As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See Full Disclosure Here
The short answer is yes, essential oils do expire.
Pure essential oils have a shelf life. Granted, the shelf life is pretty long but they will lose their potency and properties beyond the expiry date.
Because these are pure plant extracts, and very expensive too, the general theory is that these oils last forever. This isn’t true.
To set the record straight, pure essential oils do have a shelf life. This is regardless of the brand.
Shelf Life of Essential Oils: Understanding the Science
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that may be obtained through steam distillation, cold-pressing, or solvent extraction.
The extracted oils contain volatile compounds, which give each one its distinct aroma and therapeutic properties. The specific chemical composition of the extract has the single biggest impact on the shelf life of essential oil.
For example, citrus oils are more prone to oxidation and degradation than oils from other aroma families and may have a shorter shelf life as a result.
Oils that contain high levels of monoterpenes or oxides have the shortest shelf life, ranging from about 1 to 2 years.
On the other hand, oils rich in sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpenols have the longest shelf life. They retain their therapeutic properties for up to 6 years.
The extraction conditions, quality of oil, and storage conditions are other factors that affect the shelf life of essential oil. High-quality oils that are extracted, bottled, and stored under optimum conditions are less likely to degrade prematurely.
This is why it is so important to only buy essential oils from reputed brands. They take great care at every step of the process, from harvesting the plants to the extraction process, bottling, and storage.
Using preservatives could possibly extend the life of the oils but they would also contaminate them, which defeats the purpose.
How Long Do Essential Oils Last For?
Every essential oil has a specific shelf life.
This downloadable essential oil shelf life chart by Plant Therapy does a great job of clearly displaying how long different essential oils last for.
Here’s a snapshot based on Plant Therapy’s shelf life of essential oils chart.
1 – 2 years: Lemon, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lime, Tangerine
2 – 3 years: Balsam Fir, Cypress, Lemongrass, Blue Yarrow, Neroli
3 – 4 years: Lavender, Clary Sage, Cinnamon, Thyme, Eucalyptus
4 -5 years: Rose, Peppermint, Peru Balsam, Cedarwood, Blue Tansy
6 – 8 years: Australian Sandalwood, Patchouli, Indian Sandalwood, Vetiver
An important thing to remember is that the expiry date stamped on a bottle is only applicable if essential oils are stored and used under ideal conditions.
If you do not follow the storage and usage good practices, the essential oils will deteriorate prematurely.
How to Determine the Expiry Date of Your Essential Oils
Along with the contents, essential oil bottles generally also have the manufacture date and expiry date on the label. This gives you a clear indicator of the shelf life of that oil.
If you stock up on essential oils regularly, you should have a system in place to make sure you are using up your old bottles first.
One way to do this is by labeling all your essential oil bottles clearly with the date on which they were purchased and the expiry date.
How to Tell If an Essential Oil Has Expired
So how can you tell if an essential oil has expired? Changes in color, consistency, or aroma are the clearest signs that the oil is past its expiry date.
These signs indicate that the oil has expired:
– Significantly diminished aroma
– Rancid or sour smell
– Cloudiness or sedimentation
– Presence of mold or bacteria
– Change in color
If you notice any of these signs, do not use this oil in your diffuser or for topical use.
What happens if you use expired essential oils? Inhaling the vapors could irritate your mucous membrane and topical application could irritate your skin.
How To Store Essential Oils To Prolong Their Shelf Life
These essential oil storage tips will help your essential oils from spoiling prematurely:
Store essential oil bottles in a cool, dry place away from sunlight – Extended exposure to heat and light can cause the oils to break down and lose their potency prematurely.
Keep oils in dark-colored glass bottles – Glass is one of the few materials that doesn’t react with essential oils, preserving the integrity of the components. The dark color helps to minimize exposure to light, which can destroy the delicate components of the oil.
Make sure to close bottle caps tightly after each use – This prevents oxidation, which can cause the oil to become rancid and lose its therapeutic properties
Mark the purchase and expiration dates clearly on each bottle – It makes it easier to track when you need to replenish your supplies and also prevents accidental use of expired oils.
Avoid storing the bottles in humid or damp areas – Humidity and dampness cause the contents to degrade prematurely.
The only way to extend the shelf life of your essential oils and ensure that they retain all their beneficial properties for the longest time is by protecting them against light, oxygen, and heat.
Note: Never use plastic containers. Essential oils are very potent and will react with plastic and get contaminated.
Read: How To Store Essential Oils Properly To Maximize Shelf Life for more detailed storage tips.
What Happens If You Use Expired Essential Oils
Depending on how you use the expired essential oil, you may experience one or more adverse reactions.
Inhaling the aroma of expired essential oil cause coughing, headaches, or nausea.
Topical application could cause skin irritation, redness, or rash.
Even if you don’t experience any adverse reaction, it’s just not worth using an oil that has expired as it won’t have any therapeutic benefits. Besides, it won’t have a pleasant aroma either.
What To Do with Essential Oils that Are Expired
You shouldn’t use expired oils in your diffuser or in any DIY skincare product, but you don’t have to throw them out either. You can use expired oils for cleaning purposes.
There are several non-toxic home cleaning products that you can make with expired essential oils. Just remember to use gloves when making the cleaning products and also when using them.
These common misconceptions about essential oils and expiration dates are just that – misconceptions
“Essential oils never expire” – The fact is they do expire
“Expiration dates are just a suggestion” – Expiry dates are not just a suggestion. They are there for a reason.
“If it still smells good, it’s still good” – An oil may not lose its aroma but if it’s past its expiry date it would have definitely lost its potency and therapeutic properties.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your physician before using essential oils. See Full Disclaimer here.