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How Long Is Tanning Lotion Good For?

Many of us invest time and money into finding the perfect tanning lotion, only to have it expire before we can use it up. That’s why understanding the shelf life of tanning lotion is essential for achieving that summer glow all year round.

Today, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the longevity of tanning lotion and tips for extending its shelf life. 

a bottle of tanning lotion next to a tanning bed

What’s The Difference Between Sunscreen And Indoor Tanning Lotion?

When it comes to protecting your skin and achieving a desired tan, sunscreen and indoor tanning lotion serve distinct purposes. 

Sunscreen, designed for outdoor use, acts as a shield against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. It filters these rays, reducing your risk of sunburn and skin damage.

Sunscreens typically have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that indicates the level of protection; an SPF number higher than 15 is common.

Your sunscreen should be reapplied regularly, and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating.

  • Sunscreen Attributes:
    • Protection: Provides a barrier against UV rays.
    • SPF: Usually has SPF 15 or higher.
    • Reapplication: Necessary after swimming or sweating.
    • Form: Available as creams, lotions, gels, sprays, and sticks.

Indoor tanning lotion is designed for use in tanning beds. These lotions often lack SPF since they are meant to enhance tanning under controlled conditions.

They may contain bronzing agents to accelerate the tanning process and moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated.

  • Indoor Tanning Lotion Attributes:
    • Purpose: Enhances and accelerates tanning in artificial light.
    • SPF: Generally does not contain SPF.
    • Moisturization: Often includes ingredients to hydrate skin.
    • Types: Bronzers, accelerators, and tinglers.

Make sure you choose the correct product based on your activities—sunscreen for outdoor protection and indoor tanning lotion for assisted indoor tanning.

Using them as intended will ensure effective results while maintaining skin health.

How Long Is Tanning Lotion Good For?

Generally, an unopened bottle of tanning lotion can retain its optimal quality for up to three years. However, once you break the seal, the countdown begins.

For maximum effectiveness, use your tanning lotion within one year of opening it.

Post this timeframe, the active ingredients may degrade, resulting in a less potent tan or a change in the lotion’s texture or smell, signaling that it’s time to purchase a new bottle.

Here is a simple guide on the timeframe for tanning lotions:

  • Unopened: Up to 3 years
  • Opened: Up to 12 months

If your tanning lotion includes sunscreen, the FDA mandates that the sun protection factor (SPF) should last for up to three years. 

Some signs that your tanning lotion has expired or is no longer at its peak performance include:

  • noticeably different smell
  • Changes in color or consistency
  • Reduced effectiveness in providing the desired tan

Remember, improper storage, such as leaving the lotion in direct sunlight or at high temperatures, can accelerate the degradation process.

To extend the shelf life of your tanning lotion, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

How To Tell If Tanning Lotion Has Expired?

How To Tell If Tanning Lotion Has Expired?

When checking if your tanning lotion has expired, you should start by inspecting the physical qualities of the product:

  • Color: If the lotion’s color has noticeably changed, this could indicate expiration.
  • Consistency: An altered consistency, such as thickening or separation, is a sign the lotion may no longer be effective.
  • Odor: A rancid or unusual smell suggests that the ingredients have degraded.

You can also look at the packaging for clues:

  • Expiration Date: Some lotions have an expiration date printed on the bottle.
  • PAO Symbol: Look for a symbol resembling a small opened jar with a number followed by an ‘M’. It stands for Period After Opening and indicates the number of months the product is safe to use after it’s been opened.

Be cautious about using the product if:

  • Irritation Occurs: If you notice skin irritation after application, discontinue use immediately.
  • Effectiveness Decreases: If the product does not produce the same results as before, it may be ineffective due to age.

Proper storage is key to ensure longevity:

  • Airtight Containers: Tanning lotions in airtight containers, like those with a pump, usually last longer.
  • Cool and Dry Places: Store your lotion in a location away from direct sunlight and moisture to extend its shelf life.

If you suspect your tanning lotion has expired, it is best to err on the side of caution and discontinue its use to avoid possible skin irritation or ineffective tanning results.

Does Expired Tanning Lotion Still Work?

When your tanning lotion passes its expiration date, it may not give you the results you’re looking for.

The active ingredient in tanning lotions, typically Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), is sensitive to time and may degrade after expiration.

This degradation can result in a loss of the lotion’s ability to impart color to your skin properly.

Signs of expiration can include:

  • Change in Texture: If the lotion becomes lumpy or liquidy, it’s likely past its prime.
  • Altered Smell: An off smell is a strong indicator that the lotion should not be used.
  • Inconsistent Color: Look for any discoloration in the product itself.

Once expired, the lotion may not blend well on your skin, leading to an uneven tan that looks paler than expected.

Although many tanning lotions have a shelf life of up to 12 months after opening, it’s important to check the packaging for any specific expiration dates provided by the manufacturer.

To ensure the longevity of your tanning lotion, it’s advised to:

  • Keep it in a cool, dark place to prevent premature spoilage.
  • Ensure the bottle is properly sealed after each use to keep the product stable.

So, expired tanning lotion may still be usable, it will likely not perform effectively and could result in an unsatisfactory tanning experience.

Always monitor your tanning lotion for signs of expiration and use it within the recommended timeframe.

Tips On Extending The Shelf Life Of Your Tanning Lotion

Tips On Extending The Shelf Life Of Your Tanning Lotion

Proper storage and use of tanning lotion can significantly impact the product’s effectiveness and lifespan. Here are some strategies to ensure that your lotion remains viable for as long as possible.

Store Correctly:

  • Temperature: Keep your tanning lotion at room temperature. Extreme heat or cold can degrade the active ingredients.
  • Sunlight: Avoid exposing the bottle to direct sunlight, which can alter the lotion’s formula.

Use with Care:

  • Seal Tightly: After each use, make sure that the cap is screwed on firmly to prevent the lotion from drying out or oxidizing.
  • Hygienic Handling: Use clean hands or a spatula to take lotion from the container to prevent contamination.

Know the Timeline:

  • Expiration Date: Pay attention to the expiration date provided by the manufacturer.
  • Opening Date: Mark the date you opened the lotion. Most are effective for up to 12 months after opening.

Handling Practices:

  • Avoid Water: Keep water from getting into the product to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Consistent Usage: If you tan regularly, you’re more likely to use the lotion before it becomes less effective.
Do’s Don’ts
Store at room temp Leave in direct sunlight
Keep the cap sealed Expose to extreme temperatures
Mark the opening date Add any foreign substances
Handle with clean hands Ignore manufacturer’s guidelines


For the best tanning experience, ensure that you use your indoor tanning lotion within 12 months of opening. Extended storage times and improper use can lead to a less effective formula or even possible skin irritations.

To extend the shelf life of your lotion, store it in a cool, dark location and handle it with care. Lastly, keep an eye out for visible changes like discoloration or off smells as these could indicate expiration.

Take note of the date you opened and check if there’s an expiration date mentioned by the manufacturer.