Do essential oils go bad?
The answer to this, like most things, is yes. Essential oils have a shelf life and over time they break down and their chemical compounds change. Even if your oils are pure, they still will break down over time, it is a scientific fact. They oxidize over time and extreme heat can also cause chemical breakdowns.
When oxidation occurs the oil will become skin irritating and unfortunately, this is the best way to test oxidation yourself. There are laboratory tests but they are expensive and not ideal. Some oils may get cloudy or smell less vibrant, but you may visually not be able to see a difference. It is important to know the shelf life of your oils and blends to avoid irritation.
Shelf life doesn’t start when you purchase the product but rather when the oils themselves are distilled. So if you are trying to figure out the shelf life you would need to know when the plant was harvested and distilled. Reputable oil companies should provide an expiration date on the bottle. It is always a good idea to keep a running inventory and cycle through your oils as needed.
Blending & Product Shelf Life
When creating a blend or butter the shelf life of the blend becomes the shortest shelf life of the individual products. For example, if I made a headache blend of peppermint, frankincense and coconut oil the shelf life of my blend would that of my peppermint which expires the soonest. When you add water or hydrosols to your blends your shelf life becomes shortened and is about 6 months.
Extending Shelf Life
Keeping bottles sealed tightly and storing oils and carriers in a cool dry place can help keep oils longer. Refrigerating oils is an excellent idea, although not necessary. I personally keep my oils stored in a mini-fridge. Some oils may thicken when placed in the fridge but will thin back out when removed, unaltered. If you are using your oils on a daily basis and don’t intend to need to keep them stored for lengths of time simply keep them out. Don’t leave oils in the sun or in your car.