Does Sun Cream Expire? How To Tell If Your SPF Still Is Safe To Use

Everything you need to know about SPF expiration and whether that sun cream you bought for your holiday last year will still offer you protection...

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by Grazia |

A mini heatwave is imminent, which means we're all doing the same thing: an SPF stock check, reaching for whatever is already lingering at the back of the bathroom cupboard. You might find a half full bottle of SPF mist that travelled back with you from your last jolly, or that extra bottle you packed before your last flight away that never got opened. Whatever you're about to use, make sure to properly assess whether it's likely to have expired. If you have unwittingly let your sunscreen go off, it will afford you zero protection under the sun.

So: how long does your sunscreen last before it expires? Here's, everything you need to know before you apply your cream slapdash.

If Your Sun Cream Has Not Already Been Opened

This is key. If your sun cream has already been opened, it's likely to be oxidised to some degree, which affects its performance.

According to Ultrasun, products that have an expiration date of less than 30 months after the date of production have to state it on the packaging. If you can't find anywhere stating its expiry date, the safest option is to consider it safe to use for the 25 months after the date you can remember buying it. That 5 months leeway affords for any inaccuracies in estimating the purchase date, as well as the gap between production of the product and the moment you bought it. Remember, this is only relevant if the product is 100% unopened.

If Your Sun Cream Has Already Been Opened

To use an example, NIVEA guarantees the product quality of their sun protection products for 12 months after opening. That is providing the bottle has been stored at room temperature, kept out of direct sunlight, and the product itself looks and smells normal. If you bought one of their sun lotions late last summer, say, August to September, you should be fine to use it the following April, even if it has been opened. If, however, you have doubts over whether it has been stored properly, or whether it smells or looks normal, any doubts at all, chuck it. No sun damage is worth the money you'll save by not buying a fresh bottle. Our personal rule of thumb? If you're even beginning to deliberate, buy a new one. Remember, even if your last holiday was less than six months ago, the likelihood is that that particular bottle of sun cream was baking in a beach bag for a good percentage of your trip - that doesn't count as room temperature storage. Always err on the safe side.

Shop The Best Sun Creams (And They Don't Feel Sticky)

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SHOP: Best Facial SPFs

Murad Correct and Protect SPF45, £68
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Forget everything you think you know about mineral SPFs: this one will change the game. Milky, fast absorbing and serum-like, applying such a high SPF has never felt more enjoyable.

Best Face SPF 2022
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Fans of Caudalie's hydrating grape based formulas will love their SPF. The invisible, non greasy lotion is enriched with Vitamin E, and is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Milky and lightweight, it melts into the skin with real ease.

Best SPF for face
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It's ok if you're hooked on La Roche-Posay's Anthelios (we are too). Oily skin types, though, will love this gel texture. It's packed full of hydrators to keep skin happy, but doesn't overwhelm oily skin with richness, so skin still feels balanced.

Garnier  Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti-Dryness Protection Cream SPF50+, £6.50
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One of the most sophisticated SPF formulas on the high street. The gel-cream texture is best suited for normal to dry skin, for the way it quenches any dry patches and supplies hydration. Hurrah for brilliantly priced, excellent SPFs!

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