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16 April 2023 / Laura Garvin Gomez

Do Essential Oils Expire? How to Improve Shelf Life

Ever wondered how long your essential oils can actually last for? Do they even expire at all? We have all the answers for you here.

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Do Essential Oils Expire? How to Improve Shelf Life

Expiry dates are important because they give us a guideline on how long an item is safe to use.

And it is no different with essential oils, which should also come with an expiry date. How long it will last depends on the type of oil you use, how it is stored and the quality of the product you have purchased. Here we discuss all you need to know about essential oil expiry days and how to improve their shelf life.

Do essential oils expire?

Just like any other natural product, an essential oil will also lose its effectiveness over time, although it won’t go bad in the same way that out-of-date food will. However, the amount of time it will take an essential oil to expire depends on several different factors.

Once an essential oil bottle is opened, the oxidation process begins as it comes into contact with oxygen. The composition of the oil changes whenever it is exposed to oxygen, light or heat and will gradually start to lose its strength. You’ll notice that when you buy an essential oil, it comes in a dark or amber glass bottle, which helps to protect the oil against ultraviolet light (similar to the reasons why olive oil is sold in a dark bottle).

The quality of the oil is also important, as the better it is, the longer it will last. This is why you should only ever buy essential oils from a reputable buyer, and it also offers more guarantees that the oil is safe to use.

Various 10ml bottles of essential oils and 10ml boxes

How long do essential oils last for?

The shelf life of an essential oil will vary depending on the oil you have bought. Below are some examples of how long essential oils can last for:

1-2 years

2-3 years

3-4 years

4-5 years

The likes of sandalwood and buddha wood can last even longer for up to 6-8 years in some circumstances. The shelf life depends on how much exposure the oil has had to light, heat and oxygen so it can also lose effectiveness before the time periods stated above.

How will I know if an essential has expired?

Depending on the oil there are some ways to tell if it has expired. For example, citrus oils like and can start to emit a distinctive scent, although this may not be as noticeable in other types of oils. If you think that your essential oil does have a different scent, then do not apply it to your skin as it could cause an allergic reaction.

Colour changes can also occur, as is the case with and chamomile, while other oils may display a slight shift away from their original colour.

Another thing to look out for is that the consistency of the oil may have changed. If it is thicker or thinner than usual this will usually mean that its composition has altered, and you may need to buy a replacement.

Before you buy an essential oil, you should check that it comes with an expiry date. At Nikura, all our essential oils come with an expiry date so you know that it will last for a certain amount of time if the storage instructions are closely followed.

Drop of oil coming out of an essential oil bottle

Are there any risks of using expired essential oils?

You may not know that your essential oil has gone bad, or you may still decide to use it even if you think it has expired, however you should do so with caution.

When an essential oil has been oxidised, it means the composition has changed, which will affect much more than just its aroma. In some cases, using a spoiled essential oil can cause an allergic reaction, skin swelling, redness, or irritation. This can happen if you did not previously experience any negative reaction before the oil expired.

How to make essential oils last longer

Here are some ways you can extend the shelf life of essential oils:

  1. Limit exposure to oxygen: When you use your essential oil, always be sure to replace the cap as quickly as possible, as this will reduce the amount of exposure it has to oxygen. Once finished, screw the cap back tightly on the bottle, as if it is too loose, oxygen will find its way in to degrade the oil.
  2. Store away from heat and light: Exposure to heat and light is not good for an essential oil. The best place to store the bottle or container is in a cool, dry place such as a medicine cabinet or kitchen cupboard. Do not leave the bottle out so it is exposed to direct sunlight or other forms of light and heat.
  3. Use a dark bottle for storage: Your oil should already come in a dark bottle but if you want to transfer it, make sure the new container is also dark. The more opaque it is, the more protection it has against oxidation.
  4. Only use small containers: Another tip is to only use small containers for storing your oils. This is because it offers more protection against oxidation as there is less space for oxygen to be trapped inside, helping to avoid a shortened shelf life.

How do I dispose of expired essential oils?

Essential oils are very potent, which is why you should always dilute them before topical application. You should also bear this in mind when it comes to their disposal, as there is a chance that it could affect the plumbing or harm the environment if they are poured down the sink.

To dispose of expired essential oils, you should:

  1. Get in touch with your local council who should be able to provide guidance on how to dispose of essential oils safely.
  2. Check the Data Safety Sheet that comes with your oil as this should also contain instructions on how to safely dispose of it.

In most cases, you will be required to take the essential oil to an approved waste disposal site where the oil can be handled and disposed of safely.

Illustration of a sprig

All essential oils will expire eventually, but with good care and storage practices, you may even be able to make it last beyond the approved date. Keep them in a cool dry location inside a dark bottle away from heat and light, and seal the bottle when not in use. If you notice any bad scents, colour changes or any other unusual differences to your essential oil, there is a good chance it may have expired and will need to be safely disposed of.

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