The mestiza muse

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I'm Verna,
Your Curly-Haired Friend.

Curly hair is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. It could be super-defined one day and a frizzy concoction the next day – and it's never exactly the same from one head to another. Our mission is to equip you with the necessary tools for restoring and maintaining healthy locks and celebrating the hair you were born with! 

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Curl care

I am highly experienced in the beauty industry and specialize in writing for brands and websites that focus on curly hair care. Moreover, I actually have curly hair and have curly-haired children with varying hair textures. I am also surrounded by curly-haired friends, including curly hairstylists and curly-haired family members. You get the point :) I’m well-versed in the language and nuances of curly hair care, styling tips, and product recommendations.

Furthermore, I collaborate with my friend who has a Ph.D. in organic and inorganic chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist to help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. He advises us on Hair Care Science to ensure we are well-informed.

Hi,I'm Verna

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Last Updated on April 10, 2023 by Verna Meachum

We all know that milk expires. You might not know that yogurt expires. But do hair products expire?

Turns out, they do – and you need to know what to do when they do!

If you can’t remember how long you’ve had that bottle of shampoo or conditioner sitting in your shower, it might be time to toss it out.

Hair care products have a shelf life, and once they expire, they can actually do more harm than good to your hair.

In this post, we’re going to teach you how to tell whether your hair products have expired, and what you can do with them when they have. So keep reading to learn more!

When Do Hair Products Expire?

Have you ever found yourself with a cabinet full of hair products that you don’t remember buying, and you’re not sure how long they’ve been there?

It can be easy to get carried away and buy a lot of new hair products, but we often forget to monitor how long we actually keep them.

The shelf life of most hair products is up to three years, although certain organic products have a shorter shelf life. After that, they can start to lose their potency and effectiveness.

Some hair products expire earlier than others products, like shampoos and conditioners. But other hair products like styling creams and gels can also go bad.

Hair products are vulnerable to microbial contamination. If they aren’t used up within a certain amount of time, bacteria can start to form and make the products unsafe for use.

In most of the products, water is the major portion of the formulation and hence provides a breeding ground for the growth of microbes.

Bacteria, fungi, and mold are the most frequent types of contamination seen in personal-care products. Preservatives are added to inhibit microbial growth and provide the product with a good shelf-life.

The formulation chemist examines each individual formulation and determines its shelf life, which involves a series of analytical studies challenging the product under a controlled environment to microbes and subsequently observing the response.

The main question is, how quickly do microbes grow? The answers are provided in time (in terms of days or months) and this data is subsequently processed to define the shelf-life.

According to the FDA, there are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels. However, manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe. 

The FDA says that under the law, some of the products commonly referred to as personal care products are cosmetics. These include, for example, skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polishes, eye and facial makeup, shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants, etc.

So, when does a product expire?

Unopened products do not have a finite shelf life, as long as they are stored in the right conditions.

The “Threshold Time” is the time period in which the product can remain “healthy” without any “microbial growth posing a hazard to the consumer and product performance.”

How to read the expiration date code on hair products

Read the label. Always check the expiry date (if it has one) when purchasing the hair product. This can usually be found on the bottom or back of the packaging.

In general, most unopened hair care and beauty items will remain usable on the shelf (shelf-life) for approximately 36 months.

So, how long (after purchasing) should you keep the product at home? Preferably it should be recently manufactured or should have at least two years of its expiry date left.

Never buy an expired product!

Discard any expired hair products you have. Never use it, though the product may look fine, it might have small microbial growth invisible to the naked eye.

These microbes can be detrimental to your scalp or skin and may cause dermatological problems.

Never use an expired product!!

What if there is no expiration date on the label?

If the hair products don’t have expiration dates, then look for a period-after-opening or PAO symbol.

PAO symbol found on hair products

Products with a PAO symbol have been tested for an estimated amount of time that the product is still safe and effective to use after it has been opened.

The PAO symbol will tell you how many months the hair products last and is good for after it’s been opened.

For example, if there’s a “12M” next to the PAO symbol, that means the product is good for 12 months after it’s been opened.

“But what if my hair products don’t have an expiration date or a PAO symbol?” That’s a great question.

If the hair product doesn’t have an expiration date or a PAO symbol, then it’s best to just throw it away at least 12 months you’ve opened it.

But also look for these telltale signs to determine if your hair product has expired….

How to Tell If Your Hair Products Have Expired?

