Sun cream expiry: Can suncream go off?
Britain is enjoying a balmy bank holiday weekend, with parts of the country enjoying highs of 26C today. For those lucky households with a garden amid the UK lockdown, it’s the perfect day to catch some rays and enjoy a barbecue, or potter around doing some gardening. Or for those of you with your own sun trap – either a balcony or a terrace – enjoy an ice cold beer. But what about sun protection?
Along with the blistering heat is the very real chance we could see (virtually of course) a few sun burnt faces.
Most of us won’t have had a chance to go to the shops to stock up on suncream this year.
So many of us will be digging around in our toiletries, trying to scout out last year’s sun cream.
But is it okay to do this or can sun cream go off?
Does sun cream expire?
Yes, sun cream does expire. After this date, the ingredients start to decompose.
This means they may be less effective, and won’t stop the suns rays from damaging your skin if not used correctly.
The mixture may also separate, become watery, or could even become lump – a clear sign there’s something off with your sun cream.
According to NHS Choices, sun cream has a shelf life of two to three years, so long as it’s not stored in direct sunlight or at high temperatures.
But if you’ve been abroad with your sun cream bottle, this likely means it will expire much, much sooner.
Thankfully, there’s another easy tell-tale sign on the bottle that should tell you how long you can keep it for.
Take a look at the back of the bottle – there will be a small, jar shaped symbol with the lid off.
This symbol appears on all cosmetics, and has a number followed by the letter M in it. For example, 12M.
This means your sun cream should be used within 12 months of it being opened – provided you can remember when that was.
You may also see 18M – which means it needs to be used within 18 months of being first opened.
Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) told The Sun most sun creams last “about a year from when they are opened”.
She said: “But the best way to check is to look for a symbol on the packaging of an open jar, with numbers inside to represent the number of months you can use it for.
“It lasts from the date you first opened the bottle.
“So 12M in the jar symbol means it lasts a year from opening.
“Most packaging filters out UV rays but it’s still best to store sunscreen out of sunlight and in a cool place, to stop it going off.
“If it goes lumpy or the liquid separates, or it smells funny, you know it’s time to bin it.”
What factor sunscreen should you use?
NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommends that SPF 15 sunscreen should be sufficient as long as it is applied adequately.
If people are concerned that they are not applying factor 15 thickly enough, they should consider using a higher SPF sunscreen, such as factor 30.
The NHS says: “Do not rely on sunscreen alone to protect yourself from the sun.
“Wear suitable clothing and spend time in the shade when the sun’s at its hottest.”
When buying sunscreen, the label should have:
- a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB
- at least 4-star UVA protection
It is also important to make sure you:
- spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
- make sure you never burn
- cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
- take extra care with children
- use at least factor 30 sunscreen