Does Shampoo Expire? (Quick Answer)

does shampoo expire

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We feel better about ourselves when we feel good both on the inside and out. Naturally, we are hesitant to consume things past their prime, even if they appear perfectly fine. While many of us are careful to avoid expired foods and medications, we often overlook the shelf life of the products we use on our bodies like shampoo.

Let us talk about hair care products for a moment. Have you ever wondered whether your shampoo can go bad? How do you even figure out when it is due to expire? And what happens when you use expired shampoos and conditioners?

Unlike food, the tell-tale signs of expired personal care products can be harder to spot, especially in the early stages of deterioration. Even if it looks unspoiled, chances are your shampoo might not be safe enough to use. 

Here we’ll go over some ways to identify whether your favorite shampoo has reached the end of its life. We can also find the answers to a few other pressing questions on this topic.

Does dandruff shampoo expire?

Shampooing is the quickest and most convenient way to clean your scalp and hair. It helps in many ways, including treating dandruff and greasy scalp, adding volume and luster to the hair, and eradicating frizz. Dandruff shampoos are often specially medicated to prevent flaking and itching of the scalp and keep it clean and healthy. 

Dandruff shampoos, besides being medicated, also have sulfates, parabens, and other chemicals added to them like other liquid shampoos. These enhance the cleaning power, inhibit the formation of bacteria, mold, and other parasites, and extend the product’s life.

The preservatives ensure that most dandruff shampoos have a shelf life of two to four years, depending on the ingredients and usage. Beyond that, the curative effect of the shampoo will wane, rendering it ineffective over time.

Furthermore, preservative-free shampoos or those made with natural components have an even shorter shelf life and need replacement more often to maintain efficiency. To get the most out of your dandruff shampoo, it is important that you use it within the recommended time frame. 

Can shampoos and conditioners expire?

You may often not find a date of expiry on your shampoo or conditioner bottle, but that does not mean they are imperishable! Shampoos and conditioners are formulated differently and target distinct problem areas in the hair and scalp. Their longevity and shelf life depend on some key factors.

Condition of use

By “condition,” we refer to whether the shampoo or conditioner packaging is open or in its original sealed condition. Unopened, sealed bottles often last longer than three years as the product inside is left unexposed to airborne and waterborne microbes. Once opened, they are much more susceptible to the accumulation of bacteria, mold, and other parasites and are prone to deterioration.


Even when opened, the preservatives added to the liquid solutions ensure that they are not affected by germs. This isn’t to say that all liquid haircare products will last equally long. The number of preservatives added varies depending on the product and its usage.

Also, with the consumption of naturally derived, organic, and eco-friendly products growing exponentially, more and more manufacturers are creating products without traditional preservatives and surfactants like SLS, phthalates, and parabens. While great for your hair and nature, these products expire much sooner than their traditional counterparts.

Storage method

Believe it or not, mishandling or storing your haircare items without care can cause contamination and lead the products to deteriorate even before their expiration date! These products work best when stored away from the sun and heat. Store them in a dark cabinet and take them out only when needed to avoid mold growth and exposure to other microbes.

Type of product

Not only liquid shampoos, but shampoo bars are also immensely popular today, loved for their clean ingredients, compact size, and convenience. Shampoo bars (and conditioner bars) with plenty of organic and natural ingredients (and minimal preservatives) are usually quicker to expire. Additionally, they need to be stored safely away from the presence of water to make sure they last a long time.

With a bit of extra care, you may be able to prolong the life of your shampoo and conditioner so that you can get the most out of them. They will not, however, last indefinitely. It is important to keep track of any physical changes and remember to check if the products are past their expiry date. We’ll talk more about that in the coming sections.

How to read shampoo expiration dates

If you are lucky, your shampoo will have a use-by or best-by date that will tell you when the time comes to get rid of it.

Even if the container lacks a date of manufacture or expiration, that does not mean you wouldn’t be able to tell if the product is still safe to use. There are other ways to determine the expiration period of your shampoo more or less accurately.

If you look closely at any skincare, haircare, or cosmetic product, you will find a symbol on the packaging that looks like a container with the lid open and a number that denotes months or years.

This is the PAO, or the Period-after-Opening symbol, which indicates the product’s useable life from the time it was first opened.

For instance, if your shampoo bottle has a 24M PAO symbol on it, it simply means that the product within will be safe for more or less that amount of time after opening and will perform as intended. 

There is, however, a catch. You have to remember when you opened the bottle for the first time.

Using shampoo or conditioner a few days past its expiry date will not harm your hair or scalp in any way. If it is difficult to pinpoint an exact date, an approximate date will do perfectly well.

If you have not used a particular product in a while and cannot find the PAO or determine the expiration date, there are other ways to evaluate whether it can be safely used or should be discarded.

How to know if your shampoo or conditioner has expired

There are many ways to determine if your shampoo or conditioner is past its prime, and most of them only require basic common sense!

Perhaps you can’t recall when you first opened a bottle, or the PAO symbol has faded due to constant use.

In any case, there are a few handy tricks that can help you figure out whether or not you can continue to use the product safely.

  • Uncharacteristic odor: If the shampoo or conditioner emanates strange, unpleasant odors, it is a pretty good indication that they are way too ruined to be used safely on your body.
  • Weird texture: Shampoos that are past their expiration date are more likely to have consistency and textural issues, such as being too runny, cloudy, or clumpy. 
  • Weak performance: Expired shampoos may not be as cleansing and nourishing as before. Weakened ingredients and insufficient lathering would make your hair feel oily, greasy, dry, or frizzy even after a wash.
  • Itching and irritation: If there are new symptoms that occur when you use a shampoo, such as itchiness, scalp irritation, and flakiness, your shampoo may be adversely affecting your scalp and hair. 

To be safe, if you think you have had shampoo or conditioner for two or three years, the ideal thing to do is to replace them for the health of your hair and scalp.

Is it safe to use expired shampoo?

According to statistics, the average person uses more than ten shampoo bottles a year. If that is true for you, there is a good chance that you do not have any expired shampoo lying around your house.

But if you do find yourself needing to use a shampoo of indeterminable age, it is crucial to know if it is safe to use.

The points we discussed in the previous section should make it obvious whether or not to steer clear of a product. But if you are unsure, you should know that you run the risk of irritating your scalp and skin. In the worst case, you may even get an infection.

It is probably OK to use a properly stored shampoo if there aren’t any questionable symptoms.

There are unlikely to be any damaging effects if it’s been only a few days or even weeks past expiration. As a general rule, keep in mind that the more natural or preservative-free a shampoo is, the sooner it will expire.

Conclusion on Shampoo Expiration

On the whole, expired shampoos do not pose any significant risk and can be easily replaced or replenished as needed to avoid any undesirable consequences.

If you find you have run out of shampoo, have a go at alternative options like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, conditioner co-washing, or even plain soap (only as a temporary fix).

While expired shampoos and other products are unlikely to harm your hair or scalp in the long run, they are not the best option for keeping your hair and scalp healthy.

This is especially true if you are looking for solutions to combat specific issues like dandruff, frizz, or hair loss.

It’s ultimately up to you whether you want to keep using your shampoo and conditioner after they reach the end of their shelf life.

As long as they are stored properly, look, smell, and work as usual, and are not too far beyond the expiry date, they should be safe enough to use. But when in doubt, it is best to stop using it and dispose of it suitably.

What’s Next? Hair Care related posts:

Does shampoo expire? (Quick Answer)

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