Does Shampoo Expire? Shelf Life & Reading Expiration Dates

A shampoo is one of those beauty items that most ladies cannot stay without. Being a popular hair product, it is important to understand its shelf life so as avoid wastage or using a harmful expired product.

Read on to learn if hair shampoo does expire, how to tell it’s out of date, how to check and read expiration date codes and the side effects of using it in a stale condition.

Does Shampoo Expire?

Yes, similar to perishable and processed goods, shampoo as well expires. The only unfortunate thing is that some of these products will not indicate to its customers on the due date.


Well, adding expiration dates is a mandatory requirement by the FDA, Foods, and Drug Administration, who only regulate food items. Beauty products, hair care essentials, and personal items and accessories are not therefore controlled by them, hence not mandatory to add dates to the product.

Luckily, some brands will add the manufacturing and expiration dates out of courtesy. It could be in any of these two ways;

  • Period after opening (PAO)
  • Expiration codes

You shall read about these two methods shortly.

What is Shelf Life of Shampoo?

Shelf life refers to the period of use of a particular product – how fresh a product is before it turns stale. For food items like milk or bread,  their shelf life could be one to five days.

But for shampoo, they last even up to three years. This, however, means that the product has used a substantial amount of preservatives to make it stay that long.

Hair Shampoo photos

How to Determine the Shelf Life of Shampoo

As mentioned earlier, many brands will add a period after opening mark to indicate just how long the product can remain fresh and usable once it’s exposed to the environment.

How to Find the Mark

Look at the bottle on the lower side just under the instructions or next to the scan bar – you will see a picture of a container with a number inside. The mark mostly lies in the right-hand corner of the shampoo bottle.

The number indicated in the container is the number of months it can remain usable until it goes stale. The number could read 3, 6, 9, 12, or 18.

What Factors Determine the Shelf life of the Shampoo?

Several factors that could either favor or expedite the shelf life of shampoo. They include;

Type of shampoo

Not by a difference in brands but the nature of the shampoo. Is it natural or manufactured? Many people love to use natural products and remedies for their hair, but they tend to expire faster than the processed kind. This is because they have no added preservatives or additives.

Type of packaging

creams like shampoos packed in bottles have a shorter shelf life than sprayed-on dry shampoos. Aerosol shampoos contain alcohol, which not only makes it stay longer, but being in a spray can – they also have minimal exposure to air.

Bacteria will, therefore, not be spread by people touching the shampoo now and then, leaving it fresher for longer.

Environmental exposure

you will open the shampoo one time after you buy it. But what increases or decreases its shelf life is where you store it after it’s open. If you consistently leave it in the bathroom where there are high levels of humidity – it may go stale faster. Most manufacturers will indicate that it’s to be stored in a cool, dry place.

How Do You Know If a Shampoo is Expired?

Here’s a scenario where your shampoo bottle doesn’t have any expiration code, no period after opening mark, or anything to indicate its shelf life. What next?

In most cases, there’s always a way to smell a rat, literally. The shampoo will give off some signs to indicate that its past due it’s usable time. Here are some ways you can know if your shampoo has expired;

1. The smell of the Shampoo

When most products go stale, they give off an unpleasant or strange odor. That’s also similar with shampoo. Many of you will opt for a shampoo that has a strong lavender scent so when your done cleaning your hair, it maintains that scent.

Well, to know if the shampoo has gone stale, the lavender scent will decrease or flatten completely. Meaning you won’t even smell anything. Worst case, it might smell awful.

2. Change in Color

Next up, the color. Again with the same example, your shampoo could have a green hue, probably because it’s fresh avocado shampoo. After the due date, the shampoo could start changing color to dark green or even black.

The bolding of color from its original hue indicates that the preservatives have outlived their shelf life, and now the shampoo is decomposing. It’s probably best to throw it out.

This, however, is not a 100% sign because some products tend to change color upon exposure to air or sunlight, so if you’ve not stayed long with the shampoo, it’s probably still okay to use.

3. Nature of Reaction

Soap, shampoo, and other cleaning agents are meant to lather when water is added. If your shampoo fails to create foam, it could be another sign. This also goes hand in hand with the need to use the shampoo more often than usual because the results are unsatisfactory.

When the shampoo goes bad, it means the active ingredients in the product no longer work. Hence, it may not clean your hair as effectively as it used to.

How to Read Shampoo Expiration Date Codes

Another way you can determine the shelf life of shampoo is through the expiration date codes. These are alphanumeric models written or engraved on the bottle to indicate how long the shampoo will stay fresh. The cryptic code will contain batch codes that indicate when the product was manufactured, so you can not only test the authenticity of the product but also estimate it’s due date.

1. Code One

The first type of code is the Julian date code. This is a seven-digit code found at the back of the box that is used to trace back the manufacturing date of the product.

A sample of this code is 0801424 – the first three numbers (080) point to the day of the year it was produced. That is around March 20th/ 21st. The next two digits will indicate the year, and the final two for the batch number. This code then translates to March 21st, 2014, batch number 24.

2. Code Two

Another method used by brands is substituting alphabets for months. For example, A stands for January, B for February and so on. The next numbers following the letter will indicate the year. For example, D14 – April 2014.

No matter how often this code is, deciphering the code may be difficult than you presume. This is because, in some cases, C doesn’t automatically mean March. There’s an insequential pattern where F is for May, H – June, K – July, M – August, R – September, T – October, V – November, and X – December.

3. Code Three

In some cases, there’s six-digit code, which denotes MMDDYY. This is also a prevalent code used even by the FDA to add to food items.


Now let’s see some of the commonly asked questions.

Is it Safe to Use Expired Shampoo?

Safe is rather a far fetched word to use. It’s not safe to use the expired shampoo because the added preservatives and additives could change course for worse. The chemical compound could change, causing adverse effects to your hair and scalp.

However, the effects of using expired shampoo may not weigh anything. Meaning it simply won’t do its work on cleansing the hair. Even so, its is unsafe and unhealthy to use expired shampoo on your hair 

Can Expired Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?

In rare cases, you may experience hair loss. This is greatly attributed to the chemicals used to manufacture the shampoo. You may know that’s there are different types of shampoo – for deep cleansing, getting rid of oils, or light pooing kinds.

For the strong kinds like deep cleansing, the chemicals may cause you to experience severe effects on your hair from a change in hue to even hair loss. It is, however, not guaranteed.

Does Expired Shampoo Cause Itchy Scalp?

Yes, it does. Most shampoos are calming, which is why they can also condition the hair. But when you use the shampoo past its dates, the ph balance will be off-balance making it more basic or acidic. This then causes you to have more dandruff on your scalp, and consequently, an irritated or itchy scalp.

Does Shampoo Expire If Unopened?

It depends on the type of shampoo, but the clear answer is no. For most period-after-opening kinds of shampoos,  the chemical elements in the product remains balanced and safe as long as it has not yet been exposed to the environment. So if left unopened, then it’s expiration isn’t even a factor to consider.

Does Shampoo Go Bad in Heat?

Yes, heat tends to cause reactions to chemicals. They decompose, degenerate,  and even rot with extended periods of exposure to sunlight. This is why some shampoos will turn color, smell, and also expire due to oxidation that limited the abilities of the preservatives. Either wa, store in a cool, dry place for better results.

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