How can I reuse or recycle expired sunscreen/sun lotion?

We’ve had an email from Karen:

I am new to your site and I really love it!

I do have a suggestion though, I had been cleaning up the bathroom and found old sunscreen lotion bottles, still full. I heard you can’t use them more than a year, because they go bad and won’t work any more. I have used them in the past longer than I was supposed to, but now they are definitely too old. Do you have any suggestions?

I didn’t know that about sun lotion but searching around the web, a lot of people do seem to advise adhering to the product’s expiry date. However, according to a dermatologist quoted on the Mayo Clinic website, it’ll probably be good for three years or until it hits its expiry date – whichever happens sooner. Apparently after that, it loses its effectiveness.

I’m not sure what should be done with it after that – it’s probably not moisturising enough to be used as a general body lotion. One argument would be to buy smaller quantities so you’re not wasting as much – but as they’re usually (always?) in plastic tubes or bottles, there would be a big knock-on plastic waste issue from doing that.

Any ideas? Anyone know of any sunscreen in non-plastic packaging?

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21 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle expired sunscreen/sun lotion?”

  1. Don’t know too much about the chemistry of the product but it’s extremely slippy could be used to lubricate something……. what however is another question.

  2. Linda says:

    Winter moisturiser! If there is any sunscreen still effective it’ll be there for any rogue winter UV making it through the winter layers.

  3. Sabi says:

    Hey! I did a post about this exact same problem on my blog a few months ago. I’ve always been told not to use the sunscreen leftovers from one summer to the other because it wasn’t quite as effective. So this year I use it during Winter time aswell, on the exposed areas like hands, face and neck. This way I’m still protected agauns the sun, because during winter the UV-B rays don’t automatically stop, you just don’t get sunburns because you’re not as exposed as during summer. And I think that good sunscreen is still pretty moisturising, so it works as a moisturiser as well :) if you’d like, check out my post about this issue :

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve stopped using chemical sunscreens as they can contain harmful ingredients and at any rate, my skin is so pale I actually had to throw them out well before the expiry. Anything over a year old and I would burn.

    Not much you can do with expired sunscreen but in the future I would recommend buying a mineral-based sunscreen, which doesn’t deteriorate as fast.

  5. Linda says:

    @Sarah. I don’t understand why you would have to throw your sunscreen early with pale skin. I would have thought you’d need to use more frequently so would use it up?

    I concur about the chemicals but it’s all risk assessment and UV damage could be worse. Mineral based ones may be safer but not as researched yet.

  6. The problem with all science is it’s still hypothesis. Wish we knew for sure the lifespan of sun screen Kenny’s wife religiously disposes of unused sunscreen after the summer months … a little bit over protective of the girls.

  7. Paul De Neui says:

    I’ve got a great use for expired sunscreen, in fact I wish I’d had two bottles today. Use it to restore old green plastic lawn furniture. I read about this on the web and gave it a try. It gave new life to some chairs I found in the alley and they almost look as good as new. I rubbed it into the faded white back, arms and aseat and left the chairs back in the sun. I then wiped off any excess. It is amazing, like an Armorall job without buying more stuff.

    This would also work to restore old plastic pots that were once terracotta, brown or any dark colored plastic that has faded.

    • Anonymous says:

      Great idea. – Just tried it on a green plastic table – worked perfectly!!! Thanks for sharing

  8. Lexy says:

    @Paul, can you post the link that you found, as i’ve tried googling just now and nothing comes up. What you’ve described so far sounds great! Thank you : )

  9. Medeea says:

    I disagree with “not moisturising enough to be used as a general body lotion.”
    It is and a lot more.
    Think of the all the damage the skin is exposed during summer: sun, chlorinated water, salty water, sand…A good sunscreen sends you home with your skin intact: not dry and patchy.
    So I think a sunscreen makes for a great moisturizer. Maybe too thick for body lotion but perfect as hand lotion.

  10. Paul says:

    I can’t find the link I used but I know that the lotion does wear off the chair after a few rains. But it sure looks nice for awhile.

  11. Hermione says:


  12. Hermione says:

    Also eat food containing lycopene and beta carotine ie tomatoes and carrots – this helps your skin better cope with direct sun. See:

  13. Boo boo says:

    Use it for a cheap lotion on sunburns so when you go outside they are not anymore exposed(but be gentle when putting the lotion on the burn!)

  14. gene says:

    yes love the idea of hand lotion. I use it on the back of my hands. great idea thank you Madeea.I have about to large bottles. won’t need hand creme for a while. thanks so much for the idea

  15. laura.gosset says:

    Expired sunscreen can cause rashes. I tried some on my lower legs because I walk a lot. I stopped using it for that reason. It is not itchy or anything but I want to dispose of it. The landfill seems a bit harsh a solution however, the water is definitely out.

  16. klh says:

    Hermione points to a critical issue about sunscreen, especially in that it kills the coral reefs.

    I’m going to use my leftover as a general cream and to perk up old plastic furniture, and then start researching other options for the summertime besides staying covered and wearing hats.

  17. Aspenia says:

    I use old suntan lotion to polish and protect dark leather. Shoes, jackets, hats… I also use it to shave legs as a shaving lotion. Also great for taming frizzy hair.

  18. Erin says:

    Can I use it for nappy (diaper) cream?

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