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Does Hair Developer Expire? 7 Signs Your Developer Is Expired

Applying a hair developer is a crucial step when bleaching or coloring your hair. This product reacts with bleach to lighten your natural hair color.

Before you get started on your next hair makeover, it’s important to make sure you have the right products for the job and check the expiration dates if you’re reusing products.

So, does hair developer expire? Like all other hair products, a developer becomes less efficient if you store it for too long. Read on to learn more about how to spot expired hair developers and the dangers of using one.

What Is a Hair Developer?

Hair Developer

Hair developer comes in liquid or cream formula. This product contains hydrogen peroxide, a chemical that reacts with bleach during the dyeing process.

Applying bleach to your hair won’t do much until you add some hydrogen peroxide. Bleach is an alkali solution that will soften your hair cuticle and prepare it for lightening or coloring.

Once you have used bleach to lift the hair cuticle, you can apply a developer. The hydrogen peroxide will get inside the hair shaft where it will oxidize your natural hair pigments. This chemical reaction causes your hair to turn a few shades lighter.

You can then apply a hair dye or use a toner to correct the brassy tones you often get after bleaching. Know more about mixing developer with hair color.

Does Hair Developer Expire?

The answer is yes. Your hair developer can expire, but it usually stays good for a few years. Most products will last for at least three years as long as you keep the container sealed. But once you open it, it will last for 24 weeks at most.

The main ingredient of hair developer is hydrogen peroxide, but you’ll also find ingredients designed to keep the product stable and maintain its texture. Depending on the product, you might find sulfates, phosphoric acid, caprylic glycol, and more.

The preservatives and surfactants used can determine how long your hair developer will last. Typically, a product from a quality brand will last longer.

How Long Will Hair Developer Last After Opening?

It depends on how you store the product. If you keep your hair developer in an airtight container and protect it from light and heat, the product should stay good for at least six months.

Note that a low-quality product might not last six months, regardless of how you store it.

Signs Your Developer Is Expired

You can usually tell when your hair developer is too old because the product will have a different smell or consistency. Here’s what to watch out for.

Dry Consistency

Signs of Expired Developer - Dry Consistency

Over time, the water content of the product can evaporate. The product will dry out and develop a thick consistency.

You might even see crusty residues in the containers where the product dried out or notice that there is only a small quantity of the product left.

Don’t try adding water to correct the texture of the product. If the water is evaporated, the product is too old and you shouldn’t use it.

Oily Residues

With age, the oily ingredients added to create a smooth and creamy consistency can rise to the top of the product and develop a darker color.

If you see an oily residue sitting at the top of the product, your hair developer is too old to use. Mixing the product can make the residue disappear, but the chemical composition of the product changed if you see an oily residue.

Watery Consistency

Signs of Expired Developer - Watery Consistency

If you store hair developer for too long, the chemicals can break down. A liquid hair developer can lose its smooth texture and develop a watery or runny consistency.

This change in texture makes the product hard to apply, and it’s best not to use any hair care products if you notice a change in consistency.


Hydrogen peroxide turns into water and oxygen over time. If you let your hair developer sit for years, the hydrogen peroxide content will drop as these molecules turn into water and oxygen.

If you have an airtight container, the oxygen can build up inside and cause pressure. The container might become difficult to open or you might even be able to feel pressure when you pick it up.

Unusual Smell

Does hair developer expire? Yes, and a good way to tell if your hair developer is too old is to smell it.

If oily residues are rising to the surface, you’ll sometimes notice a rancid smell. The product might also have a musty smell if it’s starting to develop bacteria or fungi.

Hair developer has a chemical smell that isn’t pleasant, but you should throw the product away if you notice a rancid or musty smell.

Changes in Color

Signs of Expired Developer - Changes in Color

Exposure to light or heat can cause many developers to change color. It’s best not to use a bottle of hair developer that has changed in color since exposure to heat can also cause bacteria and fungi to thrive in the product.

Applying some old hair developer that contains bacteria or fungi isn’t safe. You could irritate your scalp and end up with a scalp infection.

The Hair Developer Isn’t Working

As hair developer gets old, the hydrogen peroxide concentration goes down. Expired hair developer might not contain enough hydrogen peroxide to make a difference.

If you notice that your hair isn’t lightening after applying the product, you’re likely dealing with an expired product.

What Will Happen if You Use Expired Developer?

Effects of Using Expired Hair Developer

Using some expired hair developer isn’t dangerous. Hydrogen peroxide turns into oxygen gas and water as it gets old. You’ll end up with a watery product, and the oxygen gas will exit the container when you open it.

An old 40-volume hair developer might have enough hydrogen peroxide content left to make a difference, but an expired 10 or 20-volume hair developer likely won’t do anything.

There is a risk of damaging your hair if you apply expired developer since the other ingredients might react unexpectedly now that the product has become unstable.

Plus, you might decide to apply another round of bleach since you won’t get any results with an expired hair developer. Your hair might become dry and brittle if you keep applying bleach to lighten it.


Read on to learn more about storing hair developer and using this product safely.

When does an unopened hair developer expire?

A brand-new container should stay good for at least three years. If you have an open container, avoid using it after six months. Note that a low-quality product might expire faster.

Should I use an expired developer?

An expired developer will likely not have enough hydrogen peroxide content left to properly react with bleach. You might end up with uneven results or not see any differences.

It’s best not to use an expired developer since the product could contain bacteria or damage your hair with its unstable formula.

What to do if I have used an expired developer?

The first thing you should do is rinse your hair to get rid of the bleach and expired developer. Dry your hair gently to assess the damage.

If your hair looks dry or brittle, apply some shea butter to hydrate it or use a hair mask designed to repair damaged hair.

How can I store a developer for a long time?

You can make an open container last by storing it in a dry and cool place. Use an airtight container.

Is it possible to reuse opened developer?

You can safely reuse hair developer as long as you store it properly. However, you shouldn’t keep it for more than six months and shouldn’t use it if you see any changes in texture.

How to dispose of expired developer?

Don’t throw hair developer away since it contains chemicals that could contaminate the environment. Instead, look for a nearby waste and recycling facility that accepts toxic products and chemicals.


Does hair developer expire? The answer is yes. After three years for a sealed container and six months for an open bottle, your hair developer will lose its hydrogen peroxide content.

It’s best not to use an expired hair developer since it won’t react with bleach and could damage your hair. If you have an old container of hair developer, make sure to check its consistency, color, and smell to determine if it’s still good.

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