It’s fair to say that hair gel is far and away one of the most commonly used hair products within the beauty industry. No matter your sense of style or the type of gel you prefer, several occasions can call for hair gel usage.
That’s what makes the prospect of using expired hair products all the more worrying. So how can you know that the jar of hair gel you have sitting in your cabinet or on your countertop is safe to use?
This article will discuss how long hair gel lasts before expiring and how to determine if it’s safe to use.
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Does Hair Gel Expire?
On average, hair gel lasts about three years. Some gel-based products are only good for two years or less depending on the ingredients within the products and other factors, while other products are safe to use for up to five years before causing hair problems. Unopened products last longer than opened hair products.
Understanding the Shelf Life of Hair Gel
Unfortunately, one of the most important, yet trickiest things to figure out from a hair care perspective, can be when your hair products are approaching their expiry date (or best used by date).
Many hair products don’t carry a “best used by date” like food products.
The FDA doesn’t mandate expiration dates for hair products the same way that it does for food products, which is why you often won’t see an expiration date indicated on the back of many hair products.
There is a lot of variation among the expiration date of hair products, so your best bet is to carefully examine the bottle or jar of the product for any clues of whether it’s still safe to use.
See if the product’s label mentions its longevity. You can also visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there is guidance on the product’s shelf life.
That said, some products tell you how long they last with a number-M combo; for example, “6M” for products that are best used within six months after opening.
Hair products, like other perishables, also maintain longer shelf lives the longer you can go without opening them.
While the longevity of hair products varies wildly (which we’ll see is true of hair gels as well), three years is the average time you should wait after purchasing a product.
Likewise, you shouldn’t use products that have been stored unopened after three years. Based on our research, the product is unlikely safe to use and should be considered an expired hair product.
However, “unopened” is the keyword to consider. If a product has been opened, the expiration dates often should be reduced by half or dropped even lower once you crack the seal and start using the product.
That’s because opening the product exposes oils, shampoos, conditioners, and gels to elements, which can cause them to spoil due to exposure to light, moisture, and the presence of bacteria.
How to Know if Hair Gel Is Expired
There are many ways that you can tell if your hair gel has reached the end of its useful life, starting with simply checking the month indicated on the back of the bottle or jar if it’s present.
In addition to that, you’ll want to be on the lookout for changes in the gel’s consistency. Think about what gel usually feels like when it comes out of the bottle and when you squirt or scoop some up into your hand.
If you use a certain hair gel brand regularly, you probably know what it usually feels like. So if it starts to feel off, chances are there is indeed something off about it, and you shouldn’t go rubbing it into your hair.
While consistency is a marker of hair product’s quality, it can be particularly tricky to suss out with hair gel.
In something such as hair oils, dyes, and shampoo, stickiness is a quick and clear indicator that something’s wrong. However, hair gel can obviously feel a bit sticky as it comes out of the bottle.
Even so, you should be on the lookout for hair gel that suddenly feels stickier than usual.
In addition, you’ll want to be careful about hair gel that feels more watery than normal. A good hair gel, as you probably know from experience, strikes a delicate balance between coming out of the bottle smoothly and having a semi-thick texture as you rub it into your hair.
Hair gel is typically gelatinous and doesn’t usually come out of the bottle like running water, so if yours does, it’s likely a sign that something’s wrong.
This, in turn, brings us to one of the clearest signs that there’s something amiss with your hair gel, leaky or lumpen packaging.
Leakiness can sometimes result from a sudden change in the gel’s texture toward something more watery than its natural state, or it could arise from damage done to the bottle.
Either way, if the package is leaking, lumpy, dented, or otherwise damaged, you should not rub the gel into your hair.
The same goes for if the gel isn’t working as well as it used to, with a lack of performance being another key sign shared by many expired hair products.
If your hair gel no longer holds your hair in place properly, it could be a sign that the chemicals that once allowed it to do so are starting to break down.
Also, you should never use hair care products that irritate your scalp. Not only can this be painful, but it can also lead to hair loss and other hair and scalp-related ailments.
If a hair gel that used to be fine is suddenly causing your scalp to become red or itchy, there’s a fair chance that it may be spoiled and should be junked immediately.
Finally, there’s the equally-obvious fact that you really shouldn’t use any hair care products that smell bad, hair gel included.
Given how much emphasis companies put on creating hair care products that smell nice, it should be a pretty clear indicator that something’s gone horribly wrong if your hair gel goes from sweet-smelling to odiferously rancid.
In this example, you should avoid any potential hair problems and throw this product.
How to Make Hair Gel Last Longer
First and foremost, you need to do whatever you can to combat the conditions that can cause spoilage in the first place, and chief among these is leaving your hair gel out in the open.
When you leave gel or any hair care product out in the open, it exposes it to the elements, which causes it to spoil more quickly.
A more complexly-considered version of this truism has to do with the fact that leaving your hair products out exposes them to bacteria.
Not only do you not want to go rubbing bacteria into your scalp, but these invaders can also often cause the chemical consistency and other elements of the hair products to degrade and thus become less effective than they once were.
The same holds true for light and warmer conditions. The more you leave your hair gel out, the more it can be exposed to light that can interact with the chemicals in its gelatinous mixture and the more heat can start to melt it down.
If your gel has started to become more liquified than usual, this may be one reason why. It would be best if you ideally kept your hair gel in a cool, dark, temperate area, such as a medicine cabinet in your bathroom.
Hair gel is one of the hardest products to gauge when it comes to figuring out if it’s beyond its expiration date.
On the one hand, as with many hair products, hair gel can often lack a clear indication of when it is expired. On the other hand, sometimes, the signs of hair gel degradation can be quite obvious.
You know what hair gel typically looks, feels, and smells like, so any deviation from the norm is a likely indication that your product may be expired.
In the end, while it can be hard to know whether your hair gel is expired, as long as you keep it in properly temperate conditions and make sure its consistency, scent, and other key factors remain consistent, your hair gel products should be fine to use for months or years to come.