The shelf life, quality, beneficial properties, and safe use of an Essential Oil depends largely on the way in which it is stored. When kept in the proper vessel and at the proper temperature, an Essential Oil can achieve its maximum shelf life with a conservative estimate of at least one year. On the more liberal end of the scale, properly cared-for Essential Oils may even last for ten years or longer, depending on the type of oil and the storage conditions.
Although clear/colorless glass bottles will not cause damage to Essential Oils, they will also not prevent damaging UV radiation from influencing the quality of the oil. Darkly colored bottles (such as amber bottles) are recommended instead and is my preferred way to store my essential oils.
Aluminum bottles are suitable for storage if their interiors are lined with food-grade Epoxy lining. They are a safe method for Essential Oil transportation and are ideal for short-term storage.
DO NOT store Essential Oils in hot, bright, or humid areas, such as in the bathroom, near a stove, on a window sill or other sunny area, and any places where constantly shifting room temperatures might potentially cause the quality of the oil to deteriorate faster.
Due to their flammable nature, Essential Oils should never be kept near open flames or any sources of heat or fire, such as sunlight, candles, and stoves. Leaving them vulnerable to high temperatures could lead to them reaching their unique flash points, which are the individual temperatures at which oils will ignite. Being frequently exposed often to heat will hasten an oil’s deterioration.
When oils are exposed to air/oxygen, they become oxidized and their volatile constituents begin to fade, which means their fragrances – among other qualities – fade. This is largely caused by the oil’s bottle cap being left open for long periods of time. To prevent or slow the processes of oxidation and evaporation, it is important that bottles remain capped when Essential Oils are not in use. Oxidized oils, while not suggested for topical use or aromatherapy, can still be used for other applications, such as household cleaning.
When Essential Oils are kept in sunlit areas, their properties will be negatively impacted, and these include their aromas, appearances, and general effectiveness. For this reason, Essential Oils are sold and stored in darkly-colored bottles (most commonly amber, although dark blue, green, violet, and black have also become popular) to prevent UV radiation from penetrating the bottle. Regardless of the dark color of the bottle, it is still best to avoid placing oils in direct sunlight, as the recurrent heating and cooling will facilitate the oils’ oxidation.
Moisture can enter oil bottles when they are left uncapped for an extended period, leaving the oils looking cloudy. The insides of the bottles will also form water beads. To reiterate, this can be prevented by keeping bottles capped.
Eventually, all Essential Oils will expire and become unsafe to use, thus correct storage and appropriate handling are advantageous to all oils. The quality of an oil begins to progressively decline with the process of oxidation, which causes them to lose their aromas as well as their nourishing benefits. On a more encouraging note, Essential Oils do not all degrade at the same rate; while Essential Oils from citrus fruits are known to oxidize faster than all others – expiring and losing their scents and benefits as early as six months after being opened – Essential Oils with earthy or woody aromas, such as Patchouli and Sandalwood, tend to smell even better with maturity, taking much longer before beginning to weaken in potency and aroma; thus an oil’s lifespan may fluctuate greatly depending on the quality of the source botanical and the harvest, the extraction method and the conditions under which the oil is distilled, the batch/lot, storage and handling of the oil when it is first received by both the supplier and the customer, and the manner in which the supplier bottles, stores, and handles the oil.
Here are four main ways to tell if an Essential Oil has deteriorated:
1) Its aroma has become stronger and likely unpleasant or it has weakened, depending on the oil
2) It has changed in color and has become darker, lighter, or even colorless, depending on the oil
3) It appears murky/foggy
4) It has thickened in consistency
It is strongly recommended that all oils be properly stored, handled, and used before they expire. Be sure to write the purchase date on your oils so you know when you purchased them.
There are so many uses for Essential Oils and I personally LOVE using them. Here's my top 5 Essential Oils that I use regularly not only in my products but at home:
Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus
There are so many wonderful Essential Oils to choose from. I'll be honest and admit that when I first got started handcrafting my own products, I went a little crazy and ordered WAY WAY WAY too many Essential Oils and in LARGE amounts. My husband cringed when I had to use them for cleaning and had to dispose of LOTS of expensive oils because they had degraded. Start off with small quantities and just a few oils. They are so concentrated that a tiny amount goes a LONG way. Be sure to mix your essential oil with a carrier oil before applying to your skin (3 drops essential oils to 2 tsp of carrier oil is pretty average for adults).
Hope this encourages you to try using Essential Oils!
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