how to tell if your sun cream has gone off

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  • The risk is real

    With summer fast approaching, the need to reach for the sun cream becomes more and more important. Whether it’s the best facial sunscreens or your favourite SPF moisturiser, one thing you need to be wary of is sun cream expiration.

    Chances are that at the back of your bathroom cabinet is the sun cream that you bought last year for your holiday unfinished. But, is that sun cream safe to use?

    Does sun cream expire?

    ‘All skincare products have an expiration date and SPF is definitely not an exception to this,’ says Kimberley Hulme, Head of Clinic at Face the Future.

    A survey conducted by Face the Future found that 83% of us ignore expiry dates on beauty products. Which isn’t great for skincare, but with suncare it can actually be dangerous.

    How long does sun cream last?

    According to Nivea Sun sun cream lasts for around 30 months. However, that is from the point of production to end of life, not from when you buy it. Hulme says that ‘sunscreen generally has a shelf life of only three months once opened.’ However, most bottles of sun cream will have a little symbol of a pot with a number followed by an M. This tells you how many months it will last once opened.

    This is of course if it’s stored in a cold and dark space when not in use.

    How can you tell if your sun cream has gone off?

    You can normally tell if your SPF has gone passed its expiration date by looking at the consistency. ‘SPF that is out of date will have a much more watery consistency,’ explains Hulme. ‘So if you notice your sunscreen becoming runnier, it’s time to get a new one.’

    Sun cream that’s passed its expiration date will also smell badly, so be sure to give yours a whiff.

    What happens if you used expired SPF?

    Essentially, any products that have gone over their expiration date are less effective over time, because ingredients in the formula will break down and oxidise. This means that with skincare products, you just won’t feel the benefit – they’ll do nothing to help your skin – but with SPF it’s actually just risky to use.

    ‘Continued use of expired sunscreen can result in serious damage to your skin,’ says Hulme. ‘Especially when actively using certain ingredients in your skincare routine, such as retinol that makes your skin more susceptible to sunburn. In the long term, consistent use of out of date sunscreen can increase your risk of skin cancer. Therefore, we would strongly advise replacing SPF if it has expired or you notice a change in the texture or smell of the product.’

    If you think that you have been using an out of date sun cream and have noticed a difference in your skin, like maybe changes to existing moles, be sure to get it checked out by a doctor. If in doubt, read our guide on how to check moles.

    When it comes to sun care, it really is so important to follow the guidance and be sure not to fall for any of the sun care myths.

    “Interestingly, our skincare storage habits can also impact the shelf life of a product. I always recommend keeping skincare products out of sight and in a cool, dark spot in their home as both changes in temperature and exposure to light can destabilise ingredients, meaning your SPF will last even less than three months. If you store your new SPF correctly, it should see you all through spring.”

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