(CBS) -- Just a few bad sunburns can lead to skin cancer. Sunscreens protect you, but not if they're too old.
CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker found lots of expired sunscreen on the beach and in stores.
Under the blazing sun, Jenny Diamond slathers on protection -- or at least that's what she thinks.
It was hard to find, but the date it was made was embossed on the crimped part on the back of the tube: 2014.
Manufacturers say that's too old.
Diamond is not alone.
In July, CBS 2 went shopping, and at five drug and discount stores found 12 expired sunscreens. Seven of those were on shelves at two CVS stores. Among the expired were three sunscreens for children, including two at Target dating back to June 2015.
Dr. Pedram Gerami is director of Northwestern's Melanoma Clinic. He says expired sunscreen may not provide the promised protection.
"You have a risk of getting sun damage, burns and higher risk of skin cancer," he says.
Megan Arndt was equally shocked when Tucker showed her the kids sunscreen found at Target.
"That's crazy. So, the stores obviously don't check," she says.
It can also be difficult to figure out when some products expire. For example, on Banana Boat products the code is on the bottom of the can. The first two numbers indicate the year. The next three are the day of the year.
The FDA advises tossing sunscreens older than three years. Experts say maybe even sooner if they're improperly stored.
Sohail Murad, a chemical engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, says sunscreens lose potency if left in a hot car where temperatures can reach 120.
"They start becoming reactive, decompose -- and that basically makes them ineffective," Murad says.
Here are the responses from retailers and manufacturers who responded to CBS 2:
CVS Pharmacy has a clear product removal policy in place at all of its stores to help ensure that items are removed from store shelves before they reach their expiration dates. Any unintentional deviations from this policy that are brought to our attention are quickly rectified for customers.
At all of our stores, we have procedures in place to routinely check the expiration dates on items. We take these procedures very seriously and continue to be diligent in our efforts to monitor all product expiration dates.
We regret the issues noted with expired sunscreen in one of our Chicago based stores. We take the health and safety of our customers and their families very seriously. Our field organization has clear operating guidelines for reviewing and removing expired products on a timely basis. We will continue to work with our store teams to reinforce the importance in our controls of handling product.
We appreciate CBS Chicago bringing this to our attention. If a Target guest ever finds expired product in one of our stores, we'd encourage them to notify a store manager so we can immediately address the situation. We will use this situation to remind all of our stores about the importance of routinely checking the expiration dates of merchandise, like sunscreen, and removing any product that has passed its expiration date.
The Neutrogena brand wants consumers to have the best experience with our products, including the sun protection benefits of our sunscreens. Sunscreens may lose their sun protection benefits after the labeled expiration date, which is why our returns policy instructs retailers how to return expired Neutrogena sunscreens for a refund. A consumer who purchases an already expired Neutrogena sunscreen product should not use it, and either return it to the retailer or contact Neutrogena.
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