Essential oils have a range of shelf lives. The majority of them will last at least two years before beginning to deteriorate, depending on the temperature they are stored at as well as their exposure to light and oxygen.
At higher temperatures and greater exposure, oxidation happens much more quickly. In a full glass or food-grade aluminum bottle with a tight-fitting lid, you should ideally store your essential oils in a cool, dark location. They can even be kept in the refrigerator, which is especially advised for citrus oils because of their heightened oxidation susceptibility; citrus oils typically have a shelf life of nine to twelve months.
How Long Do Essential Oils Last?
Because each oil has a unique chemical makeup, the answer varies depending on the oil. The majority won’t start to break down for at least two years unless they contain one of the unstable carrier oils mentioned earlier. And some can continue to function effectively for up to 15 years.
For safety reasons, many experts suggest replacing essential oils every three years. Patchouli, ylang ylang, vetiver, and sandalwood are the exceptions because they actually get better with age. For some other necessities, however, three years is on the shorter end of the lifespan spectrum.
The expected essential oil shelf life, given proper handling and storage, is listed below in categories.
What Causes Essential Oils to Lose Effectiveness?
We’ve already mentioned that many common pathogens, such as yeast, mildew, and mold, that frequently cause products to spoil or turn rancid aren’t a problem for pure essential oils. Long shelf lives are possible for sealed essential oil bottles that are stored in a cool, dark environment.
However, when the oils are exposed to environmental factors, issues begin to arise. The therapeutic effects, fragrance, and safety of the essential oils can be affected by these outside factors.
Essential oils’ therapeutic benefits and active components are largely responsible for these qualities. The most significant ones are monoterpenols, sesquiterpenoids, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and monoterpenoids, the latter two of which will oxidize when exposed to air.
Similar to how oxygen steals electrons from iron, causing it to rust over time, oxygen also robs electrons from these essential oil ingredients, altering their chemical structure. Although the oils won’t necessarily become rancid or spoiled as a result of this transformation, they won’t offer the advantages for which you purchased them.
Light and Heat
Sunlight in particular can quickly alter the chemical composition of essential oils. This result arises from the formation of oxygen-free radicals in the oils as a result of brief exposure to UV light, which changes the chemical composition of the oils and even generates some new ones.
For instance, in a 2005 study, scientists discovered that after being exposed to light for two months, the components of sweet fennel oil had completely changed due to oxidation. Another study using Sweet Orange essential oil showed that after 50 minutes of exposure to UV light, the oil underwent significant changes. After being exposed to UV light, the oil actually contained 12 new chemical components.
Additionally, there is some proof that the chemical composition and balance of essential oils can change when they are exposed to high heat. The majority of manufacturers typically advise keeping the essential oils away from high temperatures or sunlight, though more research is necessary to fully understand the effect that heat has on them.
How to Tell If Essential Oils Have Gone Bad
How do you determine if your essential oils are past their expiration date? Some citrus oils will smell bad, especially those that contain limonene, like lemon and grapefruit. The aroma of oxidation can, however, be less perceptible with most oils.
If oxygen has in fact shortened the shelf life of your essential oil in this case, there are other ways to check. Others, such as chamomile and peppermint, will undergo color changes, while still others may experience a discernible shift in viscosity.
The therapeutic properties of the essential oils are lost or degraded in all of these situations when they are applied to the skin or placed in a diffuser. The products only work well for some skincare uses after that deterioration.
However, using some oils after they have oxidized, such as tea tree and lavender, can actually irritate the skin or mucous membranes or result in sensitization.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Oils
- The oil is kept from being exposed to direct sunlight in colored bottles.
- Keep the cap on your bottle firmly in place.
- Keep the temperature between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what most refrigerators are set at; this is the ideal range. Unless you want your food to start tasting like your oils, keep the oils in a container (like a wooden box or plastic bag).
- As they cool, some oils get thicker. This is completely typical. To make the bottle more liquid again, simply warm it briefly in your hands.
- If your oil does not smell as fresh as it did when you first opened it, it has likely begun to oxidize.
- Citrus oils may become hazy. If this occurs, let the sediment sink to the bottom of the bottle and then transfer the good oil into a fresh bottle using a clean pipette.
- utilizing a portable inhaler? As inhalers frequently come into contact with the air, you should refresh it every three to four months.
Are Expired Essential Oils Dangerous?
The question of how long essential oils will last must first be acknowledged as one for which we do not yet have a definitive answer. Since there isn’t a lot of scientific research on essential oils in general, there isn’t a lot of information about how using an essential oil that has passed its expiration date will affect you.
We do know that oxidation can have a negative effect on the aroma of essential oils, which may have a negative impact on the therapeutic benefits that essential oils are thought to have for your physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re unsure whether an essential oil is still within its expiration date, especially if you typically use your oils for skincare, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Essential oils that have passed their expiration date may also cause skin irritation, such as peeling skin or rashes.
Is There Any Way to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Essential Oil?
The unfortunate truth is that oxidation is a normal and unavoidable process that results in expired oils. You must be aware of your expiration dates because essential oil safety is crucial. However, there are a few do-it-yourself methods you can use to ensure that your essential oils last as long as possible so you can use them as much as possible.
Keep It Covered
The best way to slow this process is to reduce the amount of oxygen exposure your essential oils receive because oxidation is the issue. A bottle of essential oils should always have the cap on, and before screwing it back on, make sure it is tight as possible.
Keep It Cool and Dark
Your essential oils will perform best if they are kept in a cool, dark environment. Any storage cabinet or container will do. Consider switching out the light-colored bottle of an essential oil you bought for one that is tinted or opaque. The less exposure to light, direct sunlight, and heat that your essential oils receive, the better. You should also buy your oils in glass bottles because they better protect the contents.
Keep It Small
Bulk purchases can be seductive if you like to shop for deals. However, you shouldn’t choose an essential oil that comes in a big container when it comes to essential oils. The amount of oxygen you can trap inside a bottle depends on its size.
The constituents of essential oils and how they interact with one another are the subject of extensive science and chemistry. The problem is that while the oil may not go “bad” – it doesn’t stay the oil you know and love forever. It’ll start to morph and fall apart. And while there may not be an exact science behind the “shelf life” of an oil, there is a pretty good idea on how long an oil should last if stored properly.
How Long Do Young Living Essential Oils Last
Essential oils don’t actually have an expiration date. When stored properly, essential oils can last for years.
How Long Does Rosemary Essential Oil Last
Even if you store it in a cool, dry place, it will only retain its potency for around two months. If you keep the rosemary oil in the fridge, you can extend this to six months.
How Long Does Lavender Essential Oil Last
This type of essential oil can last for 2-4 years. The shelf life of lavender is very long. Some experts claim that using 2-4% of expired lavender in blends is safe.
What Happens If You Use Expired Essential Oils
Spoilage can also lead to irritation or sensitization, which can result in skin rashes, burns, peeling skin, or other unpleasant side effects.