I’ve been asked, “is there a shelf life for essential oils?” I wanted to answer that question here as I noticed that in doing much of my research in essential oil uses, the shelf life for essential oils is not commonly mentioned. Unlike food labels, essential oils don’t have an expiration listed. Oils have a shelf life, which means you need to make sure you properly store them and log the date of when they were first purchased. I’ll explain why this is important and why keeping oils in your refrigerator will also increase their shelf life.
Do Essential Oils Expire?
Just because essential oils are all natural does not mean they don’t expire. They don’t expire in the sense that they will grow mold or have mildew however, essential oils do deteriorate over time due to losing their effectiveness. Certain constitutes in essential oils are more volatile than others and will have the tendency to evaporate. This is where the proper storage becomes vital to preserve the life of the oils.
Oxygen can change the chemical structure of essential oils. When you open the bottle, the oil is in its purest form. Once exposed to air, that purity starts to degrade.
Intense heat will change the essential oils chemical composition which is why you want to store them in a cool place.
Light promotes free radicals that are highly reactive and can change the essential oil. Some of the chemicals can change in the oil just from being in ultraviolet light. Just one hour in the sun can cause these changes. Storing your oils out of the sun will extend their potency and their shelf life. Storing them in a dark Amber glass bottle is best to keep UV rays out.
Oils do not respond to temperature change well. By keeping them in a cool, dark place, such as your refrigerator, it will help keep the therapeutic benefits and the aroma of your oils.
Recording the Date You Buy Your Essential Oil
Keeping tabs on the date your purchased an essential oil is as simple as writing the date on the label bottle. Over time, essential oils will oxidize, but they do not go rancid. They do gradually deteriorate and lose their aromatic fragrance and therapeutic benefits. The lifespan varies with different oils.
While an expired oil won’t become dangerous to use, it will lose its potency. If you want your oil to last longer, regardless of the brand, make sure its packaged in a dark bottle. The reason is that too much light can deteriorate your oils over time and oxidation will occur. Storing your oils in the refrigerator is best and keeping the caps tightly closed.
Guidelines For Shelf Life of Your Oils
Common Essential Oils Shelf Life:
● Lemon Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum
● Orange (sweet) Citrus sinensis, Citrus aurantium var. Sinensis
● Mandarin Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis
● Frankincense Boswellia frereana, Boswellia papyrifera, Boswellia
sacra (Boswellia carteri), Boswellia serrata, Boswellia neglecta,
● Lime Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia
● Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia
● Basil (sweet) Ocimum basilicum
● Bergamot Citrus bergamia
● Blue Tansy Tanacetum annuum
● Elemi Canarium luzonicum, Canarium vulgare
● Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare
● Juniper Berry Juniperus communis
● Melissa Melissa officinalis
● Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum vulgare, Thymbra capitata
● Rosalina Melaleuca ericifolia
● Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor
● Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum
● Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum
● Chamomile, German Matricaria recutita
● Clary Sage Salvia sclarea
● Geranium Pelargonium roseum x asperum
● Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum, Helichrysum angustifolium,
● Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
● Peppermint Mentha x piperita
● Spearmint Mentha cardiaca, Mentha crispa, Mentha viridis
● Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata
5 – 6 years:
● Copaiba Copaifera officinalis, Copaigera langsdorfii
● Ginger Zingiber officinale
● Myrrh Commiphora myrrha, Commiphora molmol
● Pepper (black) Piper nigrum
● Rose (otto) Rosa damascena
● Valerian Valeriana officinalis, Valeriana fauriei
● Wintergreen Gaultheria fragmentissima, Gaultheria procumbens
6 + years:
● Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides, Andropogon muricatus, Andropogon
zizanoides, Chrysopogon zizanoides, Phalaris zizanoides
● Sandalwood (East Indian) Santalum album
- Patchouli Pogostemom cablin, Pogostemon patchouly
- Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana
Shelf Life For Carrier Oils
Most carrier oils have a shelf life of around two years. They also need to be kept in a cool, dark place. Make sure that you are only using carrier oils that are 100% pure, cold pressed and unrefined. The most common carrier oils are sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil, and rosehip oil. If you are using borage oil, please make note that it only has a short shelf life of six months.
When using carrier oils, make sure you’re not getting any moisture or impurities in them. Everything that touched the oil should be as clean and dry as possible to prevent oxidation or any type of germs from growing in it. The shelf life of carrier oils will last if you control the temperature, cleanliness, air exposure and light. Keeping them properly cared for means that you can enjoy them longer.
In order to maintain the therapeutic value and aromatic quality of your essential oils, following these simple steps can give your oils a longer shelf life and help preserve them for a longer length of time. If you have oils that have expired, you could still use them in your diffuser however applying them topically is not recommended. Keep dates of purchase on each bottle label and you will find it easier to keep track of the shelf life for your essential oil collection. If you’re unsure if an oil has gone bad, use common sense and don’t apply it on your skin. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Many of you have asked what essential oils I use. I have used many brands of oils, but the brand on the top of my list is Healing Natural Oils. All of their products are 100% natural and gentle on the skin. I especially like that they have single oils and oil blends that target specific symptoms. One of my favorites is “Simply Eye Serum.” I use it for dark circles and bags under my eyes.
Got a question about the shelf life for essential oils? Please leave it in the comment section below.