We’re willing to bet that right now, you have two or three tubes of sunscreen sitting in your drawer from last summer… or maybe it was a few summers ago… it was sometime in the last decade, OK? Which brings about the age-old, constantly bewildering question that accompanies sunscreen: Does it expire? Like, does it really, really expire, or is that use-by date just a bunch of marketing bullshit? The answer is yes, it does expire — but not as quickly as you might think.
According to Mayo Clinic (you know, one of the best hospitals in the nation), most sunscreens are designed to stay effective at their original strength for up to three years, which means yes, you can use that tube that you bought last year and never got around to opening. But before you slather it on, check to make sure it doesn’t have an expiration date. If it does and you’ve surpassed it, throw that sucker out — some formulas really aren’t effective after their expiration date due to specific ingredient formulations, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get full (or any) protection if you use an expired formula before heading into the sun.
Of course, if you’ve kept your tube of sunscreen in, say, the glove box of your hot-as-hell car for three years straight, letting it cook and warp under the harsh summer rays, you need to toss it in the trash, pronto. Sorry, but heat and humidity can cause the formula to separate and destabilize, rendering it ineffective at protecting you against sunburns, skin damage and, you know, skin cancer. And to be totally safe (unless you’re positive your old sunscreen sat in a temperature-controlled drawer for the last year), your best bet is to buy a new tube this summer. Not sure where to start? Check out our favorite under-$10 drugstore sunscreens below, and get slathering.
L’Oréal Paris Ideal Moisture Sensitive Skin Day Lotion SPF 25 (L’Oréal Paris, $6.99)
No7 Beautiful Skin oil-free skin protector SPF 25 (Target, $9.99)
Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid-Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 (Walmart, $9.97)
Eucerin Daily Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen Moisturizing Face Lotion (Walmart, $7.86)