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Why Do Products Like Sunscreen Have An Expiration Date?

Posted Oct 13 2010 11:01pm

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Jill just wants to know…Why do some products have expiration dates on them? Specifically, does sunscreen lose its potency, and does that mean I should stop buying jumbo size if I can’t use it all up over a couple of years?

The Right Brain’s real response:
Jill, many people don’t realize this, but some products that you usually consider to be cosmetics are really classified as Over-The-Counter (or OTC) drugs . While that might sound scary, it just means that by definition these products (which include sunscreen, toothpaste, and dandruff shampoo) have an effect on the physiology of the body.

Because of the way the laws are set up, OTC drugs MUST carry an expiration date. That date indicates that the product has been tested to show that the active drug ingredient is still present in the formulation. Does that mean that you can’t use your bottle of sunscreen one day after it’s expiration date? No, that’s probably not a problem. But if the product is signicantly past that date, then there’s no gurantee that it will still do what you bought it for.

In many cases products are stable far beyond the expiration date but if you have any concerns that the product might be too old to use, then you should probably throw it out.

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