Hair Coloring

Does Hair Dye Expire? Learn From My Story

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If you dye your hair religiously, something like this must have happened to you: you buy a new dye product and keep it on your shelf for whatever reason, forget about it for a couple of months, come about it by accident, and then start wondering: does hair dye expire? We’ll answer your question.

Yes, most hair dyes expire 2-4 years after their day of production, but they sometimes become unusable even before that expiry date, due to certain environmental, physical, and chemical factors.

This post will teach you all you need to know about hair dye expiring, how long they take to expire, the factors that speed up their expiry, and how to prevent yours from quickly expiring.

does hair dye expire 

My Experience With Expired Hair Dye (Story)

In early December towards the Christmas season, the demand for gold color hair dye increased in our salon. So, my boss went to Onitsha’s market and bought about 30 different colors of hair dye from different brands.

Due to the insanely high demand, we sold all the dye packets weeks before Christmas, and the demand was still high. So my boss had to go back to the market for more.

He still sold almost all of them to customers and colleagues (hairstylists)

Fast forward to two days before Christmas, every salon around was busy as hell, filled with customers. That day at night, I sold the last gold dye. No more gold dyes?

More customers kept asking me to get their hair colored gold that night. So I went to our inner store shelf to confirm if there was any dye left.

Hopefully, I found one already opened and used. So I brought it out and opened the dye container. However, I had to close the container immediately as it was oozing an offensive odor.

I wasn’t sure something was wrong with the dye. I’ve used many putrid-smelling dyes, even when they are new (especially black dyes).

I wanted to confirm if it will still work on hair.  Not wanting to experiment with a client’s hair, I took it outside with some hair I cut out from one of my clients, mixed the dye, and applied it to the hair. After a few minutes, I washed the hair.

However, I got no conclusive results, as the hair was too short to show the results of any coloration clearly. So, I decided to make a bold move and patch test on… You guessed it: MY HAIR!

So I mixed the dye normally and applied a small portion to my hair.

Guess what happened next:

I had to wash the dye off quickly, as it started giving me an unbearing burning sensation.

I know I wasn’t allergic to that hair dye, I’ve used it multiple times before. The dye also didn’t have too much contact with my scalp as my hair wasn’t too low, so what could be the cause of the reaction?

Many more questions kept running through my mind until I decided to check the expiry date.

Boom! It has expired four months after last year’s Christmas.

I threw the dye into the waste bin. The burning pain lasted for two hours or thereabouts and I still didn’t get the gold color the dye promised on my hair. I’m not sure if the burning sensation was from the developer or colorant; all I know is they were both from the same manufacturer.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of my interesting but rather painful story.

It was only a short while later, during the research for this article that I learned that I got off easy; the burning sensation is only one of the numerous negative effects of using expired dye.

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about expired dyes and the effects of using them.

Let’s jump in.

Quick Bites:

Factors Affecting Hair Dye Expiry Date

There are a number of factors that affect how long it takes hair dye to expire, whether its container is open or closed. For easier understanding, I’ve categorized these factors into three:

1. Physical Factors

Hair dyes tend to spoil fast if exposed to physical matter like air, dirt, water, and sand. If you notice any third-party material has fallen into the container, try to remove it as soon as possible to prevent spoilage.

2. Environmental Factors

Humidity, temperature, and climate fall under this category. These environmental factors can gradually rearrange the chemical state composition of hair dye, rendering it useless at best and dangerous in the worst-case scenario.

That’s why manufacturers advise storing hair dye in a cool and dry place and, most importantly, keeping it away from children.

3. Chemical Factors

Some chemicals in hair dye lose their properties after some time, even if the hair dye remains sealed. Most hair dyes carry an expiry date for this reason, but some factors can also speed it up.

For instance, exposing the dye to either too high or too low a temperature impacts its chemical properties, making it something entirely different. The chemical change is one of the reasons you may have heard of hair dyes exploding; and yes, hair dyes do explode.

Note: Both organic and natural dyes expire, although their expiry effects may be different.

Why Do Some Hair Dyes Lack Expiry Dates?

If you use dyes often, you may have noticed that some have no expiry dates. As expected, this may cause you to wonder, if hair dye expires, why do some hair dyes not have expiry dates?

The reason is simple: many manufacturers claim their dyes never expire as long as they’re sealed and stored properly. However, they typically admit the efficacy may reduce over time, but the dye shouldn’t pose any danger to your hair or scalp when used.

While your hair dye may not have an official expiry date, you should generally avoid using any that’s over three years old. Also, if a hair dye pack has been exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold, it’s best to simply avoid it.

Side Effects Of Expired Hair Dye.

The side effects of using expired hair dye depend on several factors, including the chemicals present in the dye, how long it has expired, your hair’s porosity, scalp sensitivity, and many more.

Generally, here are the common side effects of using expired hair dye:

  • Expired hair dye can cause itching, burning, and swollen scalp.
  • It can cause significant hair loss.
  • Some dyes cause discoloration after expiry. Some color your hair in an undesirable hue.
  • If the expired dye works, it’ll likely fade away quickly.

How to Identify Expired Hair Dye (No Expiry Date Required)

It’s relatively easy to identify expired here dye. Here are some noticeable characteristics common among hair dyes past their expiry:

  • Putrid smell. While not all foul-smelling dyes are expired, a strong offensive odor is a dead giveaway that a dye is bad.
  • A swollen container. If the container appears swollen, there’s a decent chance that the dye has gone bad.
  • Expired dyes also tend to look watery and appear to be coming apart.

Final Thoughts

To avoid (or at least, minimize) the potentially dangerous side-effects of using expired hair dye, ensure you never skip the recommended patch test before applying any new hair product on your hair. Also, when you’re not sure for how long a dye has been open, it’s almost certainly unsafe.

Finally, always read the instructions on your hair dyes and check the best before dates to see if it’s still good for use.

Now I also would love to hear from you.

Do you have a similar experience with expired hair dye?

Or maybe you have something else in mind to tell us, do well by leaving a comment below right now.

Most importantly, if you find the post helpful, then don’t forget to share it on any of your favorite social media.

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I am Stanley. A Unisex Hairstylist, Writer, and book lover. After 12 months of the apprenticeship program as a stylist, I started working with my boss for an extra one year. This time frame made me accumulate knowledge and experience in the hair industry, of which I will love to share with friends all over the world through my blog.

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