Managing the various dates in your diary can feel like a full-time job. Anniversaries, deadlines, vacation dates, your aunt's birthday — it hardly seems fair that you have to keep an eye on your beauty products' expiration dates too!

But, paying attention to the shelf life of your shampoo and conditioner is important. That half-empty shampoo bottle that's been sitting in your shower (we've all been there) for months and months? Use it, and you could experience less-than-effective results or realize a little too late it's gone bad — like when it's on your head. Not cool.

If you've never paid attention to your hair care products' expiration dates, now's a good time to start. Before you lather up, read on to find out about using expired shampoos, how to know whether hair products are past their prime and what could affect the shelf life of your favorite shampoo.

How Do I Know If My Shampoo Is Expired?

It makes sense that you won't want to put shampoo and conditioner on your hair if it smells bad or looks visibly off, but it's not always that obvious. Did you know that a product can be rendered useless long before it shows signs of deterioration?

What makes it even trickier is that manufacturers of shampoos, conditioners and other personal care products aren't legally required by the Food and Drug Administration to label their products with an expiration date.

The FDA considers the expiration date the manufacturer's responsibility, so it's up to them to let consumers know how long a product is safe to use. Though it's not legally required, a good hair product or beauty brand will include a 'period after opening' suggestion, which refers to the length of time a product will continue to work once it's been opened.

Read: Can Hard Water in Your Shower Lead to Hair Loss?

Expiration Symbols

Tabitha Fredrichs, a certified trichologist based at the Christopher J Salon in Plymouth, Minnesota, explained to VEGAMOUR, "There is usually a little open jar symbol on the product that indicates how many months shampoo and conditioner are good for after opening. It will say 12M, 18M or 24M. This stands for 12 months, 18 months and 24 months."

Fredrichs continued, "If you get a bottle that has been opened or used, then you can always check the stamped numbers on the bottom of the bottle. These numbers indicate the batch number. You can check these numbers on sites like checkfresh.com to see when the product was made.

What Does Expired Shampoo Look Like?

"If you open a bottle and it has a bad odor, or the consistency isn't like it should be, then it's expired or has been contaminated," said Fredrichs. Some other indications that your shampoo and conditioner have gone past its use-by date could include:

  • Discoloration
  • Lumpy consistency
  • Less-effective results
  • A sticky feeling
  • No lather
  • Use results in an itchy scalp 

Also: This Is What a Healthy Scalp Looks Like

How Long Does Shampoo Last?

A lot of things can affect the shelf life of your shampoos. Not all of them are within your control, but some of them certainly are. To help your shampoo and conditioner retain effectiveness, be sure to:

  • Keep your shampoo away from direct sunlight or intense heat.
  • Close the lid properly after you've finished using your hair product.
  • Avoid getting water in the shampoo bottle.
  • Keep your shampoo product in a dark, cool place.

A shampoo can last anything from six months to 18 months — sometimes even 24 months. Cosmetologist and hair expert Ghanima Abdullah advised, "Shampoo will usually last three years if you don't open it, and only two if you do."

Read: 9 Ingredients in Shampoo to Avoid

Preservatives and the Shelf Life of Shampoo

If you prioritize your hair's wellness, you might purchase products that don't include preservatives such as parabens. Parabens are a synthetic antimicrobial substance that's found in many drugstore personal care products. They can help extend the life of your shampoo product.

While they might make your shampoo last a bit longer, you might also experience skin irritation and discomfort over time if you continue to use products with parabens.

VEGAMOUR products are made without chemical preservatives to help keep your body happy and your hair healthy and nourished. GRO Revitalizing Shampoo contains no know toxins or hormones and is free of GMOs, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, silicones, mineral oils, gluten and synthetic fragrance. Formulated with powerful plant-based ingredients, the shampoo lasts beautifully for six months.

Discover: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?

What Happens If You Use Expired Shampoo?

Using a shampoo that's past its best-before date can leave your hair looking dull and lifeless. When the ingredients are no longer in their active phase, the shampoo could simply stop working. That's right; you could waste precious time washing your hair with a shampoo that isn't doing anything!

Miami-based U.S. board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon explained, "A shampoo may not be as effective if expired. Since you wash it off, it is unlikely to be harmful. However, it may not do its job of cleansing, clarifying or preserving hair color as well as it should."

If you use expired shampoo on colored hair, it probably won't negatively affect it — but won't help it either. The worst-case scenario is the expired formula reacts negatively to the chemicals in your dye and alters the color of your hair. The same goes for shampoo bars, clarifying shampoos and shampoo specifically made for color-treated hair. If you're worried because you've used expired shampoo, always contact the manufacturer for further details.

Don't Miss: VEGAMOUR's GRO vs. GRO+ Advanced Hair Products — How to Choose

Is It Safe to Use Shampoo After the Expiration Date?

"Like any other personal care product, once the preservatives are no longer effective, the shampoo expires. Mold and bacteria start developing after that point, which could cause bacterial breakouts on the skin or even fungal infections in the scalp," Abdullah said.

You could potentially experience dry skin and irritation if you continue to use an expired shampoo, but it will simply stop being effective in most cases. You might experience more knots than usual, and your hair might look dull because you're not washing the debris away.

If you've been using an expired shampoo unknowingly, you might need to detoxify your scalp to help keep your hair and scalp healthy. The GRO Scalp Detoxifying Serum works to absorb excess oils while reducing scalp irritation and stimulating the skin's natural moisturizing factor. It can help clarify any scalp buildup you've experienced while using an expired shampoo.

The best solution for old shampoo is pretty simple — chuck it in the trash. As frustrating as it is to waste money on products that don't get used, you don't want to risk the health of your hair and skin trying to empty that neverending bottle. Empty the content into the sink, rinse the bottle and then dispose of it in the recycling bin. And do your best to keep an eye on expiration dates in the future.

Ready for a New Shampoo? We've Got You Covered

VEGAMOUR GRO Revitalizing Shampoo & ConditionerIf you're reading this, it sounds like it's out with the old and in with the new. VEGAMOUR's GRO Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner is unlike anything you've ever used. Featuring Karmatin™ — a microencapsulated vegan b-sil™ protein, this shampoo & conditioner duo is instant good karma for your hair! 

Because of its small molecular size, Karmatin™ bonds to the hair, filling in tiny cracks and crannies to give an instant, glass-like feel. Unlike animal keratins used in non-vegan hair products, Karmatin™ doesn’t harm animals, and also doesn’t rinse away before it can repair damaged hair. Karmatin™ bonds to hair and remains attached to your strands even after rinsing. Karmatin™ deeply nourishes needy strands, protects hair from external aggressors like chlorine and sun, and keeps color vibrant.

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Photo credit: Igor Vershinsky/iStock

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