Do Conditioners Expire? How Do You Know When They’ve Gone Bad?

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It’s pretty common for people to use their shampoo much more quickly than their conditioner. Lots of us don’t like to condition every time we shampoo. Consequently, conditions can stick around for a long time.

Depending on the length of your hair and the amount of shampoo versus conditioner used, you could easily go through 3-4 bottles of shampoo for each bottle of conditioner.

Do conditioners expire? How do you know when they’ve expired?

Yes, conditioners definitely expire.

  • Most shampoos and conditioners are designed to last 18 months or so
  • They will typically last up to 36 months if they have not been opened at all.
  • Like most health care and beauty products, your shower essentials, including your conditioner, shampoo, and shower gels, can all expire. 

In this article, we will provide some guidelines to help you figure out when your conditioner may need to be replaced, as well as discuss the concerns associated with using an expired hair care product. 


Does Conditioner Expire?

Manufacturers generally indicate the expected expiry date in the form of a date stamp located near the barcode or UPC.

Brands and medical professionals agree that most hair care products are designed to last between 18 months for products that have already been opened or used and up to three years for products that are still factory sealed. 

Manufacturers generally indicate the expected expiry date in the form of a date stamp located near the barcode or UPC.

Products that have been opened are susceptible to bacterial contamination once the seal is broken and will still expire faster, even if the product remains closed. 


How to Check the Expiration Date of Your Conditioner 

Biolage Hair Conditioner

Most manufacturers provide an expiration date on the bottle, similar to other common cosmetic products, and that’s the best place to start looking.

Products that go beyond that specified date are questionable. They may be fine, but you run the risk of things going wrong.

If the manufacturer did not provide an expiration date on the bottle, here are a few other things you can look for: 

Some manufacturers indicate the time the product should be fully used or discarded once opened rather than an exact date. This is usually displayed as a number found near the barcode or UPC of the product, inside a triangle or square-shaped figure.

The number generally reads as 6, 12, or 18, which depicts the number of months that the product is recommended to be used once opened. 

The number generally reads as 6, 12, or 18, which depicts the number of months that the product is recommended to be used once opened. 

If no date or number tag is present, another method is to inspect the contents. Conditioner that has expired will have an unusual texture between your fingers. You may also notice lumps in the liquid, which is a common sign of something that has passed its shelf life. 

Lastly, hair products that have expired will often no longer possess their original scent and may smell funny or acrid.

While using the texture and smell as indicators may prove helpful, bear in mind that conditioners can still have expired long before the texture and smell change becomes apparent. 


Risks of Using Expired Conditioner 

The risks of using expired hair care products are fairly similar to that of more common facial cosmetics. They will vary from person to person depending on their skin type and body reactions.

These concerns include: 

1. Clogged pores 

Expired conditioners can seep into the pores on your head and obstruct new hair formation and growth — the opposite of what many conditioners are made to do!

The blocked or affected hair growth has been known to cause the formation of pimples or bumps on the scalp. 

2. Skin infections 

The process of deterioration becomes concerning when bacteria begin to multiply in an old conditioner. Applying an expired conditioner to your hair means that you are introducing the bacteria directly to your skin which can easily lead to irritation or infection.

Those with more sensitive skin types are likely to experience more severe symptoms. 

3. Loss of hair

Exposing your scalp to an expired conditioner may cause significant damage to your existing hair, including long-term damage or even hair loss. This can be further worsened if your pores are also damaged, which may affect the ongoing growth of hair.

Exposing your scalp to an expired conditioner may cause significant damage to your existing hair, including long-term damage or even hair loss.


Can I Extend the Shelf Life of a Conditioner?

Once opened, there isn’t much you can do to stop your conditioner from eventually expiring. It’s been exposed to air, and usually water.

Hair care products can also expire well before the date stated on the product, but it is not common for this to happen. There are a few things that you can keep in mind to ensure that you get the maximum shelf life possible. 

Sprays and Tubes

Opt for products that come in spray-type containers or tubes. These types of containers are better at reducing the amount of air and bacteria that can enter it to cause your product to go bad faster. 

Don’t Mix Your Liquids

Do not mix or add other liquids, chemicals, or other hair care products to your open container. Many people tend to top up their existing bottle of conditioner with water or a new refill. This may lead to the bit of conditioner left at the bottom of the bottle expiring and contaminating the new conditioner each time your refill. 

Store Them Thoughtfully

Store your hair care products in a cool, dry place — maybe don’t leave an unsealed bottle of dripping wet conditioner in the shower. Additionally, direct exposure to the sun and excessive warmth speeds up the process of expiration. 


Alternate Uses for Expired Hair Care Products

Before you decide to chuck your expired bottle of shampoo or conditioner away, you may want to consider how you can still use them, albeit for a different purpose. Here’s a list of things you can use old hair care products for: 

  • Makeup removal
  • Softening paint brushes
  • Washing delicates such as lingerie, lace, and silk products
  • Polishing brass, stainless steel, or silverware 
  • Reduces the sound of squeaky door hinges
  • Helps smooth cracked heels and cuticles 

Conclusion

Hair care products have a shelf life very similar in length to other common facial and hair cosmetics. Manufacturers generally (but not always) indicate the expected expiration date in the form of a date stamp located near the barcode or UPC.

As a general rule of thumb, you should not use a shampoo or conditioner after 18 months of it initially being opened, or three years from the time it was purchased if it was never opened. 

Using an expired conditioner can have several negative effects on the user’s hair and scalp. However, it can be used for several other household and beauty purposes that will not cause any bodily harm.  

Written by Kayla Young

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