Girl Dyeing Her Hair

So, you’ve had this packet of hair dye in your cabinet drawer for a while and the original box is already gone.

This means you do not know the expiration date, if there is any.

This makes you wonder about the answer to the question: Does hair dye expire?

If you feel you are wasting money throwing what you think is still suitable hair dye, you should continue reading this article.

How Long Does Hair Dye Last

According to manufacturers, hair dye does not expire. You can still use it even after many years and it will not cause any adverse effects.

This is because no organic compounds in hair dye will cause it to deteriorate over time, even if it is no longer at its prime. If the product is properly sealed and stored, it should be good to use, theoretically.

However, the manufacturers also say that hair dye does have a maximum shelf life of 3 years. This only means that this type of hair product will work as intended within the first three years.

After the “best by” date, it may not provide the expected results. If you are thinking of using that box of hair dye that has been sitting in your cabinet for many years, you might want to change your mind.

5 Signs That Your Hair Dye Has Expired

It is a good practice to use hair dye that is still within the “best by” date. Now, how can you tell if your hair dye is still usable? If the product has not been stored correctly or if it has been tampered with, it might not be safe to use.

Here are the signs that your hair dye may no longer be usable and has expired:

Damaged Packaging

The packaging is already damaged. If only the outer box packaging is ripped and damaged, it should not be that big of an issue.

However, if the plastic packaging holds the ripped hair dye powder, thereby exposing the contents to the atmosphere, you should not risk using the product anymore.

Opened Bottle

This means the container or bottle is already opened. If you are using a liquid hair dye and you can tell that the product was opened quite a long time ago, it probably is not that safe to use anymore.

Even if the cap is replaced tightly, it is not quite as airtight as it was when it was unopened.

Change in Consistency

The hair dye may have also expired if you notice a drastic change in consistency. For instance, if a product that was supposed to have a thick consistency has become runny, you should not be using it anymore.

In addition, if you see that the hair dye has separated, throw it away immediately.

Intense Bad Smell

When you open the packaging and are immediately hit by an intensely bad smell, you probably should not continue using said hair dye. If it smells very different from the smell you are familiar with, it may have already expired.

Dark Once Mixed

When you use hair dye, the color should be pretty light when you mix the dye with the developer. If the resulting mixture turns darker than you expected, it is a sign that it is no longer safe to use on your hair.

Mixing Hair Color

Consequences of Using Expired Hair Dye

Won’t Work at All

If the hair dye you used is well beyond its “best by” date by a couple of years, you can’t expect it to work. Washing hair after coloring shows that your hair is still the same color it was before.

On top of that, you also might have damaged your hair a bit, so you won’t be able to color it properly for a while.

May Turn Hair a Different Color

Another risk of using old hair dye is that it might result in dyeing your hair a different color than what you thought it would.

For instance, the old hair dye initially said that it was mahogany brown, but when you used it, your hair turned a drab olive color, which is a nice hair color for blue eyes, but if you don’t have it, then it is unlucky.

Leaves Hair Unevenly Colored

Another risk of using expired hair is that it can leave your hair unevenly colored. The longer the hair dye has expired, the least effective it becomes at coloring the hair. It might leave you with patchy, dirty blonde hair when your target is platinum blonde since its overall quality is already affected.

Causes Serious Allergic Reactions

If you are mildly allergic to a particular hair dye, it will get exceedingly worse when you use an expired product. The same may happen if consumers use other hair products, like shampoo, already past their expiration date.

This is why you should not use any hair dye, regardless if it is expired or not, without doing a skin test for allergic reactions before using it. If you want to err on caution, dying the hair while it’s wet might minimize the allergic reactions you experience.

May Seriously Damage Your Hair

Using expired chemicals on your hair is not advisable as you cannot predict what they can do. Yes, there is a chance that the hair dye might work normally, but it is very slim.

What is more likely to happen is that your hair will get seriously and irreparably damaged, making your hair brittle and prone to breaking.

