Does Hair Dye Expire? Here’s What You Need To Know.

Found a dusty old box of hair dye? The one that’s lived right at the back of the bathroom cupboard since you-can’t-remember-when?

Or maybe you’ve stocked up on a 3 for 2 hair dye deal and stashed a few forgotten boxes away? We’ve been there! But whatever the reason, you need to know, does hair dye expire?

The answer is, technically, NO!

If you look for a ‘Use by’ date, it’s likely you won’t find one on the box. This is because hair dye manufacturers believe that, stored correctly, a sealed hair dye box can last for over three years or more. Yippee!

can hair dye go out of date? twitter

Does hair dye expire?

When it’s been stored unopened and sealed: Guidance says hair dye can actually last as long as three years!

Up until then, it is considered safe to use – and beyond.

There’s no evidence that using expired hair dye is unsafe, but it might not work as effectively or last as long.

Does hair dye expire after opening it?

Yes! Hair dye is designed to be mixed together with the developer and applied to your hair within an hour.

After that, the solution becomes oxidised and the chemicals start losing their strength. If you have any hair dye left after the hour is up, it won’t keep (or work) so just throw it away!

Even natural hair dye products that don’t contain chemicals or preservatives will also go bad rapidly after they’re opened, no matter how they’re stored.

does hair dye expire someone dyeing their hair

Does permanent hair dye expire?

Fortunately, permanent hair dye does not go out of date. That means it doesn’t go bad or become ineffective over time.

In fact, the only thing that could happen to a box of permanent dye is that it might lose its strength over time due to exposure to light or heat. That’s why it’s important to store them in a cool place away from direct sunlight and high temperatures.

You should always follow the instructions on the box when applying permanent hair dye.

This includes reading all of the safety precautions and warnings before using any product, including how long to leave it in your hair and what type of shampoo to use after colouring.

What will happen if you use expired hair dye?

Using it is not likely to damage your hair by breaking it or making it fall out, but you may not get the colour results you were longing for.

The colour of the dye may come out darker, the dye may smell or you may find there are patches of colour after dyeing your hair because the chemicals have simply aged.

It’s always best to follow the package instructions, but sometimes people are unsure of what they should do.

There are some things you can try when deciding whether or not to use an old product.

  • If the packaging is unopened then it is probably okay.
  • You can also check with your hairdresser about how long an individual product lasts before becoming ineffective.
  • It’s a sensible idea to do a patch test before you use the hair dye, to test for allergies or any dodgy colour reactions.

Watch and learn: Here’s what happens when you use a 5+ year old hair dye!

Want to know what an expired hair dye looks like? Find out what happens when you use an old box dye!

Can you keep unused hair dye?

The answer is yes! It is possible to store hair dye, unopened, for up to 3 years in the right conditions.

Just store your unused hair dye in a cool place away from any direct sunlight or heat source as this could affect the quality of the product.

How to tell if your hair dye has expired?

There are a few tell-tale signs that your hair color might be past its prime.

First, take a look at the packaging. If it is damaged or appears to be deteriorating, it is probably time to toss it.

Second, give the dye a sniff. If it smells foul or off, it is no longer good to use.

Third, take a look at the color of the dye. If it has changed color or is no longer uniform, it has probably gone bad.

Finally, check the consistency of the dye. If it is lumpy or has separated, it is no longer usable.

Don’t forget!

Make sure to use your hair dye within one hour of mixing it. This is important, because hair dye can be dangerous if stored improperly and will have no shelf life if not used right away.

Parting words.

Yes, you can safely use that old box dye you’ve found, whether you bought in ’79 or 2009.

So go ahead and use up those boxes of hair colour sitting in your bathroom cabinet! You won’t have any problems with them going bad on you.

And remember – always follow the instructions for mixing the product before applying it! It will make all the difference when it comes to how well your colour turns out.

When in doubt, do a strand test to check the colour and a patch test to check for any allergic reactions. Or just go and treat yourself to a brand new box.

You can find out the answers to more common hair dye questions on our FAQs page.

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.