You may have learned a lot when it comes to hair care and hairstyling in the last couple of years — needing to fend for ourselves during shelter in place and quarantine actually had an upside. Even so, most of us still wouldn’t consider ourselves experts and when it comes to hair care, especially, there’s so much we have yet to learn.
It may not have been until that moment when you washed with that shampoo for the 30th time, or got to week 12 of use with that hair serum, or perhaps even when that creamy, white leave-in conditioner started to take on a yellowish tint that you asked yourself, “Am I using an expired hair care product?”
It happens to the best of us, especially when it comes to our beloved must-haves. But if you find yourself wondering if your hair care products expire then you’re in the right place. We’re here to answer that burning question and dive into how to find expiration dates on products (if they do expire), plus some general tips for keeping your go-tos fresh.
Do Hair Care Products Expire?
The short answer to this question is yes — all cosmetics expire and your hair care products are no exception. Active ingredients won’t stay active forever, but when your products expire will depend on their formula, in other words, what’s in them.
“Each product’s breakdown of ingredients can determine the expiration,” says Jonathan Colombini, celebrity hairstylist and L’Oréal Paris creative director of style and color. “Products with alcohol, like hairsprays, mousses and gels tend to have a much longer shelf life than a moisture cream or conditioner — though their aerosol feature may lose its steam.”
A quick rule of thumb, as per Colombini, “once the [product] is opened you typically want to use its entirety within one year.”
When Does Shampoo Expire?
When it comes to different hair care products, shampoo may have the most controversy around longevity. That’s mainly because not everyone’s hair washing rituals are the same, and the same bottle of shampoo could stretch a lot longer for someone who doesn’t wash their hair daily than for someone who does. Still, the expiration date does matter.
If you’re putting expired shampoo in your hair you can’t really expect it to live up to its claims, all of which are drawn from tests done on non-expired products. In other words, you could be going through the motion of cleansing and protecting your hair and scalp with no actual results.
How long shampoo lasts depends, like all other products, on its formula and ingredients, plus how you store it. There’s no blanket rule across all shampoos. If you want to know how long you can use your shampoo look for the period-after-opening (or POA) symbol. This is typically on the back of the bottle — sometimes it’s on the box — and it looks like a small, opened jar. That small jar will have a number on or near it, typically in multiples of three. Shampoo could last as little as six months and some may last up to 24, but there’s no set standard across brands.
Most L’Oréal Paris shampoos, including the new L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Glossing Shampoo, pH Balanced, last for up to 12 months after opening.
When Does Conditioner Expire?
Like shampoo, conditioners — including leave-in conditioners — can last up to a range of months depending on the formula. And similarly, you want to look for the POA mark on the bottle or box to see how long you can use the product after opening.
If your conditioner performs like the L’Oréal Paris EverPureSulfate-Free Glossing Conditioner, pH Balanced, leaving hair smooth, shiny, soft and hydrated, then chances are you’ll run through the bottle well before the expiration date.
When Does Hair Serum Expire?
Hair serum is sometimes seen as a hybrid product since it contributes to the health of your hair and adds an element of styling. But don’t be fooled — hair serum is not like hairspray and it will typically have an expiration date on it, too. Turn your hair serum over and look for the POA mark on the packaging. Once you’re past that date it’s best to toss it as your serum may fall short of providing the benefits it once did when it was fresh.
Luckily, some hair serums, like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In will last up to 18 months after opening. That’s a year and a half of taming frizz and 450-degree heat protection for your strands.
How to Store Your Hair Care Products to Keep Them Fresh
Your hair care products could have a pretty decent shelf life before opening if you’re not exposing them to extreme conditions. Don’t leave your products in excessive heat, including near radiators, on windowsills where they’re exposed to the sun, or in an uninsulated attic through summer. In that same vein, don’t leave them in your freezing cold car throughout the winter, sitting in front of the air conditioner all summer and don’t put them in the freezer.
And in case you’re not sure, you don’t need to put your hair care products in the refrigerator either (unless the packaging specifies that you should). Between the formula and the bottling, a moderate room temperature will sustain your products — this applies to both opened and unopened products.
Lastly, follow any storage recommendations on the product packaging, but also pay attention to any changes in your formula. If you notice the coloring or texture of your product changing — your creamy moisturizer is starting to feel like a hair oil — it may be time to toss it. Though a color change or emollient shift doesn’t always mean that your product has gone bad, you have to weigh whether it’s a chance you’re willing to take or if it’s simply time to re-up that beloved must-have for the sake of your hair’s health.
Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn