Can our skin eat this?
May 25, 2014 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I have an (expired?) unopened bottle of Coppertone Continuous Spray Ultra guard sunscreen that I want to use on for a day with a lot of sun exposure.

The bottom of the bottle is stamped EXP5 10.
Does this mean it really expired in May of 2010? It is very possible I've had this bottle for four years.
If so is the sunscreen going to work? I've googled and some sites say to toss it, others say it just won't be as aesthetically consistent as it is supposed to be.
It is inconvenient to rush off and get new sunscreen now, or else I'd not bother wondering about this.
posted by third rail to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My pharmacist mom always told me to toss sunscreen after expiration. If you are actually going to replace it, better to toss. If it's so inconvenient and you are in a pinch, use it knowing it might not be at fully efficacy and cover up in other ways.
posted by gillianr at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2014

Sunscreen tends to separate over time so you are likely to have a bunch of watery goo and then a clump of white crud that doesn't smooth in very well to your skin. Also, less effective.

Is it more inconvenient to get a sunburn, or to go get some new sunscreen?
posted by ambrosia at 8:22 AM on May 25, 2014

I live in Florida and use expired sunscreen all the time as long as it hasn't separated - if it has, then chuck it. Just reapply often and stay as covered as possible, which you should do anyway. Your expired sunscreen may vary.
posted by gatorae at 8:23 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last year I'd have answered "yes, totally use it," but this year I had a melanoma diagnosis, so I'm revising my appropriate use of sunscreen protocols.

OK, I'd still totally use it but reapply about 4x as often, resulting in a 1mm thick layer of pasty spray goo over all exposed skin.

Wearing more clothes/hat/umbrella might be a more convenient (and more effective) option than going out for more sunscreen.
posted by asperity at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2014

I wouldn't use it. I sent my kid out for a day at an amusement park with sunscreen I didn't know had expired over the winter. She came back incredibly crispy.
posted by Andrhia at 8:57 AM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok, thanks all. I'm tossing it.
posted by third rail at 9:01 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd shake it up and use it. Expiration dates often don't mean much. If you're really concerned, buy more and use the expired stuff as an "extra" layer. Can't hurt.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2014

In my experience, sunscreen stops working after a few years on a shelf. I'm sure that varies between types and brands, but given the burns I've gotten using old sunscreen I'd toss it.
posted by brainmouse at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2014

The one time I used expired sunblock I fried. Never again.
posted by sepviva at 9:58 AM on May 25, 2014

I've been a near-religious user of sunblock for all my life, and I got my only blistering, horrific sunburn after using expired sunblock.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:02 AM on May 25, 2014

Toss & get a new bottle.

If it was only a couple months expired (say no more than 4-5 months) and of course not-separated, then I'd probably go ahead and use it. But four full years past? Nope, nuh-uh, no way --- I say toss it: sunscreen is cheap and sunburns are painful.
posted by easily confused at 10:33 AM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sunscreens have active ingredients so the expiration date actually means something. The effectiveness of the product degrades over time. You are right to toss it.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:27 AM on May 26, 2014

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