How you store essential oils matters because of oxidation.
Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits that have helped millions of people to improve their overall health and well-being. They are extracted from different parts of plants and trees (leaves, fruit, wood, bark, or roots). Since they are organic substances, they are prone to oxidation. Oxidation takes place when a molecule loses electrons. This causes the molecule to become unstable, and eventually break down.
An essential oil starts oxidising immediately after it is produced. How you store essential oils can slow down or speed up oxidation, ultimately affecting their shelf life. An oxidised oil isn’t as potent as a fresh oil. Whilst it can take years for an oil to become so oxidised that it’s unsafe to use, an essential oil that is too oxidised may cause irritation, rather than offering therapeutic benefits.
Essential Oils are an investment in your wellness, so it’s important to take good care of them. You will want to feel better for as long as possible, and make the most out of the money that you spent, so it is important to store essential oils properly, so you can slow the rate of oxidation and prolong the shelf lives of your oils.
How to store essential oils to prolong shelf life
As much as possible, you want to keep your oils from oxidising.. The four leading causes of essential oil oxidation and degradation are heat, light, oxygen, and moisture.
Heat – Essential oils are flammable—they can ignite at high temperatures. So, make sure to keep your essential oils away from sources of fire and heat!
Light - Sunlight will oxidise oils in just a few months. It is best to keep your oils away from shelves or drawers that are in the way of direct sunlight. Store essential oils in a cool, dark place (away from both light and heat), in closed bottles. Most essential oils are sold in colored-glass bottles—usually amber or cobalt blue glass. This helps prevent light from getting to the oil and slows the rate of oxidation.
Oxygen – When you open a sealed container, the air that enters will immediately start oxidising the oil inside. You can slow down the oxidation by ensuring that the bottle is capped properly whenever you’re not using it. The bottle’s orifice reducer also slows oxidation, since it doesn’t allow much air to get into the bottle.
Moisture – If water enters your essential oil bottle, it can cause the oil to become cloudy. This can advance oxidation and will dilute your oil. Given that, it is doubly important to keep the bottle cap closed tightly at all times.
Do Essential Oils Expire?
The natural ingredients in essential oils slowly degrade over time. Proper storage will only slow oxidation and will not stop deterioration altogether. Most essential oils can last between one to three years. However, ingredients have vastly different degradation rates.
Citrus oils tend to oxidize quickly. They have very small molecules that lose electrons easily. Sweet Orange, for example, has a shelf life of 2 years from the date it was produced. Patchouli oil is made up of bigger, heavier molecules. It takes a long time for them to oxidize. A bottle of Patchouli oil has a shelf life of around 20 years from the date it was produced!
It’s important to keep track of how long you’ve had a bottle in your home. If it’s been more than a year, carefully examine the oil before you use it. If the smell is entirely different, if it’s thicker or appears foggy, it’s time to throw it out.
What about carrier oils and butters?
The same rules apply. They’re natural substances that are prone to oxidation. Just like essential oils, each carrier has an individual shelf life. Store your carriers in a cool, dark place, and keep the jars and bottles closed tightly.
Some carriers oxidize quickly, like aloe vera gel. It’s an unstable substance with a shelf life of around 2 years (assuming it’s stored in a cold, dark area in a closed bottle). Other carriers are much more stable, like jojoba and beeswax. These substances are waxes—even jojoba, which is technically a liquid wax!—and they’re so stable that they don’t turn rancid. A bottle of jojoba or a jar of beeswax can last 20 years from when it was produced!
Get the most benefit out of every bottle!
Storing your products in a cool, dark place (and in closed bottles or jars) helps you get the most out of your essential oil collection. It keeps your products fresh and safe.
It also respects the planet! The longer your oils last, the less often you’ll have to replace them.