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How To Tell If Your Sunscreen Has Gone Bad

Now that the summer months are among us, many parents are digging through their bathroom cabinets and pantries for leftover tubes of sunscreen and sunblock that have been left over from the previous season. Little do many mothers and fathers know though that it’s not always safe to use an old bottle of sunscreen. In fact, there’s a new report that is urging parents to be more mindful of the expiration dates on sunscreen, as over time sunscreen becomes completely ineffective against the sun’s UV rays.

According to CNBC, many sunscreens consist of chemical formulas that are made with active SPF ingredients like oxybenzone. Unfortunately, they become less effective with age. Mineral versions of sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide also don’t do the same job of protecting your skin passed their expiration date.

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Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recently told Allure in an interview that sunscreen – just like so many products that are in your pantry – can go bad and spoil. If the sunscreen looks watery, throw it out immediately. She says, “Like food, sunscreen can go bad and the ingredients can spoil, leading to a watery consistency. They also become less effective, which means a significant increase in the potential for sunburns, sun damage, brown spots, and the risk for skin cancer development.”

Yet, consumers are being urged to keep in mind that many sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. This means that you can use your left over sunscreen from one year to the next, as long as it’s within it’s expiration date. In addition, is your sunscreen tube has a “12M” or “18M” next to an open jar icon, this means that it is only good for up to 12 months or 18 months, respectively.

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Overall, your safest bet is to ditch any sunscreen that is too old and replace it with a new one. To determine whether sunscreen has expired, first look for an expiration date on the label. If there is no expiration date, you can always call the customer service number that's listed on the label. You can provide them with the codes that are printed on the bottle and they can tell you whether or not it has expired.

Also, remember that a high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication. All sunscreens should be applied approximately every two hours or according to time on the label.

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