Does Shampoo Expire?

The question then was if I should use the shampoo or let my money go down the drain. It is a tough decision to make, more so when the shampoo costs an arm and a leg. But I eventually made the right decision, which I will delve into in this article.

Does unopened shampoo expire?

The answer is yes. Whether you have opened the bottle or not, there is always the risk that the product could expire before you finish it. The same goes for other options on the market. So before using conditioner and styling gels, look out for the expiry dates.

Some people dare to use expired items, but this can lead to a ton of complications. Many who have used expired shampoo have complained of itching. Remember that this product is a culmination of ingredients, some of which are very potent. In their active state, they work as they should. Now couple this with going bad, and you are risking the health of your hair. I would liken this to drinking bad milk to save money only to end up in the hospital.

Unfortunately, not all shampoos will indicate the expiry dates, which is the fault of the manufacturer. It is always best to look at if the expiry date is available. Where you cannot get this, you can always use the date of manufacture as a way to gauge when the item goes bad.

Also, shampoos have different shelf lives. With mostly artificial ingredients, it is likely to last a long time. It owes to the presence of preservatives, which extend the period in which you can use them. This feature may be friendly to your pocket, but the effects on your hair will not be great.

As such, people are now opting for natural formulas, as am I. With these, you find that most of the ingredients go bad at fast rates. Eventually, you have to discard what is left in the bottle or risk your hair’s health. A tip, in this case, would be to buy what you will use for a month and head back to the shop after this.

In this article, I will take you through expiry dates and how you can use the expired shampoos to your advantage. And no, you cannot use it on your hair, unless you want to risk its health. Let’s get started:

How do you know if shampoo is expired?

In most cases, the expiry date will be on the bottle. Some people put in on the base, others on the side while others will have it on the cap. When buying a product, look out for this date. And then you can tell if you can use the product in the given time. Sometimes, the date is not so obvious, so people end up missing it.

Do you see that little container on the side of the bottle with some numbers on it? Disregarding this is very easy, but you should not do so as it could cost you a lot. The numbers are indications of how long the item will last once you have opened it. You can read three, and this would indicate that you have three months to use the product once you open the bottle.

But in your case, you could find that this label is not advisable. Generally, I would stay away from unlabeled bottles as you never know what you are getting into. However, if you have already purchased the bottle, here is a tip that could help. If you have opened the bottle, the shampoo should last you no more than twelve months before you discard it. If you are yet to open it, you have three more years at most left before you toss it. Note that these timelines work regarding regular shampoos. If you are using natural formulas, the situation is quite different, and you need to reduce these periods.


I do a lot of switching from one bottle to the other. It helps me work on my hair all year round such that I get a ton of benefits from several products. Once you open a bottle, you can use it for two months or thereabout before getting another product.

You could start by using a volumizing product before using a hair growth option. In this way, you will target the strands from different angles.

Some people will use one shampoo throughout the seasons. Well, what works in summer will not necessarily hold up in the winter. So switching helps a great deal. But when doing this, you can end up using a lot of money on things you will use for a limited time. Buy what you can use to avoid losses.

Do you need to switch shampoos? While the idea may not appeal to you, switching is necessary. I do it every two to three months. If this does not work for you, doing it twice a year will suffice. Else, your hair will look tired and dull. Expiry dates are essential when switching products as they help you gauge when the next change should be.

What determines how long a shampoo will last?

Several factors affect the longevity of shampoo, and you should keep these in mind when making a purchase.

  • One is the type of shampoo. Like I said earlier, natural options do not contain preservatives. As such, you cannot expect them to last as long as artificial products. If you choose to go natural, you should buy what you can use within the given timeline.
  • Secondly, the packaging also matters. If the product comes in the form of a spray, it likely has alcohol, which increases its lifespan. Also, there is less exposure to air, and the product will remain fresh for a long time. You will not touch the product, introducing bacteria to the formula. The case is different when using creams as they have tons of exposure to air. Also, people have the habit of putting back what they will not use. I have been guilty of the same. I will squeeze out an amount, realize it’s more than I need, and transfer what’s extra back in the bottle. This contact with bacteria increases the chances of the product going bad.
  • You also have to think about the elements to which you expose the product. Once you open the bottle, you introduce air to the formula. You have to ensure that you seal the container after use to avoid more exposure. Also, if the product is in a humid environment, it will go bad faster than one in a cold environment. Manufacturers will state how you should store a product, and following these instructions is of the essence.

