PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – People are learning the hard way that you need to pay attention to more than just the SPF when you buy a bottle of sunscreen. The expiration date is just as important.

Savannah Roach of Clemson, South Carolina, was severely burned during a trip to Georgia, even though she had applied SPF 30 sunscreen. When she looked at the bottle later in the day, she realized the sunscreen was expired. Two years expired.

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Even worse? She had just purchased the bottle of sunscreen that morning from a popular drug store chain.

“It was just sitting on the shelf. It wasn’t pushed back. It was one of the first ones on the shelf, and I just grabbed it and went,” said Roach.

She’s not alone. A woman from Stahlstown, Pennsylvania posted a warning to other consumers on Facebook after she was burned. It read, “Public service announcement!!!! Even when you purchase new sunscreen, check the date, it might be expired!!!!”

KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen went shopping for sunscreen, checking for expiration dates, at eight different stores. While she didn’t find anything expired, she discovered that expiration dates are wildly different.

She found one can of spray sunscreen that is set to expire in just a couple of months. There was also a bottle of sunscreen that will expire in 2020. But, she also found identical bottles on shelves with different dates. A bottle of baby sunscreen, for example, had an expiration date of 2019. The bottle right behind it expires in 2018.

“The expiration date is there for a reason, and we know that after the expiration date, the product is going to become weaker,” says Dr. Douglas Kress, a dermatologist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Weaker sunscreen can lead to burns, says Kress.

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“There are some studies that show even one burn as a child can lead to an increased chance of skin cancer, melanoma skin cancer, later in life,” says Kress.

During a random spot check of bags at a pool in Verona, KDKA-TV found two moms who had applied expired sunscreen to their children.

“My son burned the other day,” said one mom who had a face sunscreen that expired in 2015.

“I probably wouldn’t have used it, but I was trying to use it up because it’s almost gone,” said another mom after discovering she had a bottle of sunscreen that expired in 2016.

Whether old or new, sunscreen bottles should be checked for expiration dates. If your bottle doesn’t have a date listed on it, you can call the customer service number, enter the code on the bottle, and the company will tell you if the sunscreen is still effective.

NOTE: FDA regulations require all sunscreens and other nonprescription drugs to have an expiration date unless stability testing conducted by the manufacturer has shown that the product will remain stable for
at least three years.

That means, a sunscreen product that doesn’t have an expiration date should be considered expired three years after purchase. To make sure that your sunscreen is providing the sun protection promised in its labeling, the FDA recommends that you do not use sunscreen products that have passed their expiration date (if there is one), or that have no expiration date and were not purchased within the last three years.

Expired sunscreens should be discarded because there is no assurance that they remain safe and fully effective.

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