Monday, July 2, 2012

Is that Sunscreen Expired??

STOP!  Put that old bottle of sunscreen down, and back away from the trash can... you may want to read this first!

So here's the deal... I am a super irritated consumer of sunscreen.  I see warnings all over the news and internet about expired sunscreen and how it could harm your child.  We wouldn't want our innocent little babies to suffer a sunburn, now would we?

Here's the problem....
          there's no flippin' expiration date on the bottle! 
                  ... or the 12 other bottles crammed in my cabinet.

Before I had kids, I didn't even know sunscreen lotion expired.  Now that I have two little ones, I find myself tossing sunscreen left and right in fear of it being expired.  I search, and search... and search the bottle over and over trying to find this magic date to calm my fears.  As I'm trying to run out the door to the pool, I grab the "newest looking" bottle and throw the older ones in the back.  Here's to hoping this one is still good!

Today I started packing for vacation.  First order of business was to organize the pool bag. 
1. Floaties - check! 
2. Sunhats - check! 
3. Swim Diapers - check, check, check! 
4. Sunscreen... and here we go again...

As I am staring at easily $100+ in sun lotion, I decided to investigate this issue.  Yes, I first spent 10 minutes of my already busy day reading each bottle, top to bottom.  Then, I called each company separately to get some answers... and I was pleasantly surprised! 

Here's what I learned, and I hope it makes your summer season a little easier!

Banana Boat:
I have 7 bottles of Banana Boat sunscreen, and not one has an expiration date.  BUT, they all have a super special code on them.  After talking to a representative from the company, I learned this trick!
1. Find the 5 digit + 2 letter code.  If you have a tube, it will be stamped at the top (see picture below).  If you have a spray can, it will be on the very bottom.

2. On this bottle, the code reads "11036LC".  This tells when the lotion was manufactured.  The first two numbers are the year (11=2011).  The next three numbers are the day of the year (036 = 36th day of the year = February 5th). 
3. The Banana Boat representative told me that each bottle has a 3 year shelf life.  Add 3 years to the manufacturing date, and you will get you expiration date.  In this example, this bottle expired on February 5, 2014!

A representative with Coppertone told me all bottles should have an actual expiration date stamped on the bottle.  On the tube, it would be located in a white rectangle on the back (see picture below).  Obviously my white rectangle is empty.  If you have a spray can, it should be printed on the bottom. 

Before offering anything, the Coppertone representative asked if I know when I purchased the lotion and stated they have a 3 year shelf life.  I want to point out that this does not matter.  Stores can keep lotions in stock for years, yes YEARS!  In April 2012 I purchased a 2 fl oz bottle of Coppertone Pure & Simple for my diaper bag, and today I found an expiration date stamped on top - 11/2012... SERIOUSLY??? 
             ... that's not 3 years.
Anyways, in my cabinet I have two bottles of Coppertone lotion with no expiration date.  Coppertone offered to supply with me a postage paid shipping label to return my lotion to them.  Once received, they will ship me back two brand new bottles!  Score - that's easily $20 in lotion, free!

If you have Coppertone bottles with missing expiration dates: 
1. Call 866-288-3330.
2. Give the bottle's UPC bar code, your name, and address.
3. Return your bottle using the postage paid shipping label Coppertone will provide.
4. Get a brand new bottle, FREE!! 

Considering these easily run you $10 a piece, it is definitely worth the call!

Thank you Aveeno....
For those who have never seen a sunscreen bottle properly labeled, here it is...

...  and of course, this one expires this month!

Have a safe, sunburn free summer!


  1. This is pretty good info, as a sunblock Nazi, I throw out all of our sunblock every year and buy new just to be safe. Glad to know all of this :) thanks for taking the time to call and post.

  2. Of all the Banana Boat web pages, disclaimers, product pages, etc. I could not find what you explained so easily here. THANK YOU! What does the two letter code at the end of the Banana Boat product stand for?

    1. All my Banana Boat bottle has on it are these numbers,93007320 and 131128581. So what does that stand for?

    2. That's exactly what mine have. 9 numbers and no letters. I'm guessing they are ok since the 1st 2 numbers are 15 and they are good for 3 years.

    3. Beth Scott thank you I thought the same thing!

    4. I called banana boat and for the 1 ounce ounce travel sizes they said the first two numbers on the bottom of the tube is the year of manufacture and the next three numbers are the day of manufacture in Julian date. For example the Julian date 193 is sometime in July of that year. They said they expire three years from the date of manufacture

  3. The two letter code is the company's manufacturing facility.

  4. Thanks for this information still being up 3yrs after the original post. I have one of those flippin' sunscreen bottle with no expiration dates and I have been scouring the internet for what to do! I will be calling Coppertone tomorrow! Thank you, again:)


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  6. Its terrible. The last 3 bottles we have purchased were expired when we bought them.

  7. Thank you so much for the info!!!

  8. Thank you Jenny for saving me so much time. I have called different companies for different products and food in my lifetime asking how to read the code. Why don't they just use a date on the bottle? Sort of want to distrust them for that!

  9. Wonder why they just don't put the expiration on the tubes/bottles? It would be so much easier for the consumer to decipher.

  10. So glad I found this post, really helpful. Thank you!

  11. The location on Banana Boat Sport can be VERY difficult to locate (used a magnifying glass, as it is branded into the cap--no contrast printing. But am now set for the next 3 years! Terrific post. Thanks.

  12. Hello everyone, I just came across these posts and on my "Banana Boat Sport Active Max protect 100" only has numbers stamped on the back of the cap. I was also thinking that we can also use expired sunscreen as a lotion like hand lotion when you don't have anything else. What do you think?

  13. Thanks Jenny!!! That is so very helpful!!!!!

  14. Thank you!!! You just saved this momma of a 10 month old at least $50 and a whole lot of time as we're about to go on vacation!

  15. Crud, I have three bottles of sunscreen from last year with no expiration date and contacted Coppertone. Their response was "...US FDA says sunscreen with at least 3 years of demonstrated stability do not require an expiration date on the package. We hope you will continue to use Coppertone products...if we can be of further assistance..." I don't want my son to burn so I'm going to toss them - and never buy Coppertone again. Completely dissatisfied with them. But love your site! Thank you for at least of chance of recovering hard earned money! Blessings to you.

  16. Thank you for the Banana Boat info. We were going thru that odd date...if they'd but the whole year on, instead of the last two digits, i could have guessed it was a Julian date since, as it happens, i use that in certain analyses in my job...but seeing 01276MM was pretty durn cryptic. So i guess we'd been holding on to that BBoat sunscreen for...16 years.