How to tell your shampoo has gone bad

Usually, people go by the expiration codes or dates. But in some cases, all you can do is to rely on the rule of thumb. While the latter helps in these cases, you should also look out for telling signs. Things such as a change in smell could indicate that the product is past its shelf life.

Here is how you can know that you need to switch products:

  • The scent of the product will change when it goes bad.

It is quite like what you would expect of other items on the market. How do you know that your milk has gone bad? You get a whiff of it, cringe and throw the package into the bin. The same goes for rotten eggs and shampoo. When you first open the bottle, the smell will be strong and enticing. I go for vanilla scents, coconut, and the likes of these. So when I apply the product on my hair, not only do I enjoy the feel of it but also its smell. If the product goes bad, this scent decreases in intensity. For some products, the scent becomes terrible, and you will know for sure that something is amiss. You should thus lookout for a change in scent.

  • Next, you should look at the color of the product.

Using scent will not work in all cases. I should know because when I have flu, my nostrils will not catch a whiff of anything. In this case, the best bet lies in the studying of the color. If you go for a natural product, it will have a hue that is similar to the ingredients contained therein.

A good example would be avocado, which would have a green color.

If this color deepens, you should know that something is going on in the formula. It means that the properties of the product are changing, and it is thus not suitable for use. If this color change continues, the product could end up black, an indication that all is not well. You should note that color change is not always a sign that the product has gone bad. Some shampoos will change hue upon exposure to the environment. If you have not used the product for long, this could be the case. It helps to read what others have said about the product and to see if it applies to your situation.

  • Finally, you should look at how the shampoos work.

Shampooing is a straightforward process. You wet your hair, apply the product to your hands, create lather and work this into your hair. So if you notice a change in the foaming ability of the product, it could have gone bad. The same goes for if you suddenly need to use more product than you did in the past. It indicates that the active ingredients are no longer working as they should. Note that natural products will generally create less lather than artificial products. So watch out for a change, instead of looking at the foaming ability alone.

Is it OK to use expired shampoo and conditioner?

Well, many people have asked this question. On the one hand, they want to protect their hair from damage. And on the other hand, they want to save money by not making another purchase. Note that when an item reaches its expiry date, it is an indication that it can no longer serve its intended purpose. That means that you will not get the most out of cleaning your hair and will need a lot of the product.

Also, the chemical composition of the formula will change, and this can cause issues such as dryness. So if the product goes bad, you should discard it immediately. You are better off washing your hair with warm water alone instead of using bad shampoo.

Can old shampoo cause baldness?

Yes! The chemical composition of the shampoo could change so much that it results in a hair killing formula. That way, you would end up losing hair upon using the product on your hair. It is not worth it.

What can you do with old shampoo?

We have already determined that you should not use expired formulations on your hair. However, you can use them on other parts of your body. A good example would be in creating a bubble bath with the product for your hands and feet. It will make it easier for you to clean them, and they will feel softer.

You can also use the product as a bath product if the smell is yet to change. The foam should feel pleasant, and you should feel much cleaner once you finish rinsing it off. Note that you should not do this with artificial products. Another common use is in the cleaning of pets, as this leaves their hair feeling smooth and clean.

Using shampoo for laundry is not uncommon, as long as the product does not have mold. Also, the color and smell should not have changed.

Bottom Line

Store your shampoos as recommended by the manufacturer, as this will extend their lifespan. If they go bad, toss them. In this way, you will not end up causing damage to your hair. Good luck!

About the author

Bridget Stein

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