Does shampoo expire? What You Need To Know

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When we think about expiration dates, we are rarely thinking about our hair products. If you’ve ever found yourself questioning, ‘does shampoo ever expire?’ then we are here to answer this long-anticipated question for you.

Does Shampoo Expire

Yes, shampoo does expire. The average shampoo will last 1-2 years from when it has been opened. The exact time it takes for a shampoo to expire depends on how many chemical or natural ingredients it includes.

How Long Before Shampoo Expires

Does shampoo expire faster if it’s made from natural ingredients? Yes, but that shouldn’t sway your decision when choosing a shampoo.

A long-lasting shampoo might seem appealing, but the added chemicals might not be such a good choice as opposed to natural shampoos.

Every shampoo is unique and reacts differently, so let’s take a look at how long you can expect your products to survive on your shelf.

When Does An Opened Shampoo Bottle Expire?

Once opened, it’s recommended that you discontinue use after 18 months but a good rule of thumb is to dispose of the product after a few months.

This is simply because the longer the shampoo bottle has been opened for, the less effective the ingredients become.

When Does An Unopened Shampoo Bottle Expire?

Does shampoo expire even when you leave the bottle untouched? Well, yes. Even if your new bottle of shampoo is left unopened, it still won’t last forever.

Unopened bottles do have a long shelf life and expire after around three years.

Even though the shampoo is not being exposed to the elements, the ingredients will stop being effective after a long period of time and the preservatives won’t keep the product intact.

Three years is a long time however and should give you plenty of time to use up your shampoo.

Sulfate Shampoo

Sulfate shampoo contains preservatives and additives to expand the lifespan of shampoo.

Therefore, it’s possible to keep a sulfate shampoo on your shelf for 18 months to 2 years once it’s been opened.

Non-sulfate Shampoo

Once opened, non-sulfate shampoo is going to expire much quicker due to the fact that it doesn’t contain any preservatives.

That means your organic shampoos might expire after 12 months. But this is a good thing, as you can ensure that you’re using a product that doesn’t contain any chemicals which could harm your scalp.

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo bars are very different from sulfate and non-sulfate shampoos.

This is because these types of hair care products often contain gentle, natural ingredients and need to be handled differently.

Once removed from the packaging, shampoo bars can last from 3 to 12 months before they expire. Of course, it depends entirely on the ingredients.

Shampoo bars that contain a lot of oils are more likely to expire faster than those with fewer oils.

The longer you keep a shampoo bar the more likely the scent and colour will fade from them.

Water-based Shampoos

Not all shampoos contain water, but many of them do.

In fact, some list water as one of the first ingredients.

If a product is water-based then it has to have preservatives to prevent contamination of bacteria. But even so, it’s likely to expire after 12 months of opening.

Preservatives might work well at extending the shelf life of shampoo, but they won’t last forever. 

What About Dog Shampoo?

Like human shampoo, dog shampoo is good for around 18 months after being opened. This expiry date refers to general shampoo mind you, as medicated shampoos may last for a shorter period of time.

As with any product used on skin, make sure the product doesn’t smell or has a strange consistency before using on your beloved pet.

Also Read: The Best Oat Hair Soaps (3 Important Buying Tips)

How to Tell If Shampoo Has Expired

Person squeezing shampoo in hand

Finding out if your shampoo has expired isn’t always as simple as it might seem. Especially as this kind of information is often left out on the bottle or container.

Even if it does contain information on how long after opening you can use the product, it might not be possible to work out the exact year that you purchased the product.

However, not all hope is lost. Here are 3 different ways that you can check the expiration of your shampoo:

1 Use Your Senses

Often, if a product has expired you will notice straight away just by the appearance and the smell.

When certain ingredients are exposed to the elements, it can cause a rancid smell.

Look out for any differences in the scent or the texture of the shampoo. This is usually a clear sign that the product needs to be disposed of.

2 Check The LOT Code On The Bottle

Unfortunately, the FDA does not require shampoo bottles to display an expiration date on the label. The responsibility, therefore, falls into the manufacturer’s hands instead.

Some companies fail to include any information regarding the expiration date, while some include a LOT of code.

This code can be used to find out information regarding the product – when and where it was manufactured.

So when looking for an expiry date, the first thing to check is either the side or on the bottom of the bottle.

There are websites, like Check Cosmetic, that allow you to search for a product and find out the shelf life.

Please note that information regarding newer brands might not be available on this website.

3 Look For The Container Icon

Another way to check the expiration date of your shampoo is to keep your eyes peeled for the container with a number inside.

This is usually located near the bottom and the typical numbers you will see will be, 6, 8, or 12.

