In my house, shampoos and conditioners never expire. Given the fact that I have long, curly hair that feels extremely greasy after two days, I can go through large bottles of shampoo and conditioner in four to six weeks. So, I’ve never had to worry about them going bad because by two months I’ve already long disposed of them and got new ones.
But, understandably, not everyone goes through these as quick. So, I’m here to answer whether or not shampoo and conditioner have an expiration date, how to tell, and whether or not it’s really safe to use expired shampoo and conditioner if it’s gone way past the expiry date.
What’s in Shampoo and Conditioners?
Shampoo formulas can vary depending on the manufacturer. Generally, however, a bottle of shampoo can contain: sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, dimethicone, panthenol, citric acid, parabens, zinc pyrithione, and cocamidopropyl betaine. These ingredients serve varying purposes, from cleaning your hair, keeping it dandruff free, and ensuring the unused shampoo remains bacteria-free. Some shampoos are marketed to have different benefits such as managing split-ends, course hair, or speeding up hair growth (here’s an article on how long it should normally take for hair to grow if you’re interested to learn more about that). Of course, shampoo bars will have different compositions and more ingredients to give it its solid form.
Conditioner, on the other hand, contains silicones, oils, and emollients to moisturize the hair after shampoos have removed a lot of its moisture. Unlike shampoo, you have to leave conditioner on your hair for a while to moisturize your hair. Like shampoo, some conditioners stand out because they have different benefits. Some strengthen hair, for example, while others contain nutrients like Vitamin E oil for hair growth.
Can Shampoos and Conditioners Expire?
Yes, shampoos and conditioners do expire. While you’re unlikely to find a specific expiration date on the container, you’ll most likely find a symbol at the back of the bottle that looks like this.
The number on this symbol is usually 12 or 24, and the ‘M’ stands for months. This symbol means that your shampoo is good for the next 12 or 24 months (or 1 to 2 years) after the moment you unseal and open it. This may be due to the fact that, by opening the bottle, you’re exposing the shampoo or conditioner to oxygen and bacteria that will slowly cause the ingredients to wear down or decay.
Most shampoo and conditioner products have a 12 or 24 month expiry date. So, if you’re the type who rarely uses hair care products and can have a shampoo bottle stretch beyond one year, try to take note which month you bought a new bottle.
Are Expired Shampoo and Conditioner Bottles Dangerous?
Take note, however, that this expiration date is not the date shampoos and conditioner becomes a health hazard. In some products, manufacturer’s use-by dates indicate how long a manufacturer can guarantee that a product will taste, smell, or function the way it’s supposed to. Once they pass that due date, it’s either they become less effective but not necessarily dangerous, or they immediately become dangerous.
To play it safe, however, it might be best to look at your shampoo and conditioner to see if it’s still good. For a bottle that’s never been opened, it should last around three years, and then opened bottles 18 months at most. Some shampoo and conditioner formulas contain additives and preservatives that allow it to retain its quality for months or years. However, shampoos that advertise itself as “organic” and paraben or sulfate-free can turn bad faster and should be consumed before its estimated use-by date or disposed of after.
How to Tell Your Shampoo and Conditioner Have Gone Bad
Expired shampoo and conditioner will eventually start to make physical changes. This means the smell, texture, and color should change to the point that it doesn’t look or smell right. If you try using it, it may not be able to lather or leave a sticky feeling. The contents may separate, and it could smell foul.
Should you end up using expired shampoo and conditioner, it’s highly unlikely that it will be toxic for your scalp, but you could develop an infection or dry scalp with prolonged use of expired shampoo. It won’t damage your hair or color, but if you have dyed hair, it could react to the chemicals in your hair dye.
The best solution to this is to simply dispose of expired shampoo and conditioner. Empty the bottles (you can dispose of the shampoo and conditioner in your sink or toilet – the latter if it has formed a chunky texture that won’t drain in your sink) and rinse the bottles before disposing them in a proper receptacle.
However, if it’s past the expiration date but still doesn’t look expired, you can opt to recycle the remaining shampoo to use for cleaning your toilet or for hand-washing delicate clothes.