Sun protection is very important at all times of the year but particularly during the summer. When the sun is shining, many people like to spend more time outdoors, particularly in the water. When people go swimming in the pool or the ocean, they may feel like they are cool and, perhaps, overlook the necessity of sunscreen; however, sunscreen must be applied whenever someone goes outside. Furthermore, it needs to be reapplied every two hours because it does wear off. When the weather cools off, people may go for months without applying sunscreen and they may wonder whether or not the sunscreen from the prior year is still good. Does sunscreen expire? Is older sunscreen still adequate protection? It is important for everyone to understand how sunscreen works so that they are afforded appropriate protection from the sun’s UV rays.

Finding the Right Sunscreen

Similar to going to the grocery store, it can be overwhelming to get to the shelves and see all of the different types of sunscreen. This can make it hard to find the right brand. What are some of the points that people should keep in mind?

First, make sure to find a bottle that specifies that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. These are different types of radiation that can both damage the DNA of the skin cells. Some sunscreens only protect against one of these, leaving people vulnerable to serious skin damage. Many people have also noticed that sunscreens have different SPF ratings. The higher the SPF rating, the better the sun protection that will be offered. The minimum SPF that people should purchase is SPF 30. Once the SPF gets significantly above this level, the added benefit is minimal.

Apart from these two factors, the rest is really up to the preference of the individual. Those who are going to be swimming in the pool or ocean should make sure to find a sunscreen that is waterproof. The worst case scenario would be to apply sunscreen only to have wash off in the water. Those who are going to be playing sports should make sure to invest in a sunscreen that isn’t going to come off when they start to sweat. There are also sunscreens that are specifically designed for sensitive skin and brands that are meant to be sprayed on. These are all up to the individual’s preference. Parents may want to purchase a separate brand for their children.

Does Sunscreen Expire?

Those who have used sunscreen before have likely seen expiration dates printed on their sunscreen. While some foods may taste okay after the expiration date, the same may not be true of sunscreen. It is important for people to understand that most brands of sunscreen have been designed to remain effective for about three years after they are manufactured. This means that the sunscreen that sits in the cabinet during the winter is likely going to be okay for the next summer; however, after three years, the sunscreen may start to have some issues.

When it comes to sunscreen, the date that is printed on the package is typically the date at which the sunscreen starts to lose its power at blocking the UV rays. After this date has passed, it is a good idea to throw the sunscreen away. The molecules in the sunscreen will start to degrade and likely will not be able to adequately block the UV radiation. Just because the sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date on the bottle doesn’t mean it will last forever. When the sunscreen is purchased, write the date of purchase on the bottle. Throw it out three years later. Furthermore, if the sunscreen has an obvious change in the color or consistency of the lotion, discard it and don’t use it.

While three years probably sounds like a long time, remember that sunscreen needs to be applied regularly and generously in order for it to protect the skin to an appropriate degree. For people who are larger, they should be applying more. This means that a typical bottle of sunscreen really shouldn’t last that long. Individuals who are outside regularly should be going through multiple bottles in the summer. If a bottle is lasting a long time, maybe more should be applied. Furthermore, keep in mind that sunscreen should be reapplied every couple of hours or so for individuals who are outside for prolonged periods of time.

Ultimately, sunscreen plays a critical part in keeping people safe from ultraviolet radiation. Failure to take the appropriate precautions could place people at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. When people purchase sunscreen, they need to make sure that they find lotion that affords protection against both UVA and UVB rays. They should also ensure that the sunscreen has a high enough SPF rating. The most common mistake that people make is a failure to reapply sunscreen after a couple of hours. Finally, people should also make sure that they understand the symptoms of a potential skin cancer. Any discoloration on the skin that isn’t uniform in appearance, has irregular borders, or is getting bigger should be looked at by a doctor. Skin cancer can be aggressive and deadly, so the earlier it is diagnosed the earlier treatment can be started. Remember to apply sunscreen appropriately whenever an extended period of time is being spent outdoors.