Does Tanning Lotion Expire? How To Tell If Tanning Lotion Is Expired?

As summer is coming, tanning lotion is increasingly becoming a pivotal product for those who want to have their skin bronze golden without the hassle of sun tanning.

This is the time that a lot of people might come across their leftover tanning bottle that has been sitting all year round in the drawers.

What would happen if they used expired self-tanner? And how to tell if your lotion has expired?

If you are wondering the same questions, you might be interested in this blog. We will give you the answer you want on how long is the shelf life of tanners, how to identify out-of-date lotion and many more.

Does Tanning Lotion Expire?

Yes, like other beauty products, tanning lotions have a shelf life.  Tanner lotion contains multiple ingredients and chemical compounds that will eventually break down over time.

However, this process varies depending on the format of the package and the quality of the content inside. There are four packaging formats for tanning lotions.

  1. Mousse: Less likely to expire due to less air exposure
  2. Jars: Expire the fastest
  3. Jar with pump: If the jar is equipped with a pump, it can lengthen the usable period of the product. This is due to the fact that a jar with a pump is air-tight.
  4. Towelettes: More convenient, but will dry out quickly when exposed to air.

How Long Does Tanning Lotion Last?

After Opening

Generally, most tanning lotions have relatively long shelf lives and can be finished before their due date if used regularly.

If you are the type of person that tans occasionally, you need to know that a bottle of tanning lotion will be most effective for up to twelve months after you first unsealed the protective cap.

Once the time period is over, the product will gradually lose its functionality and eventually becomes unusable.

The reason for this is that the cream inside will get exposed to the air in the atmosphere, which accelerates the expiration process of DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, the most important component in self-tanner.

More specifically, the water content in the liquid will slowly evaporate, leaving behind the DHA, which will then become denser and more concentrated, causing discoloration of the chemical and a decline in tan quality.


Normally, tanning cream can maintain its effectiveness for three years when unopened. If your product is unopened and properly sealed, you can safely put it away for future use.

Keep in mind that the breaking down process still happens inside the bottle, but it is very slow. Like many other cosmetics, self-tanner contains a mix of chemicals and other ingredients. These ingredients will separate and lose their effectiveness on their own after some time.Therefore, it is wisest to buy and use them as soon as possible.

What Affects The Lifespan of Tanning Lotion?

Besides DHA, there are various chemicals mixed in self-tanners products, called preservatives. The sole responsibility of these chemicals is to maintain the product’s shelf life.

When the ointment comes into contact with air, preservatives act as a protective layer and start to expire first. It is not until these preservatives expire that DHA and the other ingredients will expire because there is nothing left to keep them going.

Because of that, the lifespan of tanning lotion is highly dependent on the amount of preservatives available in the mixture.

Can I Use Expired Tanning Lotion?

Most of the time, nothing too serious will happen when you use expired tanning lotion. Expired tanning lotion will just not work as it should and it certainly won’t give you what you expect.

Since the DHA has expired, they lose all their color pigments and make the cream texture look liquid or lumpy. This can cause the product not to blend properly, leading to uneven or paler tan. And on several occasions, it can cause minor reactions, irritation, or mild rashes on your skin.

In addition, tanning lotions also have the effect of providing and nourishing moisture to the skin during sun exposure. When it expires, it will not provide moisture to the skin leading to your skin becoming dry.

In case, if your tanning lotion contains sunscreen ingredients, you should replace it as soon as it expires. When a product is past its expiration date, its sunscreen ingredients will no longer be able to protect the skin.

How To Tell If Tanning Lotion Is Expired?

There are some simple ways to tell whether your tanner has expired or not. We want to list them all for you to consider which method is more convenient. Scroll down to find out.

Checking Expiration Date

The most accurate way to determine the lifespan of your self-tanner is to check the expiry date directly. Thus, knowing how to read expiration date on tanning lotion might come in handy.

Many bronzing products have expiration dates printed on the bottle. It can be anywhere and is quite tricky to spot, so you might have to tilt the bottle around to find it. The print can be on the lid, on the side, on the label, or the bottom of the bottle.

The expiration date can even be worded as “best if used by…”, or just simply a symbol followed by a number such as “12M” or “24M”, which in this case means the lotion lasts for 12 or 24 months after opening.

