When we think about expiration dates, we are rarely thinking about our hair products. If you’ve ever found yourself questioning, ‘does shampoo ever expire?’ then we are here to answer this long-anticipated question for you.
Yes, shampoo does expire. Over time, the product will deteriorate, which is often due to oxidation. How long it takes for a shampoo to expire entirely depends on how many chemical or natural ingredients it includes. It is suggested that the average shampoo lasts 1 – 2 years from when it’s been opened. Upon opening, it’s not recommended that you use a product after the 2-year mark.
How Long Can Shampoo Generally Last?
Does shampoo expire faster if it’s made from natural ingredients? Definitely. But that shouldn’t sway your decision when choosing a shampoo.
A long-lasting shampoo might seem appealing, but the added chemicals might not be such a good choice.
Every shampoo is unique and reacts differently, so let’s take a look at how long you can expect your products to survive on your shelf.
Once opened, it’s recommended that you discontinue use after 18 months.
This is simply because the longer the shampoo bottle has been opened for, the less effective the ingredients become.
Does shampoo expire even when you leave the bottle untouched? Well, yes. Even if your bottle of shampoo is left unopened, it still won’t last forever.
Unfortunately, it’s likely to expire after 3 years. Despite the shampoo not being exposed to the elements, the ingredients will stop being effective after a long period of time and the preservatives won’t keep the product intact.
Sulphate shampoo contains preservatives and additives to expand the lifespan of shampoo. Therefore, it’s possible to keep a sulphate shampoo on your shelf for 18 months to 2 years once it’s been opened.
Once opened, non-sulphate shampoo is going to expire much quicker due to the fact that it doesn’t contain any preservatives.
That means your shampoo might expire after 12 months. But this is a good thing, as you can ensure that you’re using a product that doesn’t contain any chemicals which could harm your scalp.
Shampoo bars are very different from sulphate and non-sulphate shampoos. This is because they often contain gentle, natural ingredients and need to be handled differently.
Once removed from the packaging, shampoo bars can last from 3 to 12 months before they expire. Of course, it depends entirely on the ingredients.
Shampoo bars that contain a lot of oils are more likely to expire faster than those with fewer oils. The longer you keep a shampoo bar the more likely the scent and colour will fade from them.
Not all shampoos contain water, but many of them do.
In fact, some list water as one of the first ingredients. If a product is water-based then it has to have preservatives to prevent contamination of bacteria. But even so, it’s likely to expire after 12 months of opening.
Preservatives might work well at extending the shelf life of shampoo, but they won’t last forever.
How to Check If Shampoo Has Expired
Finding out if your shampoo has expired isn’t always as simple as it might seem. Especially as this kind of information is often left out on the bottle or container.
Even if it does contain information on how long after opening you can use the product, it might not be possible to work out the exact year that you purchased the product.
However, not all hope is lost. Here are 3 different ways that you can check the expiration of your shampoo.
1 Use your senses
Often, if a product has expired you will notice straight away just by the appearance and the smell.
When certain ingredients are exposed to the elements, it can cause a rancid smell.
Look out for any differences in the scent or the texture of the shampoo. This is usually a clear sign that the product needs to be disposed of.
2 Check the LOT code on the bottle
Unfortunately, the FDA does not require shampoo bottles to display an expiration date on the label. The responsibility, therefore, falls into the manufacturer’s hands instead.
Some companies fail to include any information regarding the expiration date, while some include a LOT code.
This code can be used to find out information regarding the product – when and where it was manufactured.
There are websites, like Check Cosmetic, that allows you to search for a product and find out the shelf life. Please note that information regarding newer brands might not be available on this website.
3 Look for the container icon
Another way to check the expiration date of your shampoo is to keep your eyes peeled for the container with a number inside.
This is usually located near the bottom and the typical numbers you will see will be, 6, 8, or 12.
This number gives you an indication of how long your shampoo will last. For example, if the number 12 is displayed in the container icon, that means you have 12 months of use after opening.
