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Has Your Sunscreen Gone Bad? Here are 3 Ways to Tell 

Sunscreens can go bad long before their expiration date. And there are potential risks to wearing a product that has already gone bad and is ineffective.

Has Your Sunscreen Gone Bad? Here are 3 Ways to Tell Cutis Medical Laser Clinics

Apart from the fact that it can’t give you the protection your skin needs, it can also increase your risk of sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer.


So, how long do sunscreens last?

Has Your Sunscreen Gone Bad? Here are 3 Ways to Tell Cutis Medical Laser Clinics So, how long do sunscreens last
Sunscreen bottles should have a stamped or printed expiration date. If you can’t see yours, it has probably been rubbed off by sweat or water. In such cases, it is important to know that most sunscreens have a shelf-life of about three years. However, this can still depend on the way you use and store the product. 
For example, if you store your sunscreen in a dark place, away from heat and sunlight, it will still be effective for a few years. If you, on the other hand, mindlessly leave it anywhere like in the sand or a hot car, it is likely for the product to absorb UV rays. This can break down the chemicals in it, making the sunscreen ineffective.


Has your sunscreen gone bad? 
Has Your Sunscreen Gone Bad? Here are 3 Ways to Tell Cutis Medical Laser Clinics
You can look for the expiration date on the label to find out if it’s already expired. It is, however, also common for the printed date to be erased or rubbed off over time. There are also cases where SPF products can go bad long before their indicated expiration date. This is especially true if they are stored improperly. 
Here are three ways to tell if your sunscreen has gone bad:

  • Odd or weird smell – If your product emits a weird or off-putting smell, it has likely gone bad. Constantly leaving the bottle anywhere or using it with dirty hands can attract bacteria. The SPF in your sunscreen may still be active, but using an odd-smelling sunscreen can increase your risk of bacterial infections or acne breakouts.

  • Discolouration – Another telltale sign is a yellowish or brownish colour in your sunscreen. SPF products, particularly chemical ones, have unstable molecules that can break down when exposed to air and sunlight. This is also a sign of oxidation, which can compromise the efficacy of the sunscreen.

  • Changes in texture or consistency – It is best to toss out your sunscreen if it has become oilier or more watery. It is common for expired skincare products to clump together or have ingredients that look separated. If your sunscreen has a thin or watery consistency, it has likely gone bad and is ineffective. 


Is it okay to use expired sunscreens?
Has Your Sunscreen Gone Bad? Here are 3 Ways to Tell Cutis Medical Laser Clinics
Expired sunscreens are ineffective and won’t give you the protection your skin deserves. They also contain ingredients that can disintegrate over time, especially with heat and sun exposure. This can then reduce the products’ efficacy and potentially contribute to skin issues, such as: 

  • Sunburn
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Lines, wrinkles, and other signs of ageing

In case you need another convincing to toss out your expired sunscreens, you should know that they are likely to be contaminated with bacteria. They can cause skin reactions and put you at increased risk for:

  • Skin irritation
  • Bacterial skin infection
  • Breakouts
  • Allergies or allergic reactions

Keep in mind
If you have been applying the same sunscreen for quite some time now (years), look past its expiration date. It is better to watch out for signs that it has gone bad. 
It is also a good idea to buy a new bottle every year to make sure that the one you’re using is effective. If you’re in the market for a new sunscreen, we recommend Dr Sylvia Skin Care Clear Defense SPF 45 with Broad-Spectrum. This sunscreen contains a blend of active ingredients that offers protection against UV and infrared damage.  


Apart from zinc oxide that blocks UVA and UVB radiation, Clear Defense SPF 45 also has niacinamide that can help promote a smoother and clearer complexion. Other benefits include: 

  • Lightweight, fast-absorbing, leaves no residue
  • Reduces redness, blotchiness, and hyperpigmentation
  • Improves the look of lines and wrinkles
  • Helps increase skin firmness and elasticity 
  • Suitable for normal, sensitive, oily, and mature skin

Using the right sunscreen is a must, but it is also important to practice other sun protection measures. These include limiting sun exposure, especially during peak hours, wearing sunglasses, and seeking shade or using an umbrella.


Article by Dr Sylvia Ramirez from Cutis Medical Laser Clinics, an award-winning medical aesthetic clinic in Singapore.

Cutis Medical Laser Clinics provides medical-grade skincare products, as well as non-surgical aesthetic services.

Established out of the passion to deliver quality aesthetic services, it is our goal to make a difference in people’s lives and help them feel confident about themselves.
9 Scotts Road Pacific Plaza, Scotts Medical Center #08-07, Singapore 228210

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