Do Essential Oils Expire? Learn How to Keep Them Fresh Longer
Let’s shed light on the variables that determine the shelf life and potency of essential oils.
Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on December 15, 2023
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“Do essential oils expire, and what can I do to use them as long as I can?”
Essential oils are great for your skin, relaxing, and make it easy to add a scent to your home.
Knowing when they expire is important to ensure you maximize the potential benefits of the oils you’re using.
While essential oils aren’t like foods or drinks, they still change over time, and understanding these changes will help you determine when it’s time to get new oil.
In this article, we’ll take you through what you need to know about how essential oils change over time and what happens when they pass their expiration date.
Read on to learn more below.
Do Essential Oils Expire?
According to Wholesale Botanics, essential oils don’t expire in the same way that food and drinks do.
Instead, they go through a process called oxidation.
This is a different process than the process you’re used to when you think of food going stale or bad.
When food goes bad, it may expose you to harmful bacteria, mold, and other contaminants.
When essential oil expires, its chemical composition begins to change.
This can impact your health if you continue to use them.
What Is Essential Oil Oxidation?
Oxidation is a process that causes an essential oil’s composition to change over time.
This process begins when the oil is exposed to UV light, oxygen, and heat, and it causes the oxygen bonds between molecules to transform into carbon bones.
As oxidation continues, the essential oils begin to lose their strength.
UV light is a major cause of oxidation, which is why many essential oil bottles are made with dark colors that keep light out.
Oxidation can begin as soon as you open the bottle, and the more you use the oil, the more exposure it gets.
Interestingly, essential oils will also expire over time, even if you never open the bottle.
It just takes more time.
What Is the Shelf Life of Essential Oils?
Essential oils last longer than food and drinks, so you don’t have to panic if you have some lying around from over a year ago.
Most essential oils will last for at least two to five years.
Some essential oils may even last for 6-8 years, but it depends on the type of oil, how much exposure to light it has, and other factors.
Here are the lifespans for some common essential oils:
- 1-2 years: Lime, lemon, tangerine (Other fruit-based oils);
- 2-3 years: Black pepper, cypress, spearmint, lemongrass, tea tree;
- 3-4 years: Cinnamon bark, Clary sage, vanilla, thyme, lavender;
- 4-5 years: Cedarwood, wintergreen, blue tansy;
- 6-8 years: Vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli.
It’s best to keep an eye on the bottle (it might say when it expires) and how long you’ve had the oil.
Anything that’s expired shouldn’t be applied to your skin.
Can You Use Expired Essential Oils?
Expired essential oils aren’t as effective as fresh essential oils.
Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t use them anymore.
You can still use them to enjoy a nice fragrance or to add a new scent to your laundry cycle.
You can diffuse them and add fragrances to areas of your home.
So, yes, you can use essential oils after they expire, but you shouldn’t use them on your skin.
Are Expired Essential Oils Dangerous?
Expired essential oils aren’t dangerous in the same way that expired food or drinks are.
They become less effective over time, but they won’t hurt you.
The only time you should avoid using expired essential oils is on your skin.
For example, using 10-year-old catnip oil as a bug spray is not a good idea.
This may cause rashes and other skin irritations.
How To Improve the Shelf-Life of Essential Oils
Essential oils expire, but some storage methods may cause them to expire faster.
Furthermore, some essential oils may be poorly made, which can result in the oils becoming less effective rapidly.
Below are some of the best ways to improve essential oil shelf-life.
1. Use High-quality Essential Oils
The most important thing you can do is use high-quality essential oils with natural ingredients.
While you can get your essential oils from random stores, getting them from a reputable brand or wholesaler is always recommended for the best results.
This way, you don’t get a generic, low-quality essential oil that expires in less than a year.
2. Keep Your Essential Oils Sealed
Essential oils begin oxidation once they’re exposed to, well, oxygen.
Therefore, keep them sealed to prevent them from oxidizing too fast.
While you have to open them to use them in most cases, never leave them lying around without the lid on.
Doing so will increase the oxidation rate significantly.
3. Keep Them Away from Heat and Light
Oxidation happens once oxygen mixes with the essential oils, and it can be accelerated by UV light and warm temperatures.
Ensure you store your oils at room temperature and in a dark area to prevent them from expiring quickly.
For example, if you store them in the sun on a hot summer day, they’ll expire much faster.
Following these tips will help you get the most out of your essential oils for as long as it’s possible.
Conclusion: Do Essential Oils Expire?
Yes, essential oils do expire due to a process called oxidation.
Inhaling expired essential oils can make you feel unwell, and rubbing them on your skin may give you a rash.
For these reasons, check the expiration date on your essential oils before you use them.
While they’ll last longer than your average good items, that doesn’t mean they last forever.
Also, make sure you choose high-quality, natural essential oils.
Getting second-rate oils reduces their quality, lifespan, and effectiveness.