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How to Tell If Your Hair Products Are Expired

Knowing when to get rid of hair products can be tricky. But don’t worry—here’s our guide to everything you need to know about expired hair products.

If you’re anything like us, you have a drawer or closet of hair products you haven’t touched in months (or maybe even years). But do hair products really expire? Well, unlike the food in your fridge, however, your hair products might not be marked with an expiration date, so it can be difficult to know when that hairspray or shampoo you’ve been holding onto has officially gone bad.

Wondering exactly how long your hair products last and, more importantly, when is it finally time to throw them away? Avoid wasting time with expired hair shampoo, and read on for everything you need to know about expired hair products.

How do you tell if a hair product is expired?

Some brands will have a clear expiry date printed on the top or bottom of the product container, while others include a PAO (period after opening) indicator that tells you how long a product lasts once it’s been opened. Wondering how to find the PAO on your hair products? When you reach for a hair product, turn the bottle around and look for a tiny square label on the bottom right corner of the packaging. It should be marked with a number followed by an M. This indicates how many months a product can be used once it’s been unsealed.

If your product doesn’t have a PAO number, there are still usually a few telltale signs that the hair product you’ve had at the back of the shelf has passed its full potential. Look out for these key clues:

The Product’s Texture Is Different

If the consistency of the product suddenly starts looking and feeling clumpy, like curdled milk, it’s been kept for too long or stored at the wrong temperature and needs to be thrown out.

There’s a Funky Smell

We’re back to the milk comparisons. Many hair products are designed to smell fruity, flowery, and fresh, so if your hair product starts to smell a little peculiar, don’t risk your hair smelling the same—toss it!

The Product Doesn’t Perform As It Once Did

The ingredients in hair products are carefully formulated, so if one of those ingredients has expired, then it can affect the overall performance of the entire product. This means if you want to reap the full benefits of your favorite formulas, it’s always best to stay away from expired products. If your superstar product has been delivering less and less over time, then check the date on its packaging.

How long can you use a hair product after the expiration date?

This might surprise you, but no FDA law currently requires beauty brands to list an expiration date on products. Hair products, however, have a relatively long shelf life compared to other beauty products. Some unopened products can last up to three years when stored in a cool, dry space.

Of course, certain types of hair products are known to last longer than others. Non-aerosol products like shampoos and conditioners are said to have a shelf-life of 12 to 18 months after opening. However, aerosol products like texturizing sprays and dry shampoos can last longer because of their limited exposure to air.

You might still be unsure whether it’s time to say goodbye to a product. In that case, there are also apps you can download that can help you track when a product batch has expired and when it’s time to restock, as well as cosmetic calculators that allow you to add the brand and batch code to check its status.

Can expired hair products cause hair loss?

When it comes to using expired hair products, we say out with the old and in with the new! There is no definitive answer on whether expired products can cause hair loss, as everyone’s hair and scalp may react differently. However, the further past its sell-by date, the more the ingredients in your hair products are changing chemically. Some people have noted that their hair is more prone to falling out after using a product beyond its shelf-life, and you also risk issues such as dryness and scalp irritation. You should also be sure to check the best storage conditions for your product, as exposure to too much heat or cold can affect the accuracy of the PAO.

How do you dispose of expired hair products?

It’s more important than ever to dispose of waste responsibly. This means knowing that different types of products should be disposed of in different ways. For example, any aerosol cans that still contain spray need caution as they are considered hazardous waste. For more detail on doing your bit for the planet and getting rid of expired hair products safely, check out our full guide on how to recycle your beauty products the right way.

Looking for more expert hair tips and advice? Explore for top product recommendations from pro stylists and how to get the best results.

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