While colouring your hair with box dye at home isn’t always recommended, it can be an easier alternative to going to a salon or purchasing professional colouring. But is it safe to use hair dye that’s been sitting on your shelves for a considerable amount of time or is it best to throw it? Does hair dye even expire?
In this article, we’re going to answer that question in depth.
In short, hair dye does expire. Hair dye contains chemicals that can separate or stop reacting over time. The shelf life depends on the type of dye, as an unopened box of permanent dye can last up to 3 years while semi-permanent dye will last 1 – 2 years. Even an unopened box can expire after 3 years.
Types Of Home Hair Dye
Permanent hair dye won’t expire as quickly as other types of hair dye.
The benefit of using permanent hair dye is achieving a radiant colour that lasts for a much longer period.
The majority of permanent hair dyes contain ammonia, which is the key compound that allows the coloring to enter the shaft of the hair and lock-in your desired color.
Hydrogen peroxide will also be present in many permanent hair dyes, which is often used to lighten the hair.
While using permanent hair dye is a good choice for full coverage and long-lasting results, it’s not a suitable option for everyone.
For instance, some people like to try out various colors to find a shade that is best suited to their skin type. Some may also try to find a suitable color to cover gray hairs.
If you select one that is too dark, it can be harder to lift that colour and get it back to your natural shade.
Also Read: Does Shampoo Expire? What You Need To Know
A great perk to using semi-permanent hair dye is that they often do not contain ammonia or hydrogen peroxide.
The dye molecules in semi-permanent dye will not penetrate the hair shaft, they will simply coat the outer hair shaft instead.
This makes it a great choice for people who are trying to test for their perfect shade, or just simply want to switch things up for a couple of weeks or more.
Semi-permanent hair dye contains less harmful chemicals than permanent dye, so it’s more suitable for those with a sensitive scalp.
It will wash out within 4 – 8 washes, which is either a huge perk or a huge con, depending on the results you’re looking for.
Henna is a type of semi-permanent hair dye but it tends to be far gentler on the hair than any other dyes on the market.
There is no bleach, ammonia, or synthetics that could irritate the hair and scalp and it provides the hair with a natural tint rather than stripping the hair of all its colour.
Henna is therefore often used for those with dreadlocks or braids.
Although you won’t achieve drastic color when using henna, it is the best solution for anyone looking for a natural, shiny color with subtle highlights.
Just make sure not to mix henna dye with oil as it will decrease the effect of the color. Instead, mix it with lemon or grapefruit juice.
When Does Hair Dye Expire
Permanent hair dye will generally last longer than any other hair dyes simply because they contain more chemicals to extend the shelf-life.
Under the right conditions, this type of hair dye might last 3 years before it expires.
Even if it’s not been opened, it’s not recommended to use it after the 3-year mark, as the quality of the hair dye could still be affected and it might expire.
As semi-permanent hair dye contains fewer chemicals and harsh ingredients to extend the life of the product, you should expect this type of hair dye to expire after 2 years when left unopened.
Under the right conditions, 2 years would be the maximum time allowed before discarding the product.
You may not experience any adverse effects, but the colour will have changed over that period of time, so you might not achieve the best results.
Henna has a very short life span due to being a natural product that’s derived from plants.
While Henna hair dye does not typically expire it can become stale rather quickly, and when exposed to air the colour can fade very fast.
It’s very important that you keep Henna in the right conditions and discard the product after 3 months.
Once a box of hair dye has been opened, it will expire within 1 – 2 years, assuming that you haven’t touched the mixtures at all.
If you have touched the product or mixed the hair dye together, then it’s recommended that you throw it away within a few days.
Although you may not experience a reaction to the product, it could mean that the colour is affected.
Signs Your Hair Dye Has Expired
If you’ve had boxes of hair dye sitting on the shelves for a while now and you’re unsure if they’ve expired or will expire, look out for these signs before trying the product.
Changes In The Packaging
Over time, the packaging may swell, become soggy, or look dented.
These could be signs that the air has got into the product through small openings and oxidation has occurred.
Even if there is no change in the packaging, you will still need to open up the box to inspect it thoroughly.
Also Read: The Truth About Energy Drinks And Hair Loss
A Change Of Smell
Like with most products, if there’s a change in smell, then that’s often a huge indicator that the product has expired.
It might smell more potent or it might have a weaker odour than you would expect.
Either way, any changes in smell should be treated as sign the product should be disposed of.
Changes In Appearance
If the chemicals have separated then this will usually present itself as a watery liquid on the top of the dye.
Also look out for any yellow or orange liquid anywhere within the product or packaging as this can be a clear indication that it’s expired.
Why is There No Expiration Date On The Box?
It can sometimes be tricky to figure out when your hair dye will expire.
