Toss The Sunscreen From Last Year

By Minji

  • Do you use your beach sunscreen year after year? 
  • Heat, humidity and time all contribute to the premature expiration of sunscreen so you might want to rethink this strategy
  • Read more for things to look out for and tips to reduce sunscreen waste!

I’m not a huge beach person but I do enjoy lounging by the pool with a delicious cocktail and a good read once in a while.  Of course, to protect myself adequately, I religiously apply sunscreen to my face, neck and hands, and on these special lounge days, to the rest of my body too. 

Although I love the sun on these perfect days with just the right weather and scenery, I usually don’t get enough of them and inevitably end up with a bottle of left over body sunscreen year after year (my face sunscreen I use regardless of weather, rain or shine and also indoors, so there are never leftovers!). 

The following year, when the ideal day arrives yet again for a fun-in-the-sun day, I’ll dig into my beach bag and find the sunscreen bottle from last year.  It feels weird to use the same bottle again with so much time past, but it also feels wasteful to toss a bottle half full so I often end up reusing the same bottle from last year…and at some point, I can’t remember the exact vintage of the tube I’m pulling up.

Starting with this year though, I’m starting anew. When the sun’s out and time for a glass of rosé, I intend to buy a fresh new bottle of sunscreen to apply to my body.  I’ve already thrown out all the old bottles from last year to make sure I won’t make the same mistake of possibly using stale and ineffective sunscreen.

Sunscreen is generally formulated to last up to three years from the date of production, so my new stance might sound a bit extreme.  However, the key is that heat and humidity contribute to the spoiling of sunscreen (just like wine, huh?) and because I always have my sunscreen with me at the hot and humid beach or pool area for reapplication, I can’t be confident that it won’t have expired and still be effective the following year. 

Heat and humidity coupled with a long period of non-use just make reusing body sunscreen from previous years a bad idea.  Even for face sunscreen, I recommend tossing if it's been more than six months since you opened it, in particular if you're like me and carry it around for reapplication over makeup.

Changes in the consistency or smell of the sunscreen are clear indicators of sunscreen gone bad, but even without obvious changes, your sunscreen might already have broken down.  Especially if you have kids or sensitive skin issues in your family, it’s better to just toss each bottle after the summer rather than take a risk with your skin and end up with regrets.

Here are some tips to reduce any waste. First, consider buying smaller bottles now that you know it will only last for a summer.  Second, apply more sunscreen more frequently once you’re out in the sun. The rule is to reapply at least every two hours, and it should be a shot glass worth each time – statistics show most of us aren’t putting on enough. 

Lastly, consider sharing with the entire family or even a friend and neighbor.  Hoping everyone enjoys the fabulous summer with a fresh and effective batch of sunscreen in tow!