Some tanner brands don’t have their expiration dates printed on the bottle, so you might have to resort to other methods.


One way to check your self-tanner is by conducting a visual test. If you notice a greenish tinge to your bronzer, that is a sign to tell you your product has reached the end of its shelf life.

In order to do its job, DHA needs to be combined with color pigments that make up the tan skin color. These colorants, when degraded, whether by exposure to heat or air, will convert to a green shade.

Additionally, there are several tanning lotion brands available on the market that contain no bronzer and will turn darker or lighter when out of date. So consider switching to a new bottle if you notice any weird discoloration.


Another technique to indicate if the product has gone bad is to examine the consistency.

Most tanning lotions are made with oils, water, and other ingredients. After a few years, these ingredients begin to separate and affect the consistency of your tanner.

The expired lotion will become thick, lumpy, or liquidy, so you might want to swap to a new bottle if you notice any of the three.

With that being said, please be mindful when considering this method. Sometimes that simply means the components are separated into layers and a good shake might be all it takes to revert the cream to its original state.


Another way to distinguish is to do a scent test. This method can be hard to do since DHA already has an unpleasant smell to it.

The key is trying to ignore the scent of DHA, and if you notice any other unusual smell, it might mean your self-tanner has lived past its shelf life.

Patch Test

Suppose you are still having difficulty telling the usability of your tanners after checking the color, consistency, and smell. In that case, you can resort to the last method of performing a patch test.

To do this, begin applying lotion to a small portion of your skin and patiently observe the area. If you notice any changes in the quality of the tan, then it is a sign to throw away the product. Otherwise, it is still good to use.

How To Keep Tanning Lotion For Longer

Now that you know that tanners expire with time, there are a few things you should do when keeping this lotion in order to maximize its lifespan.


  • Store at room temperature: Between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 to 21 degrees Celsius is the most optimal temperature to store tanning lotions.
  • Avoid sunlight: It is advisable to keep your tanner product out of the sun in order to preserve it as the heat and UV rays can negatively affect your tanner’s lifespan.
  • Close the lid after usage: The lid helps stop your tanning cream from being exposed to the air and bacteria, which can accelerate the decomposition of this product.
  • Be mindful of expiry dates: Make sure to finish using your bottle of self-tanner before the expiry date to experience intended results.


  • Leave in your car: It’s best not to leave your lotion in your car or other vehicles because the inside of your car can reach critical temperatures in certain periods of the day, which can result in your tanner being melted.
  • Leave in the open: Leaving it in the open can lead to air and sun exposure. Not to mention that children can find and try to eat it, which can cause serious harm.
  • Store in moist and humid places: In these environments, the chemical contents in the lotion can react with the water in the air and ruin your lotion. On top of that, humid places are the perfect environment for bacterias, so your lotion can be susceptible to it.


What Happens If You Accidentally Use Expired Tanning Lotion?

Don’t be worried if you accidentally apply expired tanners, as it should have no dangerous health effects.

However, some expired self-tanners may contain toxic ingredients and cause irritation when applied on the skin. If this does occur, immediately wash the itchy spot with clean water and dispose of the expired product.

Is It Okay To Store My Tanning Lotions In The Refrigerator?

No, the fridge is a humid environment and will shorten the shelf life of your tanner.

On top of that, taking your tanner in and out of the fridge will cause inconsistent temperature, which also negatively affects the product.

Does Tanning Lotions Work After Expiring? 

When using an out-of-date tanner, you will notice drastic declines in effectiveness, texture, smell, and blendings, such as uneven or lighter tanning.

Can expired tanning lotion harm your skin?

Expired tanning lotion can increase the risk of skin irritation or allergic reactions due to the breakdown of ingredients. It can also increase the likelihood of bacterial growth, which can lead to infections.

What are the alternatives to expired tanning lotion?

Alternatives to expired tanning lotion include sunless tanners, bronzing powders, and spray tans.

Final Thoughts

Yes, tanning lotions do expire. They have about 12 months of shelf life after they are first opened.

Expired tanners are mostly non-toxic to your skin, but they can be less effective, so it’s still in your best interest to discard outdated products and buy new ones.

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