July 22, 2018
Did you ever ask the question, can essential oils go bad? Almost everything has some type of expiration or “use by” date. Oils are no different. Since EOs can potentially oxidize, they are considered volatile and they do have a shelf life. This might be surprising to some people, but when you think of them chemically, volatile substances, like EOs evaporate. This is the very reason we can even smell them. Essential oils are made up of chemical compounds. The lighter compounds or constituents are more volatile and evaporate first. Heavier constituents will evaporate last. Oils with lighter constituents are usually easier on the skin. When they evaporate, they can cause an increase in redness or irritation. The risk of sensitivity to an oil increases when oils have oxidized and then are applied to the skin. This can lead to more questions like:
Let’s look at the answers to these and more.
Shelf-life of Popular EOs
The shelf life can vary, and essential oils can’t go rancid, but they can deteriorate over time if they oxidize. The length of time they are potent varies based on the type of oil. Slowly, they lose aromatic qualities and therapeutic value. Their chemical stability depends on the individual oil’s shelf life. The categories of oils have a general shelf life. For example:
3 Key Elements that Affect the Life of Your Essential Oils
The answer to the question can essential oils go badis yes. There are three outside forces that can change the property of essential oils. They are oxygen, heat and light.
Oxygen can react with some of the constituents of EOs and change the chemical composition. You may not be aware of the changes unless the oil was to be tested again. One study found that after Lemon essential oil had been exposed to air daily for 12 months, the monoterpene content was over 65% gone. The degradation was minimized by reducing the exposure to air. Exposing oils to air changes its composition so its function is diminished.
Heat, especially extreme heat, can change an essential oil’s chemical structure. Even though there is not any solid proof for this concept yet, makers of EOs are careful to maintain certain temperatures where they store oils.
Lightcan promote the forming of oxygen-free radicals. Since they are highly reactive, they can change the oil. One study used Sweet Orange essential oil to demonstrate that 50 minutes of exposure to UV light would yield dramatic changes. Some of its chemical content was increased and others were decreased. However, beyond that, there were a dozen new chemicals found in the oil after the exposure.
How to Know if Essential Oils go Bad
There can be several signs to let you know if your EOs have gone bad. Here are some things to look for:
Storage Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Essential Oils
There are several tips that can help you prolong the life of your essential oils and keep them from going bad prematurely. Here are a few of them:
What to do With Expired Essential Oils
If your oils have expired, you do not have to toss them out for good. It’s best for you to not use expired EOs on your hair or skin. It’s also advisable to avoid diffusing oils that have expired. They can still have some good benefits left in them though and so it’s quite alright to use them for cleaning, scrubbing floors and wiping down counters. They may not be as effective, but they are not wasted either.
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