Does Hair Dye Expire?

So, you’re thinking about switching up your look for the umpteenth time, and it’s your lucky day. After all, you just found a box of awesome hair dye in the back of your bathroom cabinet. But then you realize you bought it years ago. Now, you’re wondering if it’s safe to use and whether or not hair dye expires.

If you’ve just uncovered a box of hair dye you bought forever ago, you can still technically use it. According to manufacturers, unopened hair dye never expires. However, the quality deteriorates after three years. I.E., that fire engine red hair you’ve been dreaming of might not be as vibrant.

Curious about whether hair dye actually expires? Then keep reading!

Does Hair Dye Expire?

Technically, no, hair dye does not “expire,” but it’s not recommended to use it beyond the three-year mark. As a general rule, hair dye’s quality deteriorates after three years (as long as it is stored in a cool and dry place away from heat and humidity). 

Is it still safe to use? Yes, but you might not get the results you want. You likely won’t get the results you’re looking for. 

If it’s been over three years, or you can’t remember when you purchased your boxed hair dye, I recommend buying a new box. After all, who wants to go through all the trouble to end up with lackluster locks? I certainly don’t! Save your time (and energy) and buy a new box.

Signs of Expired Hair Dye

Hair dye isn’t like your favorite coffee creamer. It will not emit a rotten odor or turn chunky when it’s “expired.” This can make it challenging to know whether or not you should still use your boxed hair dye.

While hair dye likely won’t show any signs of spoilage (even after three years), there are a few apparent indicators to look out for, such as:

1. Open Containers

Unfortunately, open containers do not have the same longevity as unopened boxes of hair dye. If your containers have been opened, they need to be used ASAP. If you found this box of hair dye hiding somewhere in your bathroom, and it’s opened, it’s best to toss it.

2. Unusual Smell

Again, hair dye isn’t like a dairy product, so you shouldn’t be looking for a putrid smell. Instead, you should look for an “odd” smell, such as overly strong or sour. Essentially, the ammonia scent won’t smell as it should.

3. Odd Color

You know exactly what color you want your hair to be – hello, it’s that dreamy color the model’s showcasing on the front of the box! But if your dye doesn’t have the correct shade, don’t use it. Something’s gone haywire, and you need to buy a new box.

4. Separated Liquid

Double-check that liquid, hon. Does it look like it’s separated oddly? Then it’s expired. Don’t try to mix it and hope for the best. This is your hair we’re talking about, and you don’t want to ruin those precious strands accidentally.

5. Broken Bottle

Glance over your bottle real quick, babe. Do you see any cracks? Even the most minor cracks can cause issues, even if it’s not leaking. Ditch it and start fresh!

6. Caking Around the Cap

Take a closer look at the cap. If there’s any sign of cake – and I don’t mean delicious birthday cake – you must toss it.

7. Faded Box

If your box has apparent signs of fading, I’m going to guess that it’s been sitting in your bathroom for way too long. That, or it’s been exposed to heat and/or light for an extended period. Either way, a faded box is a huge sign that the hair dye is old and shouldn’t be used on your tresses.

Why You Should Not Use “Expired” Hair Dye

If your hair dye is older than three years, I don’t recommend using it. Although it’s been deemed safe to use and won’t damage your hair, there are a few things that can go haywire, including:

1. It Won’t Work

The biggest issue with using “old” hair dye is that it might not work. So, you’ll go through the entire dying process, only to end up with the same hair you started with. Talk about a disappointment.

2. The Color Won’t Be as Vibrant

Another primary concern is that the color won’t be as vibrant as you want it to be. It will likely be a darker or more subtle, less lively shade. And let’s be honest here, girls – who wants to color their hair and finish with a sub-par hue? No, thanks.

3. Uneven Coloring

Even perfect application can be detrimental when you’re using “expired” (old) hair dye. The possible result? Uneven coloring. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a literal hair nightmare. Two-toned, three-toned, and four-toned locks aren’t cute.

4. Green Discoloration

Um, green hair? Yeah – it’s a possibility with old hair dye. While it’s more likely to happen to women with light hair colors (blonde, white, gray), nobody should risk it.

5. Allergic Reaction

To be fair, an allergic reaction from boxed hair dye can occur whether it’s old or not. However, it may be more likely to arise from “expired” boxes. 

If you apply your hair dye and notice some burning, redness, hives, itching, or even breathing trouble, you’re likely allergic to the boxed hair dye. Note that allergic reactions can show up as many as seven days post-application.

Seek professional help if you’re experiencing severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing.


Well, ladies, what have we learned? Boxed hair dye doesn’t go bad, but you shouldn’t use it beyond three years. If you want to keep learning about this topic, check out these great questions below, asked by readers just like you!

Does hair dye have an expiration date?

Technically, unopened hair dye doesn’t have an “expiration date.” In fact, you likely won’t find an expiration date listed anywhere on the packaging, as it’s not required by the FDA (although some companies do it out of courtesy). The rule is that it deteriorates after three years.

When should you throw away hair products?

Unopened hair products, such as boxed hair dye, should be thrown away after the three-year mark. Once opened, it needs to be used as soon as possible, although many products can last up to a year after being opened (with proper storage, of course).

Does shampoo really expire?

Shampoo is another product with impressive longevity. Unopened, it should be used within four years. Once opened, it’s best to use it within a year. This will ensure it is at its peak of freshness, leaving your hair beautiful and clean!

Hair Dye Shouldn’t Be Used After Three Years

While hair dye technically doesn’t “expire” and won’t damage your mane, I don’t recommend using it beyond the three-year mark. In fact, I always say that “fresh is best.” So, ditch the old, forgotten box of hair dye and buy a new box. Your hair will thank you.

Have you ever used hair dye beyond the three-year mark? What happened to your locks? We want to hear from you, so comment in the section below!

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