Do Self-Tanners Expire? Do They Go Bad?

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Self-tanners can get you that bronze goddess look all year round. When you’ve finally found the formula that produces the tan you want to achieve, you’d surely be sticking to it. However, before you decide to purchase the Giant Mega-Sized bottle, first consider their shelf life. 

Unlike food products in the market, there is no law or requirement for cosmetic products to have an expiration date. Given that, many will wonder “Do Self-Tanners Expire?”

That’s a common question that first-time and even veteran users have. To answer briefly, yes self-tanners will eventually expire. So what happens when self-tanners expire? Can you still use them and how do you know that they’ve already expired? All those questions will be answered below. 

Do Self-Tanners Expire? How Long Can I Use Them For?

Tanned AF Self Tanner

Whether you overestimated the amount of self-tanner you needed, or you just like buying in bulk, you may wonder how much time you have to use up the product before it expires.

Many beauty products have an expiration date on them, but many don’t, including many fake-tan products.

While there is no law that requires cosmetic products to have an expiration date on them, these products will still expire. The question now is how long until most products expire? The average shelf life of a self-tanner is usually about 12 months.

That means when you open a bottle of self-tanner like Tan Physics  (which we reviewed here), you have about 12 months to use it all up before it reaches the expiration date. 

Self Tanner Formats

Some self tanners can expire sooner or later. This will also depend on their packaging and formatting.


Self-tanners in lotion  form like Mystic Tan’s offerings will usually expire faster because they get exposed to air when they’re opened.


Those formulated as mousse  and are in sealed containers with a pump. They are less likely to expire immediately due to lesser exposure to air.


Tanning towels are super convenient, but will expire generally after about 12 months. If they’re opened and exposed to air, they will dry out much quicker than that. If not, it’s possible they will last for longer than 12 months.

Expiration Dates

Regardless, the fact still remains that self tanners have expirations. Some companies may place an expiration date on them. For others, you’d just have to take note of the time you first opened them.

And of course, just because the tanner says it is expired, does that mean it’s bad?

Can I Still Use Expired Self Tanners?

If you know that your sunless tanner is expired, it is best not to use it anymore. Expired products could separate, change, or otherwise get damaged.

However, if you didn’t know that your self-tanner is expired and accidentally used it, there is no need to panic. 

Even if self-tanners are expired, they are still non-toxic (assuming the self-tanner you have chosen doesn’t really contain any toxic ingredients to begin with). The only problem is they may already be ineffective and produce streaky, awkward color, particularly on the hands and feet.

You can still use expired self-tanners if you wish to risk it. It is possible that the tan is patchy because some areas won’t be able to absorb the self-tanner.

Additionally, due to the changes in the formulation due to the air exposure and expiration of the product, it is possible that your skin may have a bad reaction from it.

If you have sensitive skin, it can be irritating and you could develop a rash. 

All that being said, you are better off using fresh products. Make sure that they are also of high quality so that you achieve a glowing, streakless tan that won’t easily fade. For best results, you should also know how to properly apply the self-tanner (you’ll probably want a tanning mitt) and necessary preparations and aftercare

How To Tell If Your Self Tanner Is Expired?

Fake Bake Self Tanner

Some sunless tanners have an expiration date on them. However, some don’t! It is up to you to take note of the date you opened your sunless tanner. If it is a year old from the date you’ve opened it, you should consider tossing it and getting another bottle. To check its status, do the following:

Do A Patch Test

To do a patch test, you can apply the product in a small area of your skin, perhaps on your arm or leg. This is to test whether the tanner will still be able to produce the color you want or not.

If it does, then you may still be able to use it. 

Check The Color

You could also do a visual test of the product. If it looks green, then it is almost certainly already expired. It’s been degraded due to air or heat exposure. The green color is produced when the colorants combined with DHA are already degraded.

This is usually observed in self tanners with bronzers .

Check The Consistency

The consistency of the self-tanner could also change when it expires. The oils and other ingredients could separate. You may observe that it feels too watery, lumpy, or thicker than usual.

However, don’t base your decision on this alone. It is still possible that you just need to shake the product and mix it well and it will still be good to go. 

Do A Sniff Test

Another way to check whether the self-tanner is expired is to smell the product. Sometimes, the scent will change but it is also possible that it doesn’t. This is somewhat tricky because self-tanners have a scent (DHA has a notoriously bad smell) and that scent can change when you apply the tanner, even if it is fresh. 


Self-tanners eventually expire. They usually have a lifespan of about a year. And although expired, they are still non-toxic and won’t hurt you if you use them. However, use caution when using an expired self-tanner, as it may not produce good results.

Although there isn’t any law stating that expiration dates on self tanners should be placed, there are still a few ways to tell whether it is expired or not. You can do a patch test, smell the product, check the color as well as the consistency. 

Good luck!

Written by Kayla Young

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