Expired products may show signs of expiry. These signs are simple, however, most of the times consumers ignore or don’t pay attention to them, because of the closed container.


The smell is the first sign that your hair product is expired or contaminated. Don’t use it any further. Do not pass go! Do not collect $200! We recommend throwing it out.

Microbes start eating chemicals and their biochemical process generate bad smell or gases.


Change in product color is yet another sign of expiry. Solar radiation, temperature, and also microbes can alter the original color of the hair product.


The product losing its original texture, loss in viscosity or complete separation (in terms of creams, lotions) indicates the product’s health. Don’t use the separated or altered product.

How to properly store hair products at home

Store in a cool dark place

The place where you store your hair products makes a difference. Products, such as shampoos and conditioners, should be stored in a cool place. This will help hair products last longer.

Do not store in the bathroom, if possible. The heat can lead to changes in the product’s color or texture.

Don’t leave your hair products open: If you do not do this intentionally, do not do it accidentally.

Leaving the container open is an invitation to microbial growth. Always close the lid tightly!

Sun light exposure

Please never expose the product to direct sun light radiation for a prolonged period.

Solar radiation may heat it and trigger undesirable photochemical changes.

Before using a product

Before using, wash your hands to make sure they are free from any microbes and do not pose threat to the product itself.

What Do You Do With Expired Hair Products?

If you find a product that has already gone passed its expiration date, just throw it away.

However, sometimes people do try to squeeze a few more uses out of an expired product, which can be risky.

Consider cleaning out your product cabinet and tossing the product if you experience any of these signs:

  • itching or burning of the skin and/or scalp (irritation)
  • flaking, redness and swelling on the scalp
  • hair loss

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using the product immediately and discard it.

Are There Any Natural Ways to Keep Your Products Fresh?

There are a few natural ways to help keep your hair products fresh, or make them last longer.

One way is to store them in the fridge. This will help to keep them cool and delay any changes in color or texture.

Another way is to store them in a dark place. The darkness will also help to keep them from changing color or texture.


Do shampoos and conditioners expire?

Yes, they do. Shampoo and conditioner have an expiration date.

Do hair products expire if they are never opened?

Yes! Even if a product has been never opened, it will have an expiration date.

Can expired hair products cause hair loss?

Yes, it is possible for expired hair products to cause hair loss. If you are experiencing hair loss after using an expired product, stop using it, discard it and see a professional.

Can hair oil expire or is it okay to use expired hair oil?

Yes, hair oil can expire and no, it is not okay to use expired hair oil. If you are using an expired hair oil, stop using it and discard it. See a professional if you are experiencing any negative side effects.

Can I freeze my hair products to make them last longer?

Yes, it is possible to freeze your hair products. This will keep them cool and they won’t change color or texture as fast.

Do hair spray products expire?

Yes, hair sprays do expire.

Can I reuse my hair product container?

Yes, you can reuse your hair product container. However, make sure to clean it thoroughly before putting any new product in it.

What happens if you use expired hair products?

If you use expired hair products, you may not get the results you were hoping for. The product may not work as well as it did when it was new, and it could even damage your hair.

You may also experience some adverse reaction such as an itchy scalp, redness, or even hair loss. So it’s generally not a good idea to use expired hair products.

Does hair gel expire?

Check the product’s label to see if it states how long it will last. In general, hair gel has a shelf life of about three years. After that, it starts to break down and can cause hair to become brittle and dry.

So, if you’ve been holding onto that bottle of hair gel for a few years, it’s probably time to let it go.

Of course, some people might say that hair gel never really expires; it just gets harder and harder to use as it gets older.

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I had to listen to what my hair curls are finally ready to take in some moisture again!!!


- renee, Stylist Liaison

- renee, Stylist Liaison

“I truly couldn't have gotten through this without her knowledge, advice and support...after suffering from Hygral Fatigue and getting tons of advice @themestizamuse.”

“@themestizamuse: for ESSENTIAL information you will NEED TO KNOW in order to see results.”

See how easy the topics are to find on her page (a few posts screenshot)? There is no topic Verna hasn't covered.

- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast


- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast

“I have learned a whole heap of knowledge from @themestizamuse.”

Inspiring hair tutor, grateful for what she offers the Curly Community in authenticity, passion, and knowledge.

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- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad

“I was so excited to embrace my curls and take better care of them. As I started to dive in, I immediately became overwhelmed with the information.”

I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.

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- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast

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