How to Know if Your Sunscreen has Expired

Mother putting sunscreen on boy

We know it’s essential to slather on sunscreen anytime we’re out in the sun, but before you put it on, you need to check the expiration date. Yep, in case you didn’t know, sunscreen, like all cosmetics, expires and there’s actually a little symbol that tells you how long the ingredients are safe.

Depending on the brand you use, there are a couple ways to find a sunscreen’s expiration date. 

  • Some brands have a little open jar icon on the back of the bottle, that usually has a number like “12M” or “18M” that stands for 12 or 18 months, so that’s how long it’s effective after you open it.
  • If your sunscreen doesn’t have the jar icon or any expiration date markings, that means your sunscreen is probably formulated to last three years after you open it, according to the Mayo Clinic. And since you probably won’t remember when you bought it, write the date down so you know when to toss it.
  • Banana Boat brand sunscreens use a different method than the jar icon to label expiration dates. Their packaging comes with a code, like “15090CF” which marks when it was created. The first two numbers in the code signify the year, 15 stands for 2015, and the other three numbers mark the day of the year it was made, so “090” is the 90th day, which is March 31st. Banana Boat sunscreens are designed to last three years, so use the code to see how long you’ve owned it.

And when it comes to sunscreen, when in doubt, throw it out. 

Expired sunscreens don’t protect you from harmful UV rays, so don’t take a chance with your skin.

Photo: Getty Images

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