Are Expired Hair Products Safe to Use?


By Mary Wolff

While most of us pay attention to the expiration dates on the perishables in our fridge, and we wouldn’t dare think of eating food past that date, most people don’t pay as much attention to their hair products. If you have never thought about your products even having an expiration date, you may be in for some shocking information. Do products have expiration dates? If so, are expired hair products safe to use? 

Do Products Have Expiration Dates?

The answer to this question is yes and no in a way. Expiration dates are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the food items you eat every day. However, the FDA does not regulate expiration dates for beauty products, hair care products, or other personal care items. However, many manufacturers of the brands themselves will include what is called a Period After Opening (PAO) guideline which can help with this matter. While the PAO guideline is not regulated by an outside body such as the FDA, it can still be useful to consumers worried about expired products.

Are Expired Hair Products Safe to Use?

So, what is the deal with the PAO? The PAO will show on the back of a bottle, usually near the ingredients listing, as an open container logo with a number inside followed by the letter M. These figures correspond to how long the product is good for. For example, a symbol of 24M means the product is good for 24 months. It is important to note that this is once the product is opened. There are no true expirations on hair products. The PAO is merely a guideline offered by the brand related to quality. For instance, a hair serum may begin to separate and become unusable after that date. Is it still safe to use? Yes. Is it going to be as effective as when you first opened the product? Probably not. Another concern, especially with all-natural based hair products, is the matter of mold. The PAO may or may not take this into consideration when the brand figures this number, but it can be influenced by factors outside of the control of the brand. If you leave your hair products exposed to heat or cold, it can certainly affect the PAO.
The bottom line when dealing with products past their PAO date: it is wise to examine the product before using it. Check for separation, mold, cloudiness, or wateriness before using. If anything seems out of the ordinary, toss it and replace it! Good!

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