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product, an essential oil will also lose its effectiveness over time, although it won’t go bad in the same way that out-of-date food will.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.
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:
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 lemon and orange 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 peppermint 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.
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:
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:
- Get in touch with your local council who should be able to provide guidance on how to dispose of essential oils safely.
- 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.
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.