If you like to dye your hair, you probably have a stash of hair dyes in various types and colors hidden somewhere in your house.
Since you can’t bleach or use permanent hair color without a developer, you’ll probably also have a number of them.
But now that you’re ready to dye your hair again after a while does hair developer expire? Would it ruin your hair if you use one that’s been sitting on your shelf for months?
So in this article, follow along as we spill the details on how long hair developers will last and how to store unused ones at home.
The process of bleaching and dyeing your hair would be difficult without the use of a hair developer. It primarily consists of hydrogen peroxide, so it’s responsible for lifting the pigments of your hair by opening your hair cuticles.
But depending on the application, hair developers are available in different strengths, so it’s essential to know which volume you'll need to use.
5 or 10-volume developers won’t be able to lift any pigments off your base color, so they’re usually used for toning and depositing semi- and demi-permanent pigments on your hair. They’re also helpful when going from a light to dark hair color since they won’t alter your base color.
A 20-volume developer will lift 1-2 levels of your color, so it’s usually used for toning your hair. It’s also effective for covering grey hair and dyeing with a permanent color where you don’t need a lot of lift.
A 30-volume developer will lift to 3 levels of your base shade, so it’s usually used with permanent hair dyes and bleach. You can also use this developer for covering stubborn grey hairs.
While a 40-volume developer will lift 4-5 levels of your hair color, so it’s usually used for bleaching your hair. But it’s not recommended to use at home, especially if you’re a beginner, since it has a very potent formula that could damage your hair, so it’s better to stick to a 30-volume or lower.
In a box of hair dye, the kit will usually include a bottle of hair developer along with the color. So when you have short hair, you won’t get to use all of the product, so you figure you’ll save the rest for later.
But you know that it will take weeks before you need to re-apply your dye, so does creme developer expire?
Like all hair products, a developer also has an expiration date, but it’s not always printed on its bottle, so it’s best to use it sooner rather than later to avoid spoiling it.
Some hair color brands will release their own developer with a custom formula. They usually come in a bigger bottle than the ones you’ll find in box dyes.
Some developer brands are even used in salons since hairstylists like how the product applies to their client’s hair.
But if you look at the ingredients, professional hair developers will also contain the primary ingredient of hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the company, some may add other ingredients to improve its quality, but it’s still a developer at its core.
So eventually, professional hair developers will also expire. But the good thing is that some brands will have their expiration date printed on their bottle so you can conveniently check if it’s still usable.
You’ll always need bleach and a developer whenever you want to lighten your hair, or else your hair won’t process correctly.
But the type of developer you use for bleaching your hair is the same type you use for dyeing it. They just differ in volume, where bleach will typically need 30-40 volumes.
So if you’re wondering whether the developer will also expire, the short answer is yes. An expired developer will have less potency than a brand new one, so that the bleaching process will come out differently.
Now that you know storing away extra hair developers isn’t always a good idea, how long does developer stay good for?
An unopened bottle of hair developer will keep for 3 years, but once you open it, you’ll need to use it within 6 months. So it’s a good idea to label the date on the bottle of when you opened the developer to keep track.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you mix the developer with the hair dye, you’ll need to use the mixture within 30 minutes. The oxidation process starts once the 2 chemicals come into contact, so the longer you leave them out, the less effective the hair dye mixture will be.
If you have a few bottles of hair developer sitting around, but you’re not sure if they’re still good, the first thing you’ll need to look at is the color of the formula.
Creme developers are usually white, so if the product you’re holding looks yellowish, the sunlight could've exposed it, so it has now lost its potency.
The next thing you’ll need to observe is the consistency of the developer, where an expired creme developer will appear runny, and a liquid one will have a thinner consistency.
Finally, the last thing you’ll need to check is the smell of the developer. But it’s important to remember never to put the bottle near your nose since the developer is a toxic chemical.
But once you open the bottle, you’ll get a whiff of a strong vinegary odor, but an expired developer will smell sour, so it’s best to dispose of it.
If you notice some of the indications above, it will feel like it would be a waste, especially when it’s still half full.
But using an expired developer will damage your hair and scalp since it’s a strong chemical.
So if you use an expired developer, you better hope that it won’t cause any changes to your hair since it’s now degraded enough.
But worst-case scenario, a developer that’s gone bad will make your hair dry and brittle to the point where it will melt your hair off in clumps.
It will also irritate your scalp, where you’ll feel an itchy or burning sensation. Also, if you leave the developer on for too long, it will lead to sore blisters that will take weeks to heal.
So once you start feeling a burning sensation, wash off the developer immediately and avoid applying any products and heat on your hair since it’ll be sensitive for a few days.
If you buy multiple bottles of developers, it’s safe to store them in a cool and dry place, as long as the bottles are tightly closed.
Another thing to avoid is direct sunlight since the developer will turn yellow as it reacts to the heat, making it go bad sooner than it’s supposed to be.
So an ideal room temperature to store your unused developers would be around 44-68 °F (7-20 °C). So a shelf in a storage room would be okay as long as it’s not near a heater, fireplace, or a window.
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When using a strong chemical, like a developer, it’s important to be cautious since it could cause severe damage to your hair and scalp. So keeping track of its expiration date is a good habit to prevent any mishaps.
So if you have a habit of buying multiple developers when you don’t dye your hair frequently, the cost of saving yourself a future trip to the store won’t be worth it when you get to use an expired product.
So to be safe, only get an adequate amount of dyeing supplies you’ll need for a single session unless you know you’ll dye your hair again in a few weeks, so your hair and scalp will remain unharmed.