You have invested time and money in choosing and buying your essential oils. So how do you look after them to make sure you get the most out of them?
Essential oils have three enemies – light, heat and air.
Being naturally derived, essential oils are sensitive to their environment and their longevity can be affected by these three environmental factors.
However on its own this is not really enough protection, so I recommend storing your essential oil bottles in a wooden essential oil storage box or, failing that, in a dark cupboard or drawer.
Although most essential oils are distilled using heat, continued exposure to heat can cause essential oil to age more quickly. So make sure to keep your essential oils in a cool place, away from heat sources. In hot weather or for more delicate essential oils such as expressed citrus oils it can be sensible to store them in a refrigerator.
Exposure to air can cause oxidation in essential oils – essentially changing their chemical makeup. To minimise exposure to the air keep essential oil bottles tightly sealed. And if you purchase larger bottles of essential oil, consider decanting them into smaller bottles to reduce the amount of free air in the bottle.
By paying attention to these factors, you can get more out of your essential oils by extending their useful life. Conversely, exposing your essential oils to these adverse conditions may cause your essential oils to deteriorate more quickly than they otherwise would – considerably shortening their effective life.
How do you tell if an essential oil has deteriorated?
It is not always easy to tell if an essential oil has deteriorated, so I recommend paying attention to factors such as - when you purchase your essential oils; when you open them for the first time; as well as information on the bottles regarding their expiry date or production date. Be particularly careful with essential oils with no date information as you cannot know how old these essential oils are when you acquire them.
You may sometimes notice a change in the aroma or appearance of an essential oil as it ages. However these changes can sometimes be quite subtle – such as an aroma change only being noticeable when smelling an old and a new version of the same oil side by side. Likewise appearance changes may be slight if at all.
What happens when essential oils age? Are they still safe to use?
Often the main problem with older oils is that they just don’t work as well – the therapeutic properties diminish over time.
However one potential risk is that the essential oil may become more irritant to the skin due to oxidation. This changes the chemical make up of the essential oils, increasing those components which can irritate or cause skin sensitisation. So I would be particularly careful about using any older oils (or oils about which you may have doubts) in any mix that is used on the skin.
Essential oils are precious natural resources – taking care of them benefits them, your wallet (!) and the environment.
The information in the blog is intended for general use only and does not take into account any individual's particular needs, circumstances or risk factors. If you are uncertain whether the information provided in this blog is appropriate for you, please consult a professional aromatherapist or a health practitioner with specific aromatherapy training.