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Do essential oils expire? I have heard this question often, and it is honestly a little tricky to answer. The real answer is yes…and no. Here is a quick review on whether or not essential oils expire and if older oils are safe to use.
Do Essential Oils Expire?
Essential oils do not really expire. So you will not find an expiration date on your oils. If an oil is properly stored and left unopened, then MOST oils can last a long while. An oil will not mold, grow mildew, or go rancid. However, if improperly stored, an oil can change or lose certain properties.
All oils say that they need to be stored in a cool, dark space. And there is good reason for this. The main reasons that an oil could have its properties change due to temperature (specifically heat), light, and oxidation.
It is important to keep your essential oils in a cooler location. Some people even keep theirs in the fridge! Cooler is better when it comes to essential oils. I typically use my essential oils pretty quickly once opened (they don’t last for years!), and before they are opened I keep them in a cooler cupboard in my house. But if you are taking a long time to use a bottle of essential oils, you can pop it into the fridge to keep its properties at optimal levels for longer. Speaking of cold, yes, some essential oils can and do freeze. This is not a sign of impurity. It also is not going to damage your essential oils though you should let it thaw before use.
The important part is to avoid heat with your essential oils, especially for longer periods of time. The heat will eventually change the properties of your essential oils, and this can make them less effective or possibly even too potent. If your oil has been heated (for instance left in a hot car), don’t panic. Keep the lid on it until it has cooled back to a more normal temperature. If you take the lid off while it is hot, critical and volatile components of the oil could escape the bottle. But the critical part to remember is LONG term and consistent storage must be in a cooler location.
You may have noticed that almost all essential oils are packaged in darkly tinted glass bottles. This is because the oils are sensitive to light. If they were packaged in clear glass, the light could damage the oils. Similarly, even if the oil is packaged in a darkly tinted bottle, but left in a sunny window for a significant amount of time, then you could damage the oil.
Light can cause oxidation of essential oils. A study was done on laurel and fennel essential oil, and it was shown that both had oxidation occur when exposed to light, though at different rates. Keeping it in a darker cupboard will allow your essential oils to last longer. That said, light damage to essential oils is a process. So if you are using your essential oils frequently and they aren’t lasting terribly long, you will have less of a problem from light than if your oils last years.
Once an oil has been opened, it is exposed to oxygen. Essential oils can react with this oxygen and oxidize. This is called oxidation. Oxidation is encouraged by exposure to oxygen, light, and heat. The less an essential oil is exposed to air the better it is. So what does this mean? When using an oil, replace the cap as soon as you are finished using it. This limits the amount of time the oil is exposed to oxygen.
So What is Our Conclusion?
On the topic of do essential oils expire, if an oil has been left unopened, it is more likely to last longer. Even opened essential oils can last for years, provided they are kept from heat, light, and oxygen. Essential oils do not expire necessarily, but proper storage and maintenance of your oils are required or they will lose key properties.
If you are properly storing your essential oils and using them consistently, there is zero reason why they won’t last you until the bottle is empty. If, however, you shove an opened oil into the back of the closet and find it 10 years later, then there may be some questions as to whether or not it is best to use. But since we all want to pursue holistic wellness, we’ll be using those oils in plenty of time and you can be confident that those oils will serve you well! Looking for more Essential Oil tips for daily usage? Visit my Instagram page and be sure to get plugged in to the Wellness Adventuring Community!