Still have a bottle of sunscreen in your bathroom closet from last year? While you might assume you need a new one, sunscreen lasts longer than you think. Check the expiration date if there is one — but if not, you’ve got three years from the date of purchase to use it up.
This advice comes straight from the FDA, which asks sunscreen makers to put an expiration date on their product showing when it will stop providing the level of protection shown on the label. If there’s no date, that means testing showed that it should be good for a full three years after purchase.
Sunscreen that is older than that may have lost its potency, but then again, maybe not. Because it’s a bit of a gamble, the FDA recommends tossing sunscreen that is past the three-year mark or that is past its expiration date. If there’s no expiration date, but you can remember buying it last year, or even two years ago — say, on a pre-pandemic vacation — it’s still likely to be as good as new.
While we’re talking about storage, the FDA does recommend that we keep sunscreen bottles, ironically, out of the sun. Extreme heat could cause the product to deteriorate early, so they suggest that you leave your sunscreen in the shade or wrap it in towels when you’re at the beach. You can also put it in a cooler to be extra safe.
This post was first published in May of 2017, and was updated in 2021 to check links, add information, and align with current Lifehacker style.