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Can Essential Oils Go Bad? Here’s How to Tell


Essential oils are wonderful for aromatherapy, skincare, and overall improvement of your day — but they do expire. If they go bad they can cause skin irritations, rashes, peeling, and even burns. But luckily, the warning signs that your oil is past its prime are easy to spot. Plus, there are some ways to prolong its shelf life. 

Some expired essential oils omit an unpleasant or “off” aroma, reports the American College of Healthcare Sciences. This is most often the case with citrus oils, such as lemon or grapefruit. Others change color (usually darkening) when they’ve expired. Grossly (or fittingly?) enough, peppermint tends to turn green when it goes bad. Any noticeable changes in the essential oil’s texture are also a bad sign. So chances are, if you’re paying close attention while using your favorite oils, you’ll probably have a hunch when they’re expired or not.

So how long do essential oils last until they’re totally unusable? The shelf life varies based on how much exposure they get to oxygen, heat, and light. That’s why it’s always best to store your essential oils in a cool, dark space, according to the University of Minnesota. If you favor citrus oils, you might even consider storing them in the fridge since they’re more vulnerable. 

While citrus oils only last about nine months to a year when stored properly, most other essential oils should be switched out after about three years to be safe. If you tend to use your oils sparingly, you might want to write down the date that you purchased each oil on the actual bottles — not every bottle has an expiration date on it already.

Since using an expired essential oil can put yourself at risk for much more than taking a whiff of a bad smell, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth taking a chance — especially if the oil doesn’t even smell