Causes Hair Loss

The hair strands are not the only ones getting damaged when you expose them to expired chemicals. The scalp will also get a fair bit of damage.

As mentioned earlier, you can experience severe allergic reactions, but there is also a risk of chemical burns if you are not careful. This will kill the hair follicles, which means they will not produce hair strands anymore.

Hair Loss

Best Way to Store It Before Opening

  • Store in a dry and cool place – Avoid storing unopened hair dyes in bathroom cabinets. The steam from your shower and bath does not make the bathroom an ideal storage environment for your hair dye. It is better to place it in the cupboard, where it will be kept dry and cool.
  • Take note of when you bought it – Keep unopened hair dye for no longer than three years. If the expiration date is in a not-so-conspicuous place, consider placing a strip of masking tape on the packaging and writing the date of purchase using a marker. The next time you feel like trying new hair color ideas, use the colors that were purchased the earliest.
  • Arrange your hair dyes properly – If you like changing your hair color frequently, you probably have boxes of hair dyes in your cabinet. If you do, arrange your hair dyes according to the date of purchase, with the older dyes in front so that you use them first before going on the newer dyes.
  • Make a regular inventory of your hair dyes – Check your stocks of hair dyes at least once a year. This way, you will know if you’ve been holding onto a hair dye package for too long. If it is nearing its “best by” date, decide whether to use it or throw it away.

Things to Consider

Possible Allergic Reactions

Make sure to check for allergies. Before you stock a particular brand of hair dye, ensure you are not allergic to it, even if it comes from reputable companies. Try a bit of the hair dye on your skin first and observe if you get any adverse reactions before deciding to buy more.

Even the top brands can contain allergens that may affect certain people.


Only use trusted brands of hair dye. If you have always been using a specific brand for years, there is no reason why you should not continue using it. However, if your usual hair dye brand does not carry the particular color you want, only buy from trusted commercial brands.

Printed Expiration Dates

To be sure, get only those products that have printed expiration dates. Some brands of hair dyes do not print expiration dates on their products because, as they claim, they do not expire.

However, even if this is true, it is better to have a product with at least a “best by” date.


How long does an opened hair dye stay usable?

If resealed and stored properly, you can still use the opened hair dye for up to six weeks. Reseal the tube and store it properly if you want it to last more than a month.

However, if you’re talking about two-part hair dye that’s already been mixed, use it within an hour. There is no saving it for later.

Why do some hair dyes not have expiration dates?

Some hair dyes, especially the powder ones that you must mix a bit of water too, have an incredibly long shelf life. They can still be technically usable even after three years on the shelf if stored properly.

These products are completely dehydrated so that they can last quite a long time, hence the lack of an expiration date.

How should I properly dispose of expired hair dye?

Put expired hair dye in a hazardous waste container and place them in the right disposal bin. Most hair dyes contain chemicals that can harm the environment when disposed of irresponsibly.

Does permanent hair dye expire?

Technically, as manufacturers claim, hair dye can last indefinitely. However, the problem is that hair dyes typically have three years where they work as intended.

After three years, it would typically be less effective. Usually, the color would be lighter and after more time passes, the hair dye won’t color your hair anymore.

How can I store my hair dye so it lasts longer?

To make your hair dye last longer, store the unopened packages someplace dry and cool. Do not keep your hair dye, especially the ones that were already opened, somewhere that is not humid.

The reason is that moisture is the enemy of hair dye, as it will cause it to start oxidizing quickly.

Anthony Giannotti

About the author: Anthony Giannotti

Anthony Giannotti is a senior writer and editor for Beardoholic and a licensed barber for more than 13 years. He owns 3 barbershops and has his own hair care product line that is sold in barbershops worldwide. Known for his impeccable technique and skills, Anthony is an expert in hair and beard care and he knows the best products and tools to get rid of all beard problems and have an amazing beard.

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