Some boxes of hair dye do in fact contain an expiration date in the form of a container and the number inside.
For instance, if there is the number 12 then that means the product will last 12 months from the moment it’s opened.
However, this isn’t too helpful if you can’t remember the exact date you bought the hair dye, and it also doesn’t tell you what the expiration date is if the dye is left unopened.
Most companies do not feel the need to include a clear expiration date on the packaging as they believe the shelf life depends on the type of hair dye, how it’s stored, and whether it’s left opened or not.
It’s for that reason that they are unable to give a clear, simple answer as to when the hair dye will expire.
Can I Use Expired Hair Dye
Using expired hair dye presents more risks than using expired shampoo or conditioner and we certainly wouldn’t suggest it.
If your hair dye has expired or is about to expire and you decide to use it, these are some of the potential symptoms:
- Green hair (very common side effect)
- An uneven colour
- Colour that appears to be faded
- A burning sensation on the scalp
- Hair becomes frizzy or brittle
- Hair loss
Expired hair dye will never help you to achieve your desired look and you run the risk of causing a chemical burn on the scalp, which could lead to sores, scarring, and even hair loss.
It’s for that reason that you should always discard the product if you have any suspicious that it’s expired.
Bad odour, colour changes, damaged packaging, are all things to look out for.
Best way To Store Unopened Hair Dye
To extend the shelf life of your hair dye and protect it from the elements, you should carefully place it in a cool, dry place and keep it away from heat sources. This will also help you avoid spilling hair dye on your carpet.
You must ensure that the box doesn’t come into contact with water and become wet as this can damage the packaging, causing liquid to seep through.
There’s the option of placing the box of hair dye in an airtight container and placing it on a shelf, keeping it away from both heat and water.
This will effectively extend the shelf life as it’s less likely to become contaminated or damaged.
How To Dispose Of Hair Dye
The chemicals used in dye can be hazardous to health as well as the environment, so it’s very important that if you no longer wish to keep your box of dye that you dispose of it in the right way.
If you only have a small amount of leftover dye, then it can simply be washed away in the sink. You can then recycle the bottle and the box.
If you have all or most of the dye left over, then ensure that you look for any instructions made by the manufacturer.
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly solution, then you could try using henna to colour your hair.
It has no chemicals and a reduced risk of skin irritation as well as being better for the environment.
While you won’t get intense colour or dramatic results if your hair is naturally dark, it will still give your hair a beautiful, subtle tint that will be even more noticeable in daylight.
It can be messy to apply, but you find that the benefits are worth it!
Things To Consider When buying Box Hair Dye
Many people are disappointed with the results when using box dye at home. The main reasons for this are:
- Poor colour payoff
- Uneven colour
- The wrong colour that was shown on the box
- Irritated or itchy scalp
- Hair that looks dull or lifeless
- No to little change to the hair colour
Using a box dye won’t necessarily damage your hair if you use it every so often, but if you regularly use it then you may experience dry, brittle hair over time.
Unfortunately, many box dyes do not contain moisturising ingredients to restore the hair, which can leave the hair feeling weak and dull.
Many people also find it hard to apply the dye all over the hair, especially without any help, which often results in hair that’s patchy, uneven, or faded.
However, getting hair professionally coloured at a salon can be expensive and is not always easily accessible, so it’s understandable that many people opt to colour their hair at home.
It’s important to understand the risks before you commit to hair colouring and always take the time to research a brand and read the reviews.
Dyeing Hair At Home Vs At The Salon
If you’re not sure whether you should spend more money at the salon or take the plunge and dye your hair at home, here’s what you should consider.
Pros Of Dyeing Hair At Home
- It’s much more affordable
- It can be convenient as it’s done in the comfort of your own home
- A better option for people with social anxiety
- It can be fun and challenging doing it yourself
- You are in full control of how much dye you use and the style you desire
Cons Of Dyeing Hair At Home
- It can be very messy and you have to clean it up yourself
- You might experience a bad reaction to the dye
- Your colour might be patchy or uneven
- You might not experience any colour change at all
- You could potentially damage the hair or ruin the colour which will need to be professionally corrected at a salon
Pros Of Dyeing Hair At The Salon
- You will get even coverage
- Salon professionals will work with you to get the perfect results
- There is far less risk of damage to the hair or scalp
- They can add in highlights and give dimension
- The best option for bleaching your hair
- Some colouring techniques can prolong your colour resulting in fewer salon trips
Cons Of Dyeing Hair At The Salon
- It can be very expensive
- It’s time consuming
- Can be nerve-wracking
- There’s a small chance you won’t get the results you wanted
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Coralle is an experienced beauty writer with a passion for wellness, women’s health, and sustainability.