Tip Tuesday – Shelf Life

Don’t fret about the continuation of my Spring Break Series – I’m going to get to that later this week!  But I wanted to take a quick minute to talk about shelf life.

What is shelf life and how does it pertain to Essential Oils?

Shelf life is basically the same thing as an expiration date on milk.  It is the amount of time that the oil stays in the same, usable condition.

Essential oils do not go rancid like milk though.  You may not even be able to tell a difference in an oil that is beyond its shelf life.  But essential oils are made up of many chemical compounds and those compounds break down in the presence of oxygen, heat, and light.  So you can definitely extend the life of your essential oils, but not forever.  Because you will eventually open that bottle to, you know, use the oil, thus introducing oxygen.  This is basically what you learned in Organic Chemistry, unless you slept through it.  Not that I would know anything about that…

Certain molecules break down faster because their bonds are weaker or more brittle.  Others don’t.  It just depends on the chemical makeup of the oil itself.  Once these chemical constituents break down, the chemical makeup of the oil is completely different, right?  Right.  Not all of these new constituents are bad, but some can be.  Citrus and pine oils are especially bad about breaking down into constituents that irritate the skin.  Even if they don’t, the therapeutic benefits are not there, so it is best to just use the oils within their shelf life so you get the best quality possible.

This is a reference sheet that Plant Therapy released last summer that is super helpful for figuring out when to use up your oils.

How do you use this information?  Well, I try to keep track of when I buy things.  Sometimes I forget to write it down, so I have to go back through my order history and find it, but it is worth doing.  I have a spreadsheet that I keep track of when I bought it and then add the number of years for the shelf life to get the expiration date.  If you are not a spreadsheet person, I know lots of people that just make their own labels for their bottles with the expiration date on them.  Just a simple small white label with the date is quick and easy.

I also get asked often why there is a range for the date.  2-3 years or 3-4 years, etc.  Well, the first, smaller number is if it is stored on a shelf in the open.  Basically, typical use.  The larger number is if it is stored in optimal conditions – in the fridge, which is cool and dark.  I keep every single one of my oils, except 2, in my fridge.  The 2 I keep out are oils I use almost every morning in my shower.  Because I’m using them up, I’m not as worried about shelf life.

So there you have it.  You are now smarter with your oils and can make sure you are getting the most for your money!

Happy Storing!


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