Finding the right products for your hair can be a game of trial and error. This inevitably means that you will buy products that will very soon find their way to the trashcan. However, we sometimes end up throwing away products, not because they don’t work, but because they’ve outlived their shelf life. After a year or two when you finally get around to using that moisturizer you purchased, you may be disappointed to find that the color or texture of the product has changed or that it smells more sour than sweet.
Well, what about products that don’t have the telltale signs of “going bad”? Are products useful for as long as their smell or consistency remains the same? Well, not exactly. There are a few important things to keep in mind when determining if a product is no long safe or effective and more specifically, which products you should stock up on during a sale and which you should wait to purchase until you are ready to use.
Average Shelf Life
There are a wide variety of hair care products on the market and the ingredients often impact how long they can survive after being manufactured and opened by the consumer. On average, products such as shampoos and conditioners can last a year and a half once opened or three years if unopened. This, however, can change if the product lacks preservatives, which may be the case for some of your favorite natural hair care products. If the manufacturer did not indicate a usage disclaimer (i.e. “Use within a year”), then you may be able to find the information on the company’s website, especially if it is a smaller business.
Another good indicator of a products shelf life, is a printed expiration date. Sometimes this may be listed as a month and year at the bottom of the container or it may be indicated near the Universal Product Code (UPC). The UPC, or bar code, of some products will have a small drawing of a container with a number inside of it. The number indicates the number of months for which the product is safe to use (i.e. 6, 12) after it has been opened. If you don’t open the product you have approximately twice as long to use the product before its quality becomes comprised.
Tips to Extend Shelf Life and Preserve Your Products
1. If you wash your hair in the shower, be sure not to have water mix with your conditioner or shampoo. Changes in chemical composition, such as the addition of water, can alter the shelf life.
2. If you want to add an ingredient to a product use another container so that you do not alter the longevity of the product.
3. While it may be tempting to buy 10 bottles of your favorite organic, preservative-free products during BOGO sales or other seasonal specials, be realistic about your usage of the products. If it takes you 6 months or more to finish a product, then you will likely have quite a few unused bottles at the end of two years. You can stock up a bit more on products with preservatives that you use liberally, if you know that you will likely finish the product before it expires.
4. A word of caution: Always err on the side of safety! Even if your product is only 6 months old, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore obvious signs of chemical changes. Sometimes the impact of using a product past expiration is as minor as diminished effectiveness. However, there could be other consequences that could cause scalp irritation or a more serious reaction. Throwing a way a $20 bottle of product hurts, but it’s a much better alternative to damaging your hair or scalp.
Which of your favorite products do you find expires fairly quickly? Do you have any tips on extending the shelf life of your products?