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Does Hair Developer Expire?

aida turner

Published by Aida Turner

Fact checked by Annie

Yes, a standard hair developer expires after three years when stored unopened, in optimal conditions, and lasts for six months once opened. Hair developer goes bad due to the breakdown of their active ingredient, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), into water (H2O) and oxygen (O2), especially when exposed to light, heat, or certain impurities. Therefore, manufacturers recommend storing the developer in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to maintain its effectiveness.

Most people use a hair developer less frequently, so no expiration date will be printed on the container when you buy one from the store. But several signs indicate an expired developer, like the change in consistency, such as becoming very runny, a change in color to a yellowish hue, and a different smell than when it was first opened.

Professional hairdressers don’t recommend using an expired hair developer because it won’t lighten your hair as expected – wasting both your time and resources – and often causes hair damage and scalp irritation.

How to Tell if a Developer is Expired?

The most common signs of an expired hair developer are below:

Change in Consistency: Hold the container with the liquid developer in your hand and check if it is more liquid than usual. If the nature of your hair developer was creamy and the consistency is not creamy right now, avoid this developer because it has probably degraded already.

Change in Color: If you observe a yellowish color, then that developer has been exposed to heat, and it is not suitable for use.

Change in Smell: If the hair developer smells differently than it did when you first opened it, this could be a sign that it has expired. However, avoid smelling it too closely as it contains toxic chemicals that can irritate the nose and skin.

Swelling in the Container: If there is any swelling in the packaging container, then you must throw away the developer immediately. Swelling indicates that a chemical reaction is occurring inside the container, which means that the hydrogen peroxide is breaking down faster.

ideal hair developer condition

If you see all or one of these signs, throw the developer away immediately. Also, remember that if you mixed the developer with the dye already, it will only last for a few hours, after which you should avoid using it.

What happens if you use an expired developer?

If you use an expired developer, several negative consequences can happen:

  • The developer won’t work properly: The first and most obvious consequence is that the hair developer will not be able to dye or bleach your hair. The primary active ingredient in hair developer, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), degrades over time. An expired developer might not effectively lighten hair or activate the hair dye, leading to uneven or undesired color results.
  • Potential Hair Damage: Since the developer’s composition can change after expiry, it might harm the hair structure, leading to dryness, brittleness, or breakage. The hair follicle can be damaged to the point of hair loss.
  • Scalp Irritation: An altered chemical composition can increase the risk of scalp reactions, resulting in itchiness, redness, or burning sensations. You may end up with a bacterial infection on your scalp. If you have a sensitive scalp or damaged hair, you must avoid expired hair products at all costs.
consequences of expired developer
Expired developer will damage your hair.

The side effects of using expired products also depend on the ingredients used for manufacturing the developer, the type of developer used, and your hair type. The developer looks harmless at first glance, but remember that this chemical actually opens up the hair cuticles to change your hair color when you are dying or bleaching your hair. Some people have tried bleaching their hair with an expired developer, and they ended up with only 2-3 centimeters of hair left on their heads.

To restore hair damaged by an expired developer, prioritize deep conditioning, limit chemical and heat treatments, trim damaged ends, use natural oils, maintain a healthy diet, and consider consulting a hair specialist.

How do you store hair developer correctly?

To store hair developer correctly and maximize its shelf life, keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent air exposure, and avoid storing it near humidity, other chemicals or heat sources.

  • The ideal temperature for storing hair developers is between 50°F to 75°F (10°C to 24°C).
  • Do not expose hair developer to direct sunlight.
  • Don’t keep it in an aerated environment.
  • Store your hair developer in a place that is neither too hot nor cold, like the kitchen and avoid storing it in the bathroom where it is too humid.

Once opened the developer, you only have six months until you can no longer use it again. It will also be crucial to note the day you opened the container. You can avoid confusion and losing money by disposing of a developer that could still work efficiently.

Store developer hair in cupboard
Store developer hair in cupboard to extend shelf life

How Do You Dispose Of Expired Hair Developer?

To dispose of expired hair developer, never pour it directly into the sink or toilet, as it can harm water systems. For safe disposal, wear protective gloves and pour the expired developer into a container filled with absorbent materials like cat litter or sand, which will help neutralize the chemicals. Allow it some time to solidify. Once it’s solidified, seal the container securely. Before discarding in the trash, it’s wise to check with local waste management or environmental agencies, as some places might have specific guidelines or collection centers for hazardous household waste like the expired hair developer.

aida turner

Author of this article: Aida Turner

Founder & Hair Care Consultant

Aida is a cosmetologist and hair care consultant with over 7 years of experience in the beauty industry. Aida has worked with various top salons and smaller hair care brands, offering her product development, formulation, and testing expertise.

Her extensive knowledge of hair care ingredients and their effects on hair health enables her to provide thorough, well-researched, and unbiased reviews on a wide range of shampoos and hair care products. In her spare time, Aida enjoys experimenting with new hair care routines, blogging about her experiences, and helping others achieve their hair goals.