Hair Products Can Expire, FYI. The Facts You Need To Know

You know that semi-abandoned shampoo bottle you have in your bathroom cubby that never seems to run out and that you still occasionally use? It may be high time you throw it out because, yes, even though shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, and other hair products appear everlasting, they expire. As do other beauty products.

Here's a shocking and hair-raising fact: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't require manufacturers to inscribe an expiration date on personal care products. While many cosmetic and skincare brands do their due diligence and explicitly mark their packaging with expiration dates, the same can't be said with hair products. They still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to following suit, and even when there's a clear indication of a "best by" date, there's always a chance that it smears off in the bathroom due to constant exposure to moisture.

Cosmetics and skincare products typically have a shelf life of six months to two years. Hair products, on the other hand, last much longer, so you don't necessarily have to throw most of yours in the bin or include them in your recycling. To help you out, here's how you can tell when your shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products aren't doing their job and need to be tossed.

How to tell if your hair products have expired

Generally speaking, most hair products have a shelf life of three years when left unopened. Lisa Silliker, director of management at haircare brand Pai-Shau, told PopSugar that once you open and start using shampoos and conditioners, "they are exposed to contaminants that will start the bacteria growth process."

Now that we know the shelf life of hair products, how can we tell that they've gone bad apart from the usual time frame and an expiration stamp? Vince Spinnato, cosmetic chemist and founder of TurnKey Beauty Inc., told Real Simple that you have to pay close attention to how the product looks, feels, and smells. "The color, texture, and smell of a shampoo will change to the point that it doesn't look or smell right," he noted. Meanwhile, Dr. Jim Leahy, professor of chemistry and molecular medicine at the University of South Florida, shared with WXYZ Detroit that expired hair products usually have "solid clumps" that may transfer to your locks when used. "If it's solidified like that, now you're gonna have those chunks of whatever it is in your hair," he said.

What happens if I use them anyway?

If you end up using an expired hair product, your hair could dry out due to the product's inefficacy. But there's also a risk of further damaging your locks and scalp. "If the product is expired, chances are it is very unstable and ingredients are separated with potential bacteria contamination, which can lead to irritation, dryness, peeling, damage to follicles, and possible hair loss, to name a few," David Petrillo, a cosmetic skincare chemist, told Byrdie. Do you really want to compromise your hair health just because you used a shampoo from years back? Thought so.

To avoid the inadvertent use of expired products, it's best to have a written record of when you've opened them so you can closely monitor the dates. You can also turn to sites like to determine the expiration date, or you can even contact the manufacturer. "When in doubt, there is a batch code on every product, usually on the bottom of the package, which consumers can call to ask the company when the product was manufactured," cosmetic chemist Ginger King suggested to Allure.

It also goes without saying that you should store your hair products properly to maximize their shelf life. Avoid placing them in spaces with high humidity or too much light exposure, and close the lid tightly when not in use. But if placing them in your bathroom can't be helped, just be mindful of when they're set to expire.