How to Know If Your Shampoo or Conditioner Is Expired

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Out of the million things companies slap expiration dates on, we’re still surprised to not see them on our shampoo and conditioner. But therein lies a problem: We know when so-not-important condiments like ketchup expire but we’re in the dark about our shampoo’s shelf life. Curious and committed to finding the truth about whether or not shampoo actually expires, we sought advice from an expert. Here Rita Hazan—colorist to Beyoncé and founder of Rita Hazan Salon and eponymous product line—answers all our burning questions including how long shampoo lasts, the ways which old shampoo effects hair color, and the signs that it’s time to toss.

What are some signs that your shampoo and conditioner are old, unusable, or expired?

Old shampoo and conditioner smells funny. Product can also get clumpy and/or separate, turn yellow or look discolored.

What effects, if any, do old shampoo/conditioner have on the hair cuticle and hair color?

Expired shampoo won’t ruin the health of your hair or do any permanent damage, it just won’t work.

Can old shampoo damage hair color?

It won’t damage the color but it could possibly dull it out.

Does shampoo and conditioner actually expire, or is that a myth?

Shampoo and conditioner can actually expire. It’s generally good for 2-3 years once opened and 3-4 years unopened.

From the day I buy shampoo/conditioner, how long do I have to use it until it’s “expired”? In other words, when should I toss it out?

Two to three years after you buy it, any longer after that consider a bathroom clean-out.

Do natural shampoos/conditioners expire faster than those with sulfates?

Yes, they do. They use little or no preservatives to keep the formulas fresh.

Find out how often you should wash your hair here