Is Using Expired Sunscreen Better Than No Sunscreen? Here’s What a Scientist Has to Say

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If you’re anything like us, you probably have a few sunscreen products that you use on a daily basis — some of our POPSUGAR Australia editors have two or three favourite sunscreens that they swap between — so it makes sense that you might have discovered an SPF product that is expired.

And, if on the off chance this expired sunscreen is the only SPF product you have access to, chances are you’re wondering whether or not using the expired product is better than using nothing at all. We posed this question to Dr Michele Squire, a PhD-qualified scientist, former Registered Nurse, and founder of Qr8 and Qr8 MediSkin, who is also super passionate about sunscreen.

“This falls into the same category as ‘a little sunscreen is better than none at all’ myth — sunscreen just doesn’t do its job if you don’t use enough of it (whether this is due to the quantity used or the filters being heat-affected),” Dr Squire told POPSUGAR Australia. “And you just don’t want to muck around with the chances of getting a sunburn and predisposing yourself to sun cancers.”

Using an expired sunscreen isn’t going to provide adequate protection for your precious skin, so as Dr Squire says, there’s no point in risking a potential sunburn by using an expired product. Instead, get yourself to your nearest chemist, supermarket or online store to pick up some more sunscreen.

“Skincare products are stability tested at high temperatures during the manufacturing process, so don’t get too concerned if you accidentally leave your sunscreen in the car for a few hours,” said Dr Squire. “But if you’re digging out a sunscreen from years ago (check the expiry date on the packaging!) that has been stored in your glovebox, then you run the risk that it won’t be delivering the protection you think, especially if it has changed colour, smell, texture or has separated into a runny liquid.

“In case you need more convincing about the risks of a sunburn: A recent UK study demonstrated that repeated sunburns (more than five) between the ages of 15-20 increased the risk of developing melanoma by 80 per cent and non-melanoma skin cancers by 68 per cent [1]. And sadly one in four Aussie teens are still getting weekly sunburns during summer [2].”

Case closed. Don’t use the expired sunscreen, pick up a new tube of your favourite broad-spectrum SPF product and apply it liberally!


  1. Wu S, Han J, Laden F, Qureshi AA. Long-term ultraviolet flux, other potential risk factors, and skin cancer risk: a cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014. PMID: 24876226.
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