Can You Use Expired Self Tanner?

Can You Use Expired Self Tanner?

By Emma McNab
May 12, 2022

Can You Use Expired Self Tanner?

Like most cosmetic products, self-tanner comes with a shelf life. But can you use expired self tanner, and what happens to your skin if you do?

If you’ve got an old bottle of self-tan lotion from several summers ago and you’re wondering if you can still use it, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about sunless tanners and their expiry dates. 

Do Self Tanning Products Have An Expiration Date?

For most self tanning products, the expiration date (once the tan has been opened) is one year. This applies to all of the following sunless tanning products:

  • Self tanning lotions
  • Tanning wipes and towelettes
  • Tanning mousse/self-tanning foam
  • Tanning gel

So, why do self tanners expire? Almost all self tanners work by using an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (also known as DHA). DHA is a natural sugar, and works by reacting to amino acids found in dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. When the DHA and amino acids collide, the reaction creates melanoidins, which temporarily dye the skin and give you a sunless tan.

With time, DHA becomes less effective and produces a much weaker – or uneven – color. For this reason, most self tanning products only have a shelf-life of around one year after being opened. 

Many self tanning products also contain lots of preservatives, which are included to maintain the consistency of the product and efficiency of the tan. When self tanner expires, these preservatives will weaken, resulting in a potentially gloopy lotion or lumpy liquid. 


man checking expiration date

What Happens If I Use An Expired Self Tanner?

The good news is that using expired self-tanner isn’t going to cause you any major skin problems. Self-tanner won’t become toxic or provoke any nasty side effects if used after its expiry date, so you could technically still apply it safely. DHA is a 100% safe chemical, used in all self-tanners as well as spray tans at the salon. 

However, would we recommend using an expired self-tanning product? No! As the DHA in self-tanning products weakens with time, you’re not going to be guaranteed a particularly great finish or final color. 

In addition, if the consistency of your self tanner has changed over time, this will also impact your final result. A gloopy or lumpy self tanner isn’t going to apply smoothly, and might leave you with a patchy or uneven finish. 

Even if the consistency of the expired tanning lotion or mousse seems normal, don’t forget that the active ingredient, DHA, weakens progressively over time. The longer a self-tanning product has been open, the weaker the finished color is going to be.  

How To Tell If Self Tanning Products Have Expired?

If you’re unsure whether or not your self tanning products have expired, there are a couple of quick and easy tests you can carry out at home: 

Patch Test 

If you want to check the color of an expired self-tanner, do a quick patch test 24 hours before application, applying a small amount of self-tanner to your arm or leg with a mitt. This will allow you to see if there’s any loss in color pigment, or if the DHA has weakened to the point of being unusable. 

Bad Smell

If your self-tanner has a bad smell, it’s best to get rid of it. Most self tanners will have a strong smell (hello, DHA!) but expired self tan might smell overly chemical. 

Consistency Check

The easiest and quickest way to check whether or not your self tanner is expired is to do a quick visual test and inspect the consistency. If the self tanner has a gloopy consistency, a watery consistency or has separated, it is 100% expired and should be thrown out. 

Make sure to be careful when checking the consistency of any self tanning product. Self-tanners can stain certain materials (especially when watery!) so make sure to test the product over the sink or bath when inspecting its consistency. Your clothes, sheets and carpet will thank you.


Best Self Tanners 

When it comes to a self tanner that combines nourishing skincare and a sunless glow, we’d always recommend our Naru Organics Self Tanner. As I already mentioned, most self tanning products contain lots of preservatives and nasty chemicals, which are terrible for your skin in the long-run.

Our high-quality self-tanning lotion combines natural and organic ingredients that nourish the skin while providing a more natural, golden-brown tan. Our formula uses DHA combined with Erythrulose (derived from sugar extracted from red berries), which results in a more natural, even color and a longer-lasting tan.

Our lotion also combines a safe tanning solution with skincare benefits. Our formula is enriched with sweet almond oil and meadowfoam seed oil, providing deep hydration, nourishing the skin and helping your tan last even longer.

Our sunless tanner also contains zero dyes, no synthetic fragrances and no toxic ingredients, so you can say goodbye to the orange fake tan look, say ciao to bad smells and enjoy a classic, natural glow.

The Bottom Line

So, can you use expired self tanner? Technically, using a self-tanner that is past its expiry date isn’t going to cause any safety issues. 

Plus, using an expired self tanner is certainly safer than exposing your skin to harmful UV rays by using a tanning bed or sunbathing. Be sure to use SPF if you are going out into the sun though! Most self-tanners don’t offer any protection from UV rays.

That being said, if you want a clean finish and a real, natural-looking tan, don’t use any self tanner that’s been open for a prolonged period of time. Like most beauty products, you want to replace your self tanning products around every 6-12 months. 

Note: Want to give yourself an even, natural-looking sunless tan without exposing your skin to toxic chemicals, dyes or synthetic fragrances? Get Naru Organics self tanner and try the very first flawless self tan with no nasty ingredients. Learn more now!
naru organics self tanner

Emma McNab

Emma is a writer with a keen interest in all things skincare, wellness, and beauty.