer."

According to experts, the shelf life of sunscreen can also decrease when exposed to high temperatures. In addition to monitoring expiration dates, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends looking for "visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good," including changes in color or consistency.

"Most people have left their sunscreen someplace, and they pull it out and shake it up and it's separated and yucky," Dr. Forney said. " Even if it's not expired, if it gets too hot, you can definitely have the ingredients breakdown."

RELATED: VERIFY Some sunscreens can repair your DNA to reverse previous sun damage

Meanwhile, if your sunscreen is not stamped with an expiration date, experts recommend writing the date you bought it on the bottle. If you're using the recommended amount, Dr. Forney says a bottle of sunscreen shouldn't last that long anyway.

"Usually you need to use about an ounce, which is usually about one eighth of a bottle so a bottle should last about a week at the beach," Dr. Forney said. 

So yes, we can verify that sunscreen does expire, but even more important, use enough so you use it up.

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