BEAUTY PANIC: Your Expired Sunscreen Is Trying To Kill You

I do many, many stupid things - like once putting an entire cupcake in the dryer****. But wearing expired sunscreen shouldn't be one of them.
Publish date:
May 24, 2013
sun protection, summer, dermatologists, sunscreen, sun, sun damage

Every single time I’ve got a wicked* bad sunburn I’ve gone through the five stages of grief.

First off, there’s denial: “Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, besides the light in this building is funny, I can’t be THAT purple -- no one could, except someone who maybe lived in a Henson or Lucas created universe.” I’ll chirp to myself as my forehead turns read and falls off.

Then comes anger, that’s a fun one: “I cannot FUCKING BELIEVE I burned off all of the skin meant to protect my eyeballs - “ I’ll rage, hatefully squeezing ice cubes, “- WHO BURNS THEIR GODDMAN EYEBALL SKIN?!” Then I will take to the gin, which will only make me angrier. “FUCKING GIN!” I might yell.

Next up, bargaining: “Okay, okay, okay, if I put all of the frozen peas I have on my legs and then sit in a tub of aloe vera and coconut oil, maybe I won’t have to shed my entire dermis like a giant pink worm.” But it is too late, my skin is already gone, and suddenly I am doing the worm down the sidewalk while babies and the elderly scream in horror.

After which time, depression comes a-knockin’: “Well, I definitely have cancer now. Way to be a jackhole, jackhole. I deserve this. I am exhausted from the sun. I will just take a nap here on the kitchen floor because I can’t even rally enthusiasm about my bed. I don’t deserve a bed - I AM BASICALLY JUST A SCAB WITH FEEEEEELINGS.”

Finally, acceptance, first in trickles, then in giant waves: “Okay. So I’m basically a forgotten strip of bacon left to disintegrate in a cast iron skillet in an oven set to 450. There’s nothing to be done about it now. I will moisturize, peel, itch, and go see my dermatologist for my annual mole check per usual. Then, when the time comes, I will simply never go into the sun again, I will rock my moon tan, my Victorian era pallor.” I will google “UV clothing” and be re-directed to Sky Mall’s website at which point I will be distracted by their ionic head massager and wall-sized crossword puzzle and forget the task at hand. I will not regret it.

From this final stage, I progress into something not covered by the Kubler-Ross model. I call it, step six - Dramatic Avowals. During this phase of the cycle, I basically progress from cowed, red, itchy average lady into a full-blown northern Scarlett O’Hara. I shake my fists at the heavens and proclaim, “I swear unto God I will never wear expired sunscreen again!”

Then I run around my house going “RHEEEETTTTTTTT” and throwing out all of the sunscreens, rushing to the store to buy new ones, forgetting them for a year, and then, when I venture forth into the devilish rays the next summer season, the whole delicious hell begins once more. Because I am human, and thus, incapable of learning from my mistakes.

Whether or not the other 75% of folks who admit to using expired sunscreen on the regs go through the same ridiculous experience is something I don’t know. I mean, I certainly haven’t seen anyone else rolling off the sidewalk and wailing, but I have been told that I have a tendency to overreact. I’d give that more context, but I killed the person who said it, so there’s that.

The fact remains, that even though the sun is one of our greatest known enemies, second only to vampires and guys with first names for last names, we’re still knowingly slathering on products that are essentially as useful as say, an entire key lime pie (though arguably the expired lotion would be less sticky).

I, personally, am slightly embarrassed by the statistic, because I’m one of the many not taking shit like melanoma seriously. I sat down here today to write a list of things we could to help us remember to replace our sunscreen. I was going to be all “incentivize it! Replace your sunscreen and you get a treat like a new tube of lipstick!” But I mean, shouldn’t NOT FUCKING DYING FROM THE CANCER be the biggest incentive of all?

As humans it’s natural to point the finger of blame. “Scientists! Make a suncreen that never expires!” We could demand, while claiming that the fact they haven’t is all because of the machinations of the vicious and infamous “sunscreen lobby”. But that’s like demanding the tobacco lobby invent a real** cigarette that doesn’t give cancer or emphysema.

The sun is great. It makes us happy, it let’s us play out of doors, and it keeps vampires well at heel. It, unlike cigarettes, isn’t there for the sole purpose of trapping you into addiction and illness.*** There are so many things that human beings do willfully in the face of death, but enjoying time outside shouldn’t be one of them.

How often do you replace your sunscreen? Have you ever actually bought anything from Sky Mall? Tell me about your worst sunburn! I once used expired sunscreen that left me burnt in a weird pattern primarily only on my inner thighs. That was a magical time. No one called me fire-crotch. But they could have. See you in the comments, you children of the sun.

* It’s cool you guys, I’m from Rhode Island, so I’m allowed.

** I’ve anticipated your arguments, you clever people.

*** My god...I’m one of those self-righteous ex-smokers. It’s fiiiiinally happened. Sigh. Cough.

**** A dek note! This is a first. Anyway, it really happened, and I don’t go into here, but it’s a great story, and I will continue to tease you with it until I share it one bright, magical, well-spf’ed day.