Can Sunscreen Expire or Go Bad?

Can Sunscreen Expire or Go Bad?

Has that grimy bottle of sunscreen been sitting at the bottom of your golf bag for the last year? (We hope not).

Are you wondering how long sunscreen lasts? 

The answer to the above question may seem trivial, but it can be the difference between protecting yourself from UV radiation and a trip to the dermatologist for skin damage.

In this post, we will decode sunscreen expiration dates and United States regulatory requirements, sunscreen stability testing, and the importance of using effective sunscreen products.

Is My Sunscreen Expired?

Determining if sunscreen is expired can be as simple as checking the bottle or tube. Many manufacturers print or stamp the "Best by" or "Exp" date on the container. 

Some use a "Period After Opening" (PAO) symbol, which looks like a small jar with "12M", "24M", etc., indicating how many months the product is good for after opening.

However, not all companies in the United States are required to print expiration dates on the container—more on this shortly. When there is not an expiration date, it is reasonable to assume a shelf life of three years after purchase.

It's important to trust your instincts. When sunscreen breaks down, its physical characteristics change, including:

  • Changes in color, consistency, or smell
  • Changes in texture, such as clumpiness, liquification, or separation
  • Foul or unusual odors indicating ingredient breakdown

If you think your sunscreen may have expired, err on the side of caution and pick up the best sun protection in the game.

Understanding Sunscreen Stability

Sunscreen is classified as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug in the United States by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). You can learn more here

The FDA requires manufacturers to adhere to strict labeling and effectiveness guidelines. As such, sunscreen products must undergo stability testing as codified in 21 CFR 211. 

Stability tests are designed to simulate various conditions the product might encounter, such as high temperatures and humidity. The purpose is to ensure it maintains its effectiveness and chemical properties, as advertised and designed.

Meaning, your sunscreen remains safe and effective throughout its entire shelf life.

Coming full circle, the FDA mandates that sunscreen products must include an expiration date on their packaging in compliance with code 21 CFR 211.137 or prove through clinical stability testing that the product meets appropriate standards.

Below are the most common types of stability tests OTC sunscreen products undergo:

Physical Stability

A physical stability test for sunscreen in the United States assesses how the product reacts to environmental stressors like temperature, humidity, and light, evaluating characteristics such as color, odor, pH, viscosity, and appearance.

Accelerated stability testing is conducted whereby stressors in clinical tests are higher than under normal conditions to mimic the aging process and effects of long-term storage.

Packaging Stability

Packaging stability refers to the ability of a product's packaging to maintain its integrity and protect the product from environmental factors over time. It involves assessing the packaging for chemical reactions between the container and the product, as well as its effectiveness in preventing contamination and degradation. 

An airless container is ideal for sunscreen because it minimizes exposure to air and reduces the risk of oxidation and microbial growth.

Microbial Stability

A microbiological test is conducted to ensure sunscreen meets specific standards of resistance to microbiological organisms, like mold and bacteria, during the manufacturing process and after opening.

The stability tests mentioned above are in addition to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and Broad Spectrum tests we discussed here.

Risks of Expired Sunscreen

Now that you know that sunscreen can expire we can discuss the risks of using outdated sunscreen.

When sunscreen expires, many of the protective benefits may begin to diminish and cause some, if not all, of the following:

Reduced UV Protection

Expired sunscreen may lose its ability to effectively block harmful UV rays, increasing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.

Increased Risk of Skin Cancer

Sunburn and skin damage can lead to skin cancer. The active ingredients in expired sunscreen can breakdown, increasing your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. 

Skin Irritation or Allergic Reactions

The breakdown of chemical components in expired sunscreen can cause skin irritation, rashes, or even allergic reactions.

Microbial Contamination

Expired sunscreen is more susceptible to mold and bacterial growth, which can lead to infections or other skin issues when applied.

Inconsistent Texture and Application

Changes in the texture and consistency of expired sunscreen can result in uneven application, reducing its overall effectiveness and leaving some areas of your skin unprotected.


Sunscreen may lose its hydrating properties, leading to dry and flaky skin, especially if the product contains moisturizing agents that degrade over time.

How To Properly Apply Sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential for golf athletes who must spend long hours out on the course and practice facility perfecting their game. Here is the step-by-step process on applying sunscreen.

Step 1: Reach for your PURE SPF 50 Invisible Sunscreen

Step 2: Apply generously to your skin 15 minutes before sun exposure

Step 3: Evenly cover your face, neck, and exposed arms and legs

Step 4: Use as a foundation before your makeup (for the golf girlies)

Step 5: Tee off and reapply on the back nine!

A gentle reminder, unlike other clear or invisible sunscreens, PURE is sweat and water resistant up to the highest allowable FDA standard, and is designed to keep your skin hydrated and refreshed, even under the toughest conditions.

Sunscreen should be like everything else in your bag:

A tool to enjoy the game.