Whilst essential oils will never go rancid, they will deteriorate and lose their beneficial therapeutic properties over time so it is important to store and look after them properly.
Under proper storage conditions an essential oil has a conservative estimated shelf life of at least one year. On the more liberal end of the scale, some may last ten years or more, depending on the oil type and storage conditions.
The quality of an oil begins to progressively decline with the process of oxidation, which causes them to lose their aroma as well as their nourishing benefits. However, not all degrade at the same rate; while essential oils from citrus fruits are known to oxidize faster than others, essential oils with earthy or woody aromas, such as Patchouli and Sandalwood, tend to improve with maturity and take longer to weaken in potency and aroma. An oil’s lifespan may fluctuate greatly depending on the quality of the source botanical and the harvest, the extraction method and the conditions under which the oil is distilled, the batch/lot, storage and handling of the oil when it is first received by both the supplier and the customer, and the manner in which the supplier bottles, stores, and handles the oil.
Factors that influence essential oil shelf life
HEAT – Frequent exposure to heat will hasten an oil’s deterioration.
OXYGEN – Exposure to air/oxygen causes oils to oxidize and their volatile constituents begin to fade.
LIGHT – When essential oils are kept in sunny spots, their aroma, appearance and general effectiveness will be negatively impacted.
MOISTURE – Moisture can enter oil bottles when they are left uncapped for an extended period, leaving the oils looking cloudy.
Ideal Storage Conditions
Clear glass won’t damage essential oils but it won’t protect them from the sun either, which is sort of like sending your skin out into the sun without any SPF – bad things can happen. The best way to extend the life of essentials oils is to store them in dark bottles, amber and cobalt blue are most widely used. These dark colours help to keep out sunlight. Aluminium bottles are also ok, as long as the bottle is lined. But never store essential oils in plastic bottles as some oils can eat through plastic – which might smell nice but will be very messy!
Use plastic stoppers rather than droppers where possible. The stoppers will dispense oil drop by drop and reduce air, moisture of foreign particles entering the bottle. You’re busy, we get it, but keep the lid tightly screwed on your essential oils to both protect them and stop them from evaporating.
Also store your oils in a cool, dry, dark place. It doesn’t need to be pitch black but a sunny windowsill is not the place for them. Choose somewhere without dramatic temperature fluctuations, and yes, you can store them in the fridge.
A good way to keep track of how old your essential oils are, is to mark the bottle with the date you bought them. Also keep the older essential oils front and centre so you’re more likely to reach for them.
GUIDE TO ESSENTIAL OIL SHELF LIFE AFTER OPENING
|Oil Type & Properties||Examples||Shelf Life|
|6 months-1 year|
|Fresh, Herbaceous, Warm, Slightly|
Spicy, Slightly Sweet, Softly Floral or Woody, Camphoraceous
|Herbaceous, Camphorous, Spicy,|
Balancing, Strengthening, Purifying
|Woody, Earthy, Balsamic, Warm,|
Sedative, Centering, Grounding, Calming