Have you been using expired essential oils? Either deliberately or due to not checking or knowing if your oils have expired?
If you have been using essential oils for years and have a collection of different oils there is a good chance that some have expired.
Most oils do not come with an expiration date, which makes it difficult to know when the oil has gone rancid or just past its best.
This is because there are a few different factors that affect the shelf life of essential oils.
So, I thought I would put this guide together on how to tell if an essential oil has gone bad, their expected shelf lives and how dangerous using essential oils can be.
Factors That Affect the Shelf Life of Essential Oils
As I mentioned above, most essential oils do not come with an expiry date as there are some variables that determine how long the oil lasts.
Here are the main reasons oils go bad faster than others:
Oxygen exposure is the main reason oils go bad. This should be no surprise as this is the reason a lot of perishable products go bad.
Every time you use your oils oxygen gets into the bottle and oxidizes the oil. This changes the chemical compounds, effectively reducing the strength of the oil.
If you read the label on your oils you will notice the manufacturer recommends storing in a cool place and out of direct sunlight.
Heat causes the compounds of essential oils to separate and start to evaporate. Combined with removing the lid to use the oil and letting oxygen in damaging the oil.
As mentioned above, the label on your oil will also recommend keeping the bottle out of the direct sunlight.
The bottles are tinted to help protect the oil from UV rays, but you need to do your bit and store them away from sunlight.
Light breaks down oils changing their composition and speeding up the oxidizing process.
With all of the above taken into account, the more often you use the oil and the older the oil is the quicker it will change in composition.
If you never use oil and store it somewhere cool then it will last years. Maybe 3-5 years. On the other hand, if you open the bottle regularly, assuming the oil doesn’t run out, it could go bad in a matter of months.
Different oils have different shelf lives too depending on their compounds as I will explain in more detail below.
How to Tell If Essential Oil Has Gone Bad
While there is no exact science to tell how bad an essential oil has gone (unless you have a testing lab). There are a few ways you can get a really good idea if it’s past its best and shouldn’t be used:
Does It Smell like New?
The smell is usually a good giveaway. Oils that are past their best will not smell as strong as they did when they were new.
Some oils will even have an ‘off’ smell. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you smell it.
Has the Consistency Changed?
There is no mistaking the smooth consistency of a new essential oil. When they start to turn you may see some separation or the consistency will be a lot thicker.
Are You Experiencing Skin Sensitivity?
It’s possible for the oil to look and smell fine or at least not that you notice any difference, yet it will cause itching or redness when used topically if it’s gone bad.
Can I Use Expired Essential Oils?
You shouldn’t use expired oils, no.
If your oils are showing the signs I described above that they have gone bad then you should throw them away and not use them.
Even if you’re not 100% sure, I wouldn’t risk it. For the cost of replacing the oil, it’s just not worth risking using oils that have gone bad.
There is a risk of increased skin sensitivity if you use bad oils. This means you can cause itching, burning, redness, and an all-around uncomfortable experience if you’re using the oils topically on someone.
So, do the right thing. Throw away oils that look or smell like they’ve gone bad.
If you’re storing your essential oils in a dry, cool place out of direct light, they should last long enough that you use them before they go bad.
I’m a MA, (CMT) Certified Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Reiki Master — I’m a licensed massage therapist with over 10 years of experience in the industry.