Does Sunscreen Expire? We Answer All Your SPF Questions and Reveal Our Fave Products

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

If you've discovered an old SPF and are now pondering does sunscreen expire or notwe've all been there. Most of us know it's important to wear sun protection during the warmer months, but it's not always simple to stay across the best practise of actually using the stuff. That's why we're here to help.

We've got answers to all of your top SPF questions, from the difference between chemical and mineral sun cream to how much you should apply and whether even the best foundation with SPF can come close to sunscreen for protecting the skin. The trick with sun protection is to treat it like any other part of your skincare routine. This means doing your research as you would to find the best eye cream then using it consistently much like your skincare acids or retinol cream.

With so many SPF products on the market and a whole dictionary of sun cream terminology being thrown at us, it can be difficult to figure out what we really need for our skin. So as well as answering your questions we have broken down sunscreen lingo and picked out the best sun protection products for you to try. Here's hoping for a year full of sun, outdoor activities and happy healthy skin!

Does sunscreen expire? Your SPF questions answered

1. Does sunscreen expire?

Bad news for anyone who has dug out a bottle from last summer or the one before that, as yes sunscreen absolutely has a use-by date. The average shelf life of sun cream is 6 to twelve months after opening, so sadly last summer's bottle is unlikely to be protecting you as well as it should. Leave your bottles in direct sunlight or high temperatures and their potency dissolves even faster.

3. Do I need SPF in the UK?

As anyone who has been caught out by an unexpectedly sunny day on these shores will agree, you absolutely do. 'While we may be more likely to get sunburnt in hotter climates, the risks from UVA damage in the UK is present all year round', explains skin health specialist Dr Anita Sturnham.

4. Is makeup with SPF as good as sunscreen?

Your foundation might promise an SPF, 'however, by the very nature of their intended use, they're applied a in far smaller quantities, and therefore are often not providing the same level of protection as pure' sunscreens', explains skincare expert and Ultrasun UK MD, Abi Cleeve.

5. How to apply sunscreen

Heading out in the sunshine? It's important to be organised and apply your sun cream ahead of time to avoid burning. 'Do it first thing, do it indoors and apply plenty', says Ultrasun founder and sun protection expert Abi Cleeve. 'Any application in direct sunlight increases evaporation and up to 60% of protection can be lost.'

6. Should I use acids in summer?

Yes, as long as you're careful. Ingredients that chemically exfoliate, like AHAs and BHAs, or speed up cell turnover, like retinol, can make skin more sensitive to sun damage. Apply SPF every day and limit these punchier ingredients to nighttime use.

7. Does SPF block Vitamin D?

According to a 2019 study by the British Journal of Dermatology, 'using daily broadspectrum sunscreens with high UVA protection will not compromise vitamin D status in healthy people.' In short, the dangers of sun exposure far outweigh its benefits, so slather on that sunscreen.

8. Chemical vs mineral SPFwhat's the difference?

As the name suggests, chemical sunscreens are absorbed into your skin, then use chemicals to absorb UV rays that enter preventing damage at a cellular level. Mineral, or physical, lotions sit on top of skin, reflecting away the suns rays.

Which one you use really comes down to personal preference. Chemicals tend to have a lighter more elegant texture, which makes them a popular choice for daily use. However, if your skin is sensitive, physical SPF may be the best option as chemicals can be irritating. If you've ever experienced weepy or stinging eyes after applying sunscreen, try switching to mineral.

9. Does menopause cause pigmentation?

As we hit the menopause, our melanin cells can produce pigment too quickly, leading to a rise in so-called age' or sun' spots. Vitamin C will help fade existing marks, while strong daily SPFs will stop new ones from forming.

10. Is aftersun better than body lotion?

Depends on the body lotion. Essentially both are designed to hydrate the skin, but good after sun lotions are specifically formulated with cooling, anti- inflammatory ingredients as well as water-binding ones to deeply quench parched skin. 'The biggest benefit from aftersun is its high water content which cools and hydrates', says Candice Gardner, Education Manager at Dermalogica.

11. Does sunburn turn into tan?

Trauma tanners, listen up! 'A tan from inadequate protection that occurs too fast only causes the skin to burn and shed, leaving you tanless in days', advises Abi Cleeve. To deepen those tan lines safely, try a sunscreen formula that speeds up the process.

Best SPF sunscreen products

Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50

A brilliant all-rounder of a product. It contains mineral sunscreen plus Vitamin C, blue light and pollution protection. The light-reflecting subtly rose-toned finish is very flattering on all skin tones.

  • Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50 at Murad for 60

Decleor Sun Gel Cream SPF50+ If you hate heavy or sticky sun creams you'll love this barely-there gel-like formula which feels cool and refreshing.

  • Decleor Sun Gel Cream SPF50+ at Amazon for 27.51

Ultrasun Family High Protection SPF30 Ultra reliable protection from the cult brand every Beauty Editor takes on holiday. Unusually, this clever product will last for two years without going off.

  • Ultrasun Family High Protection SPF30 at Amazon for 19

Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect SPF30 This not only boasts SPF30 and 5* UVA protection, but sits nicely under make-up with a soft, powdery finish.

  • Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect SPF30 at Amazon for 51.30

Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water Refreshing Protecting Mist SPF30 This will reach tricky areas like your back and shoulders, with its spray nozzle.

  • Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water Refreshing Protecting Mist SPF30 at Amazon for 8

Clarins Invisible Sun Care Stick SPF50 Don't forget often-missed spots such as the back of your neck, ears, temples and hands with this pocket-sized product for touch ups on the go.

  • Clarins Invisible Sun Care Stick SPF50 at Amazon for 21.45

Oskia SPF 30 Vitamin Face Cream An all-in-one morning solution, teaming hardworking skincare with broad-spectrum protection.

  • Oskia SPF30 Vitamin Face Cream at Oskia for 60

Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF30 This lovely and lightweight mineral option is good for sensitive skin types and blends seamlessly into all skin tones.

  • Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defence SPF30 at Amazon for 37.51

Bioderma Pigmentbio Daily Care SPF50+ A strong daily SPF option to help fade dark spots and work towards preventing new ones.

  • Bioderma Pigmentbio Daily Care SPF50+ at Amazon for 18.70

Caudalie Tan Prolonging After-Sun Lotion Formulated with grape water and aloe vera, this will reduce redness and soothe sun-sore skin while prolonging your tan.

  • Caudalie Tan Prolonging After-Sun Lotion at Amazon for 16.03

Green People Edelweiss Tan Accelerator Sun Cream SPF15

Deepen tan lines safely with this clever formula that speeds up the process. It works by stimulating the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin it's colour. Rewarding you with a deeper tan, and limited damage.

  • Green People Edelweiss Tan Accelerator Sun Cream SPF15 at Amazon for 100.09

Dr Russo Once A Day Sun Protection Invisible Face Gel SPF50

One of the key elements of a great SPF is finding a formula you love to apply. Thanks to the paint-style brush, this is a treat to use. The formula itself is lightweight with no white cast.

  • Dr Russo Once A Day Sun Protection Invisible Face Gel SPF50 at Harvey Nichols for 28.95

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