An essential oil bottle next to a white flower on a wooden table

Do Essential Oils Expire?

Essential oils can last for a while, but they’re natural, so eventually they start to lose their potency and will become unusable. It's important to understand when essential oils expire so you know when to discard them because it’s no longer safe to use them. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the shelf life of essential oils.


Do Essential Oils Even Have an Expiration Date?

Yes they do. Essential oils are a product of nature and every natural product has a shelf life. Now, they don’t necessarily “go rancid” in the way that we think of natural foods expiring when they develop mold, but it’s important to know they can deteriorate, oxidize and lose their effectiveness over time. 

How Can I Tell If an Essential Oil Has Gone Bad?

It’s not always easy to tell if an essential oil has degraded, but there are some telltale signs to look out for. If the oil has changed color or smells different than it did when you bought it, it’s a good idea to discard it. Additionally, if the oil is cloudy or thicker than usual, most likely the oil has oxidized, which means it’s an indication that it's no longer usable.

Here’s a tip: I like to do a smell evaluation of the oil when I first get it. The first time you open the cap, make a mental note, or write in a notebook, what the oil smells like. This way, as you use the oil over time, if you notice it starts to smell differently, you can refer back to your original smell assessment of the oil when you first unscrewed the cap. I also check the color and clarity of the oil from the beginning and use that as a reference as time goes on.

Why Does It Matter That I Know The Expiration Date of My Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be potent, so knowing their expiration date is critical. An expired essential oil is not only weaker in its aroma and therapeutic value, resulting in a less effective product, but also becomes unsafe to use. Just remember that essential oils are natural, they’re dynamic, and with age they go through a process called oxidization. Oxidization is what can cause skin and respiratory irritation, as well as sensitization. So, keeping an eye on the expiration of your essential oils will help ensure you have the optimal experience each time you use them.


How Do I Figure Out The Shelf Life of My Essential Oil?

The clock starts ticking and the shelf life begins the moment the essential oil is produced - the point of distillation/extraction of volatile organic compounds from the plant material. A reputable essential oil supplier will tell you the month and year of the distillation of the oil it is selling, as well as the expected shelf life of that oil. 

What If I Don’t Know the Distillation Date or Expected Shelf Life of My Essential Oil?

Start the clock the moment you unscrew your essential oil bottle. That first release becomes your “distillation/batch” date. Please note this isn’t an ideal way to work with essential oils. The more accuracy you can have, the safer and more effective your oils will be. If you’re really committed to using essential oils to support you, it’s critical that you find reputable suppliers that will give you the key information you need. You can refer to another blog post I wrote, “5 Things To Look For When Buying Essential Oils” to help identify good suppliers. 

Need More Help?

If you want a step-by-step guide to identifying if your essential oils are still safe and effective to use, get my free Complete Essential Oil Inventory Clean-Up Guide. It will help ensure you’re working with the most vibrant oils possible. 


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