Check Your Sunscreen Before You Head Out

Beautiful Young woman with sun cream on face.Summer is a few months away but, often, people start traveling and spending more time outdoors well before the hot weather hits. Truly, anything that isn't grey and misty can feel amazing, so why not get out and enjoy it? We're all for some outdoor time but want to warn our patients that they should check their sunscreen before they begin planning that vacation or day at the park. What should be checked? The expiration date!

Sunscreen Can Expire

It's easy to forget that any skincare product can expire. Well, sunscreen is one of them. The good news is that, based on FDA guidelines, sunscreens maintain a standard level of efficacy for at least three years. The first thing to do before using your sunscreen, then, is to check the packaging for an expiration or manufactured date. If this is missing, you'd benefit from tossing it and getting a brand new tube. If your new sunscreen does not have an expiration date clearly printed on it, write your purchase date on the package using a permanent marker. This way, you won't have to question whether you're inadvertently putting yourself at risk of sun damage.

Is Physical or Chemical Sunscreen Better?

In terms of longevity, it looks like physical sunscreen might last longer, but minimally so. Chemical sunscreens work by creating a chemical reaction in the skin. This is achieved with ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone, and others. These ingredients are unstable and can break down over time, losing efficacy. Additionally, the emulsifiers that carry the particles of the chemical sunscreen can also degrade relatively quickly. Physical sunscreens are made with mineral ingredients that tend to last longer than those used in chemical sunscreens. That said, keep in mind that the emulsifiers in the physical sunscreen could degrade, making it more difficult to get a good, consistent application.

Is My Sunscreen Expired?

The best way to tell if your sunscreen is expired is to find an expiration date. In lieu of that, look at the product itself. If your sunscreen has changed color or texture, it's probably no longer effective. An example may be that your sunscreen is more watery or oily than it used to be, or you can see a clear separation of ingredients. Clumpy, chalky, grainy sunscreen should probably be thrown out.

Why Does it Matter?

Sunscreen is made to reflect or deflect UV light. Why does it matter if the product is expired? Efficacy. If you have an expired SPF 50 sunscreen, the degree of protection and length of protection may be cut in half. You will be more likely to develop a sunburn, which increases your risk of premature aging and skin cancer. Expired sunscreen can also cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, breakouts, and skin infections.

Use It or Lose It

This old saying applies to the use of sunscreen. If you're using your sunscreen as recommended by a dermatologist, chances are you will use up the product before it can expire. Sunscreen should be worn daily if it is to prevent UV damage. Even on cloudy, grey days, UVB rays are reaching the skin. The UV light in sunshine reaches our skin through our windshields and car windows. It reaches the skin when we're just running a quick errand. Every time UV light touches unprotected skin, there is a risk of damage.

In addition to treating the signs of UV damage, your dermatologist performs thorough skin cancer screenings, which can help you get to know your skin far better than you'd ever imagined. To schedule your skin cancer screening or cosmetic treatment, contact us at 206-859-5777 or schedule your appointment here.

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Thank you for choosing Pacific Dermatology & Cosmetic Center, we look forward to providing you with the very best skin care.