Skin Deep

My sunscreen has been sitting in the sun all day. Does it still work?

Look at the expiration date on your skincare product. If the date has expired, toss the product out.
Look at the expiration date on your skincare product. If the date has expired, toss the product out. TNS

Is your bathroom cabinet filled with skincare products you’ve had for years? Do you know how many of them are expired, and do expiration dates really matter? The short answer is yes; skincare products do expire and factors like age, light, and heat can impact their effectiveness.

When to toss?

Most skincare products have a two-year expiration date, which should be clearly printed on the outer box. However, certain types of products expire more quickly than others, and some are more sensitive to exposure to sunlight, heat, and moisture.

Most non-drug acne and sunscreen products have a two-year expiration date. However, SPF will lose efficacy much faster if it is a chemical sunscreen that’s left in the sun or a hot car.

We suggest replacing your sunscreen six months after you open it or throw it away after hours in the sun. Avoid reusing the same bottle of sunscreen that’s been sitting in your beach bag all winter long, as it won’t protect you.

Our recommendations for other skincare products are as follows:

  • Retinol products – Replace these four to six weeks after opening. If you leave the cap off the bottle, replace immediately.

  • Vitamin C – Replace four weeks after opening or when the color turns dark. Vitamin C is very reactive when exposed to heat and light, so be sure to store it in a cool, dry place.

  • Doxycycline – This is an oral antibiotic used to treat acne. It can be dangerous and cause kidney complications if used after the expiration date. Never take oral medications after their expiration date without consulting your doctor.

  • Moisturizers – Replace after two years if stored in a cool environment and not touched with dirty fingers. Use clean hands when squeezing the product onto your fingers to keep dirt and bacteria out of the bottle.

  • Cleansers – Replace after two years if stored in a cool, dry environment.

  • Oils Oils can get rancid after opening, especially when exposed to heat. Replace these in six to eight weeks after opening.

Bottom line

It’s a good idea to go through your medicine cabinet or skincare bag every several months and get rid of expired products or those that have changed color or consistency. These products quickly lose efficacy and won’t produce the desired result. Expired sunscreen is especially concerning, as your skin will not get the SPF number that is listed on the bottle. Be especially careful when taking oral medications — always be aware of their expiration dates.

For more skincare tips and tricks from Dr. Leslie Baumann, be sure to follow Baumann Cosmetic on YouTube, or follow @BaumannCosmetic on Instagram or Facebook.