Also Read: 7 Reasons Why Hair Products Stop Working
What Are Signs That My Shampoo Has Expired?
Thankfully, expired shampoo is likely to grab your attention because the signs are quite obvious.
Shampoo doesn’t simply stop working. Any changes in the effectiveness should be a sign that something is wrong with the product.
If there is a foul smell or a ‘funny’ smell then it’s important that you throw the product away immediately.
This is usually caused by the expired chemicals in the shampoo. Sometimes, there will be no nasty aroma, but you might notice that the scent isn’t as strong as it once was. This is also a sign that the product is past its use-by date.
Some shampoos will change in color due to the oxidation process. This means that it will no longer be safe to use on your hair and scalp.
Keep your eyes peeled for any changes in color, particularly if it turns to yellow and it’s accompanied by a weird smell. These are tell-tale signs your shampoo is ready to be thrown out.
Consistency of Product
Another key sign to look out for is any separation of the product.
When the stabilisers that are often added to shampoo lose their potency this can lead to changes in the texture and the consistency.
There might be a graininess to the product or it simply feel different to how it usually would. Any changes, big or small, should be taken into consideration before you continue to use the product.
What Happens If I Use Expired Shampoo?
Now you know that shampoo does expire and you’re aware of the signs to look out for, you might be wondering what would happen if you ignored those signs and continued to use the product.
Let’s take a look.
Product is less effective
At the very least, the shampoo won’t perform in the way it’s supposed to.
For instance, a shampoo that is made to tackle frizzy or dry hair might not be effective at controlling this.
If you have color treated hair then it’s important that you opt for a shampoo that’s going to help your color last as long as possible.
However, if you’re using expired shampoo, it’s unlikely that the ingredients will be as functional as they once were. They might not even react to your hair! That means your color treated hair will get dull much faster.
Hair might not be clean
When using an expired product, it’s simply not going to do the job very well.
This means that your hair and scalp won’t be completely free of oil, bacteria, and left-over products, and this can certainly lead to problems.
If your hair and scalp isn’t thoroughly cleaned it can lead to a dry scalp, dandruff, itchiness, and hair breaking.
Although you might be hesitant to throw away a bottle of shampoo that still has lots of product left inside, it’s not worth the potential risks it poses to your hair.
Depending on how long you’ve kept the bottle of shampoo and the ingredients inside, using this expired product can even lead to more serious problems like a bacterial infection of the scalp.
This is caused by bacteria being able to accumulate in the shampoo bottle for long periods of time.
A scalp infection can lead to open sores, irritation, and hair loss. Infections can easily spread to other parts of the body so it’s worth noting that if you have any reason to suspect that your shampoo is expired, stop using it immediately.
How To Make Shampoo Last For Longer
Many shampoos contain different ingredients, meaning that some will have a longer shelf life than others.
Gentle, natural formulas are likely to expire much faster, even when they stored correctly.
However, there are some ways that you can make the most out of your shampoo.
Handle With Care
Exposure to heat can harm the effectiveness of the shampoo and can cause bacteria to harbour. Keep it stored somewhere that is cool.
It’s important to note that certain shampoos have to be handled differently to others. For instance, shampoo bars need exposure to air for them to last longer.
If they are kept in right wrapped or containers where no air can get to them, then they will likely become unusable very quickly.
Pay attention to the ingredients and the type of shampoo you’re using as this determines how you handle and store the product.
In most cases, shampoo should be stored in a cool, dark place and kept away from all heat sources.
Some shampoos can deteriorate a lot faster if they are frequently exposed to light as well, so storing them in a cupboard would be a good idea to prolong the shelf life.
Choose Sensible Product Containers
When choosing a shampoo, you might opt for one with a pump dispenser, as this minimises the contact with your hands.
As you know, our hands can harbour bacteria, and every time you dip your fingers into the shampoo bottle or pour some of the excess product back into the bottle, you are contaminating it.
You want to ensure that very little bacteria, water, and oxygen is entering the bottle if you want to expand the shelf life.