We’ve all been there… it’s time to dye your hair and you quickly realize you didn’t pick up the extra boxes you always keep on hand. Before you go into full panic mode because you’ve got an important occasion coming up and no other time to do your hair, you come across a box that’s been hidden, tucked away into the back corner of your beauty cabinet for… well, who knows how long?
The first thought is one of relief. The second thought, and more important one, is: does hair dye expire? And, if it does, am I still okay to use it?
Before you start blending your dye, read this article, and find your much-needed answer. It might not be what you want to hear at that moment, but it’ll save you a world of trouble.
DOES HAIR DYE EXPIRE?
Some companies will tell you that their product has an unlimited shelf life. In fact, that’s likely the reason you can’t find an expiration date on your box of dye. If stored properly and left unopened, they can last quite some time. But, rather than a lifetime, the generally accepted theory is that unopened and properly stored hair dye will last for three years.
The most important part of that explanation is the part that stipulated unopened and properly stored. If your hair dye has been opened, then it’s not going to last you three years, never mind a lifetime. After being opened, it’s ok to use it for between one and two years.
But that’s also for professional colors and those that have been stored as indicated. Drugstore brands won’t last you that amount of time and if you can’t remember when you bought it, chances are it’s not good (or safe) to use.
SIGNS YOUR HAIR DYE HAS EXPIRED
Here are some of the reasons hair dye expires and the problems it can cause if you use it, you’ll want to know what to look for.
Squeeze out some of the dye and check out the color. Whether there are extreme changes to the color or you just notice that there’s a green, yellow, or orange tint to it, it’s likely that it’s spoiled.
If the dye has separated due to exposure to air, sunlight, or moisture, you’ll be able to see it. If it looks murky, it needs to be shaken vigorously, or if a water-like liquid has formed on top of the dye, then your dye isn’t good to be used.
Ok, no hair dye smells pleasant, right? But the smell of expired dye is far more unpleasant. Open the container and check for a strong odor before using it.
CHANGES TO THE PACKAGING
A swollen package means that air has gotten into the container and has caused oxidation. If you can see swelling before even opening the dye, you’ll know it’s not safe for use.
OTHER SIGNS OF SPOILAGE
Check the cap or lid of the container to see if there are signs of spoilage. A yellow or orange color around the lid indicates that the dye has been spoiled.
OTHER REASONS HAIR DYE GOES BAD
The amount of time you’ve had your hair dye is only one factor involved in deciding whether or not it’s okay to use. There are many other reasons that your hair color can expire.
EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT
Sunlight will react with the chemicals in the hair dye. It warms up and heats the chemicals which will cause them to separate. The result is a hair dye that doesn’t work.
EXPOSURE TO AIR
If air leaks into your hair dye, it will cause rapid oxidation. That oxidation has the same effect as sunlight: the hair dye is rendered useless.
EXPOSURE TO HEAT AND HUMIDITY
If you stored your dye in a place that’s either hot, humid, or both, then it’s likely gone bad. Moisture has the same effect as air and can lead to oxidation. Even hair dye that hasn’t been opened should be stored in a cool, dry place that’s away from sunlight and humidity.
ALREADY BEEN MIXED
If you’ve already mixed the dye and then moved it into another container, you can be sure it’s gone bad. Hair dye shouldn’t be mixed until you’re ready to use it.
MADE WITH NATURAL AND/OR ORGANIC INGREDIENTS
These types of ingredients don’t have the same shelf life as chemicals. They tend to go bad a lot faster than purely chemical dyes.
EXPOSURE TO MICROORGANISMS
If bacteria or other microorganisms got into your dye, they’ll interact with the chemicals. Worse still, some type of bacteria thrives in the ammonia of the dye and will immediately cause the dye to go bad.
SIDE EFFECTS OF USING EXPIRED HAIR DYE
Using expired hair dye is not a good idea, no matter how desperate you are. Chances are you’ll end up having to go for a color correction immediately after using it. Below we’ve listed the most common problems associated with using expired hair dye.
HAIR TURNS GREEN OR ANOTHER UNEXPECTED COLOR
This is the most-reported side effect of using expired hair dye. Expired hair dye doesn’t have the same chemical makeup and this new chemical makeup will react with your hair in weird ways, turning it green or some other color.
HAIR DOESN’T CHANGE COLOR
If you’re lucky enough to avoid dark green locks, then you might just end up with entirely ineffective dye that does nothing to your hair. All that wasted time and effort for nothing.
MINIMAL CHANGE OR QUICK FADE
In some cases, the dye will work, but the color won’t be strong. In other cases, the dye will work but it will fade really quickly. This can leave behind patches of color that you’ll need to have corrected.
HAIR IS DAMAGED
Perhaps the scariest side effect of using expired hair dye is damage. You could end up with dry, frizzy, damaged hair that will require a lot of extra love and care to fix – or, alternatively, a serious haircut.
SCALP IS BURNED OR IRRITATED
Besides damaging your actual hair, the changes chemical makeup can cause damage to your scalp. You might notice a burning sensation on the skin, redness, and in some severe cases, hair loss.
The answer to: does hair color expire is a definitive yes. Not only does it expire after a generally accepted three year period, it expires if it’s not stored properly or if it’s been opened. And while visible roots the day before a big date would make anybody try anything, using hair dye that’s expired isn’t recommended.