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What happens if you use expired arctic fox hair dye?

Using expired hair dye can be risky business. While you may get a discount on older hair color, expired dye may not give you the results you want – or it could even damage your hair. This is especially true for more complex formulas like the vivid colors from Arctic Fox.

How Hair Dye Works

Hair dye works by opening up the cuticle layer of your hair so that the color molecules can deposit inside the hair shaft. To do this, most permanent hair dyes use an alkalizing agent like ammonia or ethanolamine in the developer. This makes your hair more basic so it can accept the color.

After the color has deposited, the cuticle closes back up and oxidizing agents in the developer make the color molecules too big to wash out. This permanent change is what allows the color to last 4-6 weeks as your hair grows out.

The Role of Developers

Hair dye comes in two parts – the color cream and the developer. The developer contains hydrogen peroxide which opens the cuticle and allows the color to deposit. However, hydrogen peroxide is not very stable and breaks down over time.

Old or expired developers will be less effective at opening the cuticle. As a result, the hair dye may not take as well, coming out faded and uneven. At worst, the developer could be completely inert and not allow any color deposit at all.

Chemical Reactions Over Time

The other issue with expired hair dye relates to the chemical reactions within the color cream. Hair color is made up of precursor dye molecules that must combine with each other and oxidize into larger pigment molecules. However, the necessary chemical reactions slow down as the dye ages.

When you use old hair dye, the precursor chemicals may not react properly. This can result in uneven color, splotchiness, or fading. The alkaline agents like ammonia can also become less effective over time.

Factors that Cause Hair Dye to Expire

There are a few key factors that contribute to hair dye expiring and becoming less effective:

  • Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen in the air oxidizes the precursor dyes and developer.
  • Temperature – Heat speeds up chemical breakdown of the ingredients.
  • Sunlight – UV rays degrade chemicals over time.
  • Contamination – Opening the containers exposes the dye to microbes and air.
  • Time – Even unopened and stored properly, the chemicals slowly lose potency.

How to Tell if Arctic Fox Hair Dye is Expired

With a vivid semi-permanent dye like Arctic Fox, it can be hard to tell if the color has gone bad. Here are some signs your Arctic Fox dye may be past its prime:

  • The color looks faded or separated in the container
  • You notice a rancid or rotten odor
  • The developer is discolored or cloudy rather than clear
  • The dye has thickened or feels gritty
  • It’s past the expiration date printed on the box

Arctic Fox does not actually list a shelf life for their hair colors. However, most sources recommend using permanent dye within 2 years after opening and semi-permanent within 1 year. Unopened dye lasts even longer – up to 3 years.

Risks of Using Expired Arctic Fox Hair Dye

While expired dye may still work, it carries certain risks. Here’s what can happen with old Arctic Fox hair color:

Uneven Color

When the chemical reactions are impaired, the dye may fail to oxidize properly. This can lead to an uneven color application. Some strands end up darker than others. The result is a splotchy, patchy look.

Fading and Color Loss

Without fresh peroxide to open the cuticle, expired Arctic Fox dye may have trouble grabbing onto hair strands. This allows the color to wash out sooner. Your vivid shade will look faded and dull within a few washes.

Skin and Eye Irritation

The alkaline ingredients like ammonia can become concentrated as the dye thickens up. High alkalinity can irritate skin. Fumes from old dye may cause stinging eyes or throat discomfort.

Damage to Hair

Trying to force expired dye into stubborn hair can require leaving the color on longer. This over-processing leaves hair dry and brittle. Weakened hair is prone to breakage.

Tips for Using Old Arctic Fox Hair Dye

To get the best results with expired Arctic Fox dye, here are some tips to follow:

  • Do an allergy test on your arm first to check for skin irritation.
  • Mix the dye with fresh developer rather than expired peroxide.
  • Leave the mixture on your hair for the full recommended processing time.
  • Rinse with cool water and use a deep conditioner after coloring.
  • Strand test first to check the color result before applying all over.
  • Be prepared to re-dye soon if the color fades quickly.

The Dangers of Using Very Old or Separated Dye

While you may be able to stretch your Arctic Fox dye a little past its prime, some situations call for tossing it out. Here are signs it’s time to get rid of your hair color:

  • The dye is more than 3-4 years old, even unopened.
  • The color is completely separated with clear liquid at the top.
  • You see mold or bubbles indicating fermentation.
  • The formula is thick and gloopy like paste.
  • There is a very strong, chemical odor.

Using dye in those conditions can potentially cause a chemical burn or severe allergic reaction. The fumes may also be quite irritating. It’s best to play it safe and buy some fresh Arctic Fox rather than risk a hair disaster.

The Bottom Line

Expired hair dye like Arctic Fox carries more risks, but doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have a nightmare experience. You may get away with slightly faded or off-tone color. But severe damage is possible if the dye is too far gone.

While it’s tempting try and stretch your dollar, hair color is one beauty product it doesn’t pay to be thrifty with. Investing in fresh dye gives you the best chance of vibrant, long-lasting color. With Arctic Fox retailing around $10-15 per container, it’s a small price to pay for predictably beautiful results.

So be sure to check those expiration dates and store your dye properly. And if in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry and pick up new hair color. Your locks will thank you!