This number gives you an indication of how long your shampoo will last.

For example, if the number 12 is displayed in the container icon, that means you have 12 months of use after opening.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Why Hair Products Stop Working

What Are Signs That My Shampoo Has Expired?

Thankfully, expired shampoo is likely to grab your attention because the signs are quite obvious.

Shampoo doesn’t simply stop working. Any changes in the effectiveness should be a sign that something is wrong with the product.

There Is A Strong Smell

If there is a foul smell or a strange smell then it’s important that you throw the product away immediately.

This smell is usually caused by expired chemicals in the shampoo formulas.

Sometimes, there will be no nasty aroma, but you might notice that the scent isn’t as strong as it once was. This is also a sign that the product is past its use-by date.

The Colour Seems Off

Some shampoos will change in color due to the oxidation process. This means that it will no longer be safe to use on your hair and scalp.

Keep your eyes peeled for any changes in color, particularly if it turns to yellow and it’s accompanied by a weird smell. These are tell-tale signs your shampoo is ready to be thrown out.

Consistency of Product Has Changed

Another key sign to look out for is any separation of the product.

When the stabilizers that are often added to shampoo lose their potency this can lead to changes in the texture and consistency.

There might be a graininess to the product or it simply feels different from how it usually would.

Any changes, big or small, should be taken into consideration before you continue to use the product.

Also Read: 5 Important Signs There’s Too Much Protein In Your Hair

What Happens If I Use Expired Shampoo?

Now you know that shampoo does expire and you’re aware of the signs to look out for, you might be wondering what would happen if you ignored those signs and continued to use the product.

Let’s take a look.

Shampoo Is Less Effective

At the very least, the shampoo won’t perform in the way it’s supposed to.

For instance, a shampoo that is made to tackle frizzy or dry hair might not be effective at controlling this as the product will have undergone a chemical change the older it gets.

If you have color-treated hair then it’s important that you opt for a shampoo that’s going to help your color last as long as possible.

However, if you’re using expired old shampoo, it’s unlikely that the ingredients will be as functional as they once were.

They might not even react to your hair! That means your color-treated hair will get dull much faster.

Hair May Not Get Clean

When using an expired product, it’s simply not going to do the job very well.

This means that your hair and scalp won’t be completely free of oil, bacteria, and left-over products, and this can certainly lead to problems.

If your hair and scalp aren’t thoroughly cleaned it can lead to a dry scalp, dandruff, itchiness, and hair breaking.

Although you might be hesitant to throw away a bottle of shampoo that still has lots of product left inside, it’s not worth the potential risks it poses to your hair.

Bacterial Infection

Depending on how long you’ve kept the bottle of shampoo and the ingredients inside, using this expired product can even lead to more serious problems like a bacterial infection of the scalp.

Scalp infections are caused by bacteria being able to accumulate in the shampoo bottle for long periods of time.

A scalp infection can lead to open sores and irritation. In worst cases, expired shampoo can even cause hair loss.

Infections can easily spread to other parts of the body. It’s therefore worth noting that if you have any reason to suspect that your shampoo is expired, stop using it immediately, particularly if you have sensitive skin.

Also Read: Protein vs Deep Conditioning Hair Treatments – Which Do I Need?

How To Make Shampoo Last For Longer

Many shampoos contain different ingredients, meaning that some will have a longer shelf life than others.

Gentle, natural formulas are likely to expire much faster, even when they stored correctly.

However, there are some ways that you can make the most out of your shampoo.

Handle With Care

Exposure to heat can harm the effectiveness of your favorite shampoo and can cause bacteria to harbor. Keep it stored somewhere that is cool.

It’s important to note that certain shampoos have to be handled differently to others. For instance, shampoo bars need exposure to air for them to last longer.

If they are kept in right wrapped or containers where no air can get to them, then they will likely become unusable very quickly.

Pay attention to the ingredients and the type of shampoo you’re using as this determines how you handle and store the product.

Store Appropriately

In most cases, shampoo should be stored in a cool, dark place and kept away from direct sunlight.

Some shampoos can deteriorate a lot faster if they are frequently exposed to light as well, so storing them in a cupboard would be a good idea to prolong the shelf life.

Choose Sensible Product Containers

When choosing shampoo products, you might opt for one with a pump dispenser, as this minimizes contact with your hands.

As you know, our hands can harbor bacteria, and every time you dip your fingers into the shampoo bottle or pour some of the excess product back into the bottle, you are contaminating it.

You want to ensure that very little bacteria, water, and oxygen is entering the bottle if you want to expand the shelf life.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on 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.