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Sunscreens and expiration date!

on July 21, 2022

Sunscreens are considered as active skin care, and provide protection from the UV rays. Chemical sunscreens do this by absorbing the light, and physical sunscreens scatter the light away from the skin.

The sunscreen efficacy is measured by the SPF number, the UVA rating and the critical wavelength. In addition some sunscreens also protect against infra red waves and blue light.

For this protection to actually happen, even the best sunscreen needs to be used within the expiration date. You can easily locate the expiration date on your sunscreen container, where it will be mentioned along with the date of manufacture.

Now, is the expiration date on sunscreen accurate?

Mostly yes. It is not allowed to have expired products on the shelf or on sale for sunscreens and even for other skin care products. So most sunscreen brands will take adequate effort to make sure that the sunscreen is suitable for use, up until the expiry date.


How long is sunscreen good after expiration date?

Not even for a day after. In fact, if your sunscreen mentions the expiry as say, July 2022, it is best to finish using this before June 30th 2022. Ideally the last day of the month, preceding the month of expiry is what you should set as the last day for using a product. This applies not just to sunscreens, but to all skin care products.

Can You Use Expired Sunscreen?

No! There are two problems that arise from using expired sunscreens. Firstly, expired skin care product ingredients may cause allergic or irritant reactions on your skin, and most importantly, the sunscreen itself may not be effective at protecting you from UV rays.

Is expired sunscreen better than nothing?

Not at all! By using expired sunscreen, you re actually risking your skin – you may develop an allergy, for no added benefit at all, as expired sunscreen may not be even protecting your skin. The better thing is to go for physical sun protection like clothes, hats, sun glasses, and simply covering up the skin!

Are you saying that expired sunscreen is better than no sunscreen?

Expired sunscreen probably is the same as no sunscreen! No protection with an added risk of allergy!

My sunscreen expired 4 months ago, can I use it?

As mentioned above, aim to finish your sunscreen in the month ahead of what’s mentioned as the sunscreen expiration date on your product. It doesn’t matter if your sunscreen expired 3 months ago, or if it expired 3 weeks ago, or even if your sunscreen’s expiration date is 3 days ago. You should have finished it a month ahead of expiration date, just to be safer!

How to read sunscreen expiration date code?

You will see this as a month/date MM/YY notation on your sunscreen packaging. Make sure to note it down in case the expiration date is just on the outer carton and not on your product itself. You can simply mark the date with a permanent marker on your sunscreen bottle.

Tell us the truth, how long does sunscreen last after expiration date?

It is possible that sunscreens may last for a few months after expiration date, but there is no guarantee as to whether the SPF protection is indeed the same. The bigger concern here is a possible allergic rash from using expired sunscreen, which is the same issue with using any product post its expiration date.

What does PAO symbol mean?

This is the PAO symbol – period after opening. Just like the sunscreen expiration date, the PAO symbol is also very important. It specifies the time after opening the sunscreen container, within which the product should be used.

What’s the difference between the PAO and the sunscreen expiration date? How long can I use the sunscreen, then?

To work out a formula,

1. Add the PAO to the month of opening the sunscreen container.

2. Check if that month is at least one month less than the expiration date.

3. Then stop using it the month that PAO ends.

Let’s understand this with an example.

If the PAO is 6 months and you opened the container in July 2022, you should finish using that sunscreen by January 2023. Provided, your sunscreen expiration date is after February 2023.

To get started, first calculate the PAO, and go forward from there.

Let us say you opened your sunscreen container in July 2022. And the PAO period is specified as 12 months. The next step is to check the expiration date and ensure that the sunscreen expiration date falls on or after August 2023.

Let’s work another example.

Let’s say your sunscreen expiration date is December 2022, and you opened the product in July 2022. The product PAO is 6 months.

Now how long can you use this product?

From the expiration date you know that you can only use this product up to December 2022, even though adding the expiration date takes it into January 2023. But since the expiration date is December 2022, and you will always want to finish using the sunscreen within the expiration date, well, you can use this product up to December 2022.

Expiry date of a sunscreen

It is very important to use your skin care products in the recommended way. Sunscreens, yes, even the best sunscreens – are no exception. It is important to take stock of your skin care and make up product cupboard, and get rid of the old and expired stuff.

You might also like to read

- Is sunscreen good for your face?
- The Complete Sunscreen Guide - How to choose the best sunscreen?
- 2 minute quick guide to sunscreens
- How to read the label of your sunscreen?