Are Expired Hair Products Safe to Use?

Is it safe to use expired hair products?Until recently, shopping for hair products online or offline simply meant reading ingredients to assess if the product would be good, or worth the money. Now, there’s something else that I didn’t consider before and you totally should!

**dum, dum, dummmmm**


You’re probably thinking, “No shit, Sherlock” lol don’t vex and close the tab just yet.

Sometime last year, I indulged in a sale. Apart from the initial mix up in my order that I wrote about in this post, I later discovered that 2 of the products were at least 6 months over their expiry date! No Bueno. So much for rejoicing about savings in a sale. Even if you’re going to do a sale, selling expired products especially online, without notice to the purchaser is NOT okay.

Anyway. I wasn’t too mad at them because I remembered that just the year before, I had bought some hair products at a beauty supply store in the States. It was months later when I was almost done using one of the products (a hair masque) that I noticed it had expired a month before I bought it. Wow. Retailers do better, please.

Both events had me wondering, really, what are the effects of using expired hair products?

Obviously, if a product is looking weird, separating and smelling a bit funky, you should toss it. What about products that look fine but are actually past their Best Before date? Can you still use them or should you throw them away?

Is it safe to use expired hair products?
This product will expire in February 2019

Two Perspectives

Because this kept me up at night so much, I decided to ask two people who know better than me, a certified natural cosmetics formulator and an IAT  trichologist. Of course, they agree that it is not okay to use a hair product past its expiry date. However, if you’re considering using it anyway because YOLO, here’s what they had to say. (Their views are summarized.)

Ify Eze, The Naija Formulator

There is no blanket standard for expiry dates. This differs from formulator to formulator. For some formulators, 6 months is really 6 months max. Others may put 6 month expiry dates/ PAOs on their product when really, the products are formulated to last 9 months. However, except you directly find out from the maker of the product, there’s no way of knowing whether it would be okay for you to use the product past the expiry date.

Expiry dates always depend on the preservatives used. While natural preservatives don’t last as long, synthetic preservatives can last for years. The oils used in making that product could also affect its shelf life. In other words, you need to be extra careful about handmade/ small batch products.

Natmane, DBK Trichology

Adverse effects would probably depend on the type of product. Hair is a dead organ. If the product is one meant for the hair shaft (like a conditioner), you could risk it and apply to the hair only, avoiding contact with the scalp.

Unlike the hair, the scalp is not dead, and it is definitely very sensitive. Exposing your scalp to expired hair products could cause some hair problems.

ME (Just to Add)

You should definitely avoid trying your luck with products with stronger chemical content, like relaxers, hair dyes and pre-packaged henna! If your scalp is already super sensitive, you should not be following the reckless ones to experiment.

What If My Product Doesn’t Have An Expiry Date?

Most mainstream natural hair brands come from the USA. There, the regulatory body- the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not require hair products to be labelled with expiry dates. Some manufacturers choose to label, but it’s perfectly cool if they do not. What then?

According to Hair Boutique, the rule of thumb is: 3 years for unopened hair products, and 1 and half years for opened products.

In most cases, you’d be guided by the PAO (Period After Opening) mark.

Is it safe to use expired hair products?
Peep the “Period After Opening” mark in the red circle. This means the product is safe to use for 24 months after opening. Have you seen this on your beauty products?

In doing my research on this subject, I came across a mobile app called Beauty Keeper, available on iOS that helps eliminate doubt by giving you information about when your product batch was made, and advising on the PAO as well. Here’s what the official website has to say:

“The useful lifetime of a cosmetic product after its package has been opened for the first time is denoted by a special symbol “PAO” (period after opening) in the form of an open jar. The number followed by the letter “M” inside it indicates how many months the product can be safely used for after opening. For example, 6M means that the product should be used within 6 months, 24M – within 24 months after opening of the packaging.”

So, what now? Time to audit!

Do me a favour. This weekend, do an audit of your hair and beauty products. Go through your stash and see what has overstayed its welcome. Even if an expired product doesn’t make you break out in hives, it could be less effective and that’s just a waste of your time amirite? If you see any products that are expiring soon, make plans to use them or give them away to someone who will.

Keep Cool, Stay Dry

Remember to keep your products in a cool, dry place. I know having your stuff on your shower rack is super convenient, but you should limit this to products you run through quickly. Why? The shelf life of hair products is affected by exposure to heat, light and bacteria. The heat from daily warm showers could reduce the products’ shelf life. Dipping your hands in a tub to use a product introduces some bacteria, so when you can, you probably want to go for products that come in tubes! Tubes > Tubs!

Alright, I’m done. What do you guys think? Do you toss your expired hair products or you use to the last drop because money cannot waste? If you have used expired hair products, did anything bad happen? Let’s talk!




9 Replies to “Are Expired Hair Products Safe to Use?”

  1. My sister also participated in one online store sales and she discovered that some of the products were a month to expiring .She was so furious and she called to tell them and even sent mails but they never replied.I know an online site that states the expiry date of their products on the website.I think that’s what they should all be doing.Thanks for all the information!.Will download the app right away

  2. Thanks for sharing, I’ve always wondered about this too. I had the misfortune of using an expired styling product that I had been dreaming of trying out, during the Sizzelle sale; it smelled off but I wasn’t sure what was going on. When I eventually used it, I didn’t break out in hives but I was itching all over. Had to take a dose of cetirizine to get myself back to normal.
    Something to add would be, even if you can’t see visible bacterial growth, the bacterial spores are lurking in the product and they are not visible to the naked eye. If you have any misgivings just toss it. Your health and sanity are priceless compared to how much you paid (or saved in the case of a sale) to get the product.

    1. True, true, very true!
      Thanks Ihuoma, very valid points! Sorry about your itching. It’s a good thing it wasn’t too serious!

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