If You Want A Nice Sunburn, Use Last Year’s Sunscreen

Cynthia Bailey, MD|March 19, 2010

SunburnedKidWarning: Last year's sunscreen won't help this year's sunburn! It's 2010......throw out your 2009 sunscreen now or......


Sunscreens don’t last forever! You can’t even trust the expiration date on the bottle. That's because sunscreen ingredients are fragile. They sit in the bottle breaking down over time. If stored at high temperatures, they breakdown even faster. Don’t trust that old bottle sitting in your cupboard- it’s not worth the risk. Start fresh, and do it every spring - it's smart spring cleaning! For years, my dear husband used to demonstrate the importance of using fresh sunscreen every spring. On the first sunny spring weekend he’d apply last year’s sunscreen from the tube that was still sitting in the kitchen 'junk drawer'. He’d hop on the tractor and go mow the field. Even with a hat and a thick coat of old sunscreen, he'd get burnt, and he'd be stunned. The old tube of sunscreen never exceeded its expiration date, but this was before we had micro zinc oxide sunscreens and the old sunscreen ingredients were really fragile. The micro zinc products are more reliable, but the point is, you just can't trust the old stuff that's been sitting around. Who knows if that tube sat in a hot car, hot beach bag or had any other thermal misadventures. You don't even know if it's older than a year. Just chuck the stuff and start fresh. It's not worth the permanent damage you'll suffer from even one sun burn. Having learned from my husband's mistakes, I now preemptively restock my family with fresh tubes of sunscreen every spring. I check the junk drawer and stock it with a fresh tube of Solbar Zinc. I go through my husband's gym bag, the bathroom drawers and cupboards. I even see to it that my grown kids who live out of state have new sunscreen every spring. Regardless of the expiration dates printed on sunscreens, the ingredients still break down at differing rates depending on how they were stored ... and I don't take chances. Remember- Spring clean your stock of sunscreen and enjoy the sun without the burn! Photo attribution:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kirinqueen/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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