Does hair dye expire?

If you’re the type who stockpiles boxes of hair dyes in case you want to dye your hair at home on a whim, chances are you’ve come across an old box dye that may have been sitting on your cabinet for no one knows how long. Throwing it away feels like a waste, but you’re not quite sure if it’s still safe to use.

You tried looking for an expiration date but there’s no sign of it in the packaging. Hair dyes typically don not have expiration dates printed on the box, since there’s the belief that if the package is stored properly, it should have an unlimited shelf-life. There aren’t any laws currently requiring manufacturers to indicate expiration dates on the packaging, but informing the consumers at least about manufacturing dates should be their responsibility

How long should hair dye last?

When stored properly, used hair dyes should last for about 1 to 2 years while unopened ones can be stored for 3 years or more. To lengthen its shelf life, there are two factors you need to consider: storage temperature and environment.

Hair dyes need to be stored in a cool, dark, and dry space. A damp and moist storage place can cause the product to oxidize, especially if it’s placed in an open or unsealed container.

Environmental factors such as sunlight can also speed up the shelf life of hair dyes. Direct exposure to the sun can lead to harmful chemical reactions that may irritate or burn the skin. The heat will also cause separation, which makes the hair dye go bad immediately.

Organic brands tend to expire faster than professional brands due to the minimal processing of chemicals and inclusion of natural ingredients.

Keep in mind that these are only relevant for unmixed chemicals. In case you’ve stumbled across mixed chemicals, throw them out immediately.

Signs that your hair dye has gone bad

To check if your hair dye is still good to use, check the following signs first before application:

Damage or swelling

Check for any dents or wet spots on the box container. A dented container may be an indication that the contents might already be compromised. Wet spots are signs that water or other chemicals may have come into contact with the container. This causes oxidation and as a result, it makes the bottle look swollen.


If there is a watery fluid leaking out of the bottle, then the hair dye is already expired. Signs of reddish or yellowish streaks around the cap or on the actual formula are also signs of expiration.


If there is no signs of leaking, check the contents to see if the contents have already separated. It’s still okay to use if it comes out as a homogenous liquid but if a thin, clear fluid pours out, then you have to throw the hair dye away.

Foul odor

An expired box dye will smell bad immediately after opening the container. Avoid inhaling the fumes too much because they are very dangerous for your health.

The bottom line

An expired hair dye is not a wasted hair dye. If you see all of these signs in your hair dye, it’s best to throw it away. Regardless of the fact that hair dye may have an unlimited shelf life, erring on the side of caution is still a safer option to go for. Using an expired hair dye will do more harm than good, and you’re better off with buying a new bottle or having your hair colored by a professional at a salon.

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