Once upon a time, hairspray was everywhere.
Whether you wore your hair high and proud like The Supremes, Marvelettes, and Ronettes, or you wore a retro-chic style like the cast of the movie Hairspray, a hairdo using hairspray was the way to go for decades.
Changes in fashion (and ozone-related restrictions on aerosols) may mean that the mid-century hairspray heyday has come and gone, but hairspray sure has a way of “sticking around,” doesn’t it?
Still, whatever your era or fashion of choice, expired hairspray is definitely out, so let’s take a closer look at the expiry date of hairspray.
Does hairspray expire? If so, why does that happen, and what can you do to extend the shelf life of your hairspray? Finally, does using an expired hair product lead to any hair problems? We answer these questions and many more within this article.
Table of Contents
Does Hairspray Expire? Do Hairsprays Go Bad?
Unopened hairspray will last on average for approximately 3 years. However, once you use the spray cans (aerosol canister) or break the seal on the spray nozzle, the product’s expiration date should be reduced to approximately 18 months (or less).
Too much warmth or cold can cause the consistency to go south. In fact, too much heat or cold can cause spray products to explode, so you’ll want to avoid storing them in extreme temperatures either way.
Hairspray products are also meant to be used undiluted. If you introduce water into your can, the mixture will start to lose consistency.
You’ll want to make sure to squeeze the nozzle tight when you’re not using it to prevent any water from accidentally dripping into the aerosol canister.
However, the question of whether hairspray goes bad is trickier to solve than with other hair care products. This is because, as detailed a bit further down, it doesn’t completely “spoil” in the sense of it going rancid, which can be the case with other hair products.
That said, it can degrade in usefulness and other factors can still cause it to “spoil.”
For example, think about how you use hairspray. Handling the bottle means touching the can, which in turn can eventually mean touching the nozzle.
Even if you’re careful, you’re bound to touch the nozzle at some point. Once that happens, the bacteria on your hands can start to filter into the can through the nozzle.
Once there, the bacteria can start to break down the chemicals that make your hairspray work.
Whether the product starts to lose effectiveness by breaking down over time or it degrades after you inadvertently introduce bacteria into the product, hairspray doesn’t last forever.
Unlike most shampoos and conditioners and many hair dyes, hairspray often lacks a value on the bottle indicating the number of months for which the product should be good (ex. “6M” for 6 months).
How Can You Tell If Your Hairspray Has Gone Bad?
As with many hair products, cracking the seal on the packaging or opening the bottle is the biggest cause of eventual spoilage. Once you open the packaging, the clock has started potentially accelerating the product’s expiry date.
Said differently, the product will go bad more quickly after it’s been opened. This is true for both aerosol spray cans and non-aerosol hairspray products.
The consequences of using a hairspray product that’s expired start with it simply not being able to hold your hair in place as effectively.
On the one hand, that may not seem so bad. After all, as iconic as certain updo hairdos are today, vertical high-and-mighty hairstyles were invented many years ago. Plus, there are other ways of giving your hair a few extra inches if you’re really committed to doing so.
On the other hand, nothing has the capacity to give you a bad hair day quite the same as a hair spray product gone bad, especially if it leaves your hair strands sticky, slick, and flopping all over the place.
If your hairspray isn’t holding the way that it used to, there’s a fair chance that it has started to spoil, especially if you’ve had it for a while.
One of the nice things about hairspray is that it doesn’t go as rancid as a spoiled shampoo or conditioner.
At the same time, however, this doesn’t mean that the aroma of past-its-prime hairspray is something that you’re going to want to wear in your hair all day, either.
Even if it isn’t hold-your-nose awful, a major change in its odor should be enough for you to toss it. Fragrance ingredients starting to fade can indicate that the hairspray is getting old and starting to lose its muster.
Finally, an old hair spray product has typically seen a lot of use. You know how sticky hairspray can be; now imagine months or years of that building upon the underside of or inside the nozzle.
All of that residue can start to create blockages that, as time passes, can become hard or even impossible to clear.
For this reason, more expensive hairspray bottles that are designed to help combat residue buildup may be worth the extra investment. And to be clear, you shouldn’t try to force these blockages open yourself.
An aerosol can hold a lot of pressure, so jabbing a hole in the nozzle or any other part of the can is a dangerous recipe for disaster. Instead, this is yet another sign that your hairspray is best discarded.
Can You Use Expired Hairspray?
First, it’s worth noting that, unlike shampoo, conditioner, or other hair products, hairspray doesn’t go bad the same way.
Instead, as mentioned, it simply won’t work as well.
Hair “sprays” are meant to come out as, well, a spray. If you press the trigger and a liquid comes out instead, or you see liquid seeping out of the nozzle before or after usage, chances are that the spray has seen its final days and needs to be tossed.
The spray itself should be strong and consistent. If it starts to weaken, the chances are that the potency of the hairspray has weakened as well.
How Can You Extend the Shelf Life of Your Hairspray
The most important thing that you can do to keep your hairspray in good condition for as long as possible is to consider the factors we have mentioned above that can cause it to degrade and act upon them to avoid hair problems.
For example, take the fact that extreme hot or cold can cause massive and even potentially explosive consequences for your hairspray can.
To counteract that, you’ll want to store it somewhere free from temperature fluctuations, let alone extreme heat or cold. Besides, as with most hair products, you ideally want to store your hairspray away from sunlight.
Your bathroom cabinet should meet all of these requirements. That said, you’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t get too hot or humid in there before storing your hairspray can in one of your cabinets. A temperature of roughly 24 Celsius or 75 Fahrenheit is about right.
Another factor to keep in mind when storing your hairspray is that it should be kept and used in a well-ventilated space. As long as you won’t be spraying it in your cabinet (and really, why would you?), it should be fine in there.
Just make sure that if you use it in the bathroom, you open a window, flick on a fan, or otherwise make sure that the room is well ventilated so as to prevent the vapors from building up.
The goal is to avoid pressure from building up in the product’s spray nozzle leading to an accidental “kaboom!” Even if something as dramatic as that doesn’t happen, the fumes can still give you headaches.
Finally, it’s worth noting that whether or not you should use hands when using hairspray is a bit of a debate. On the one hand, some say that you should spray some on your hands to pat down flyaways.
On the other hand, that kind of hand-hairspray exchange is a good way to get the bacteria from your hands closer to the nozzle, which, as mentioned, can cause problems for your can’s longevity.
Hairspray is a tricky hair product to pin down in terms of how to best use and preserve it.
On the one hand, there is no denying that hairspray is one of the longest-lived hair care products. When used properly, it can last for years.
On the other hand, while hairspray doesn’t spoil the same way that shampoo or conditioner does, it can also lose its consistency and fragrance, and when it does, it can deteriorate fast. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about shampoo or conditioner exploding in the heat or cold.
As long as you keep your sprays free from extreme temperatures and ensure that the nozzle doesn’t become clogged, however, your hairspray game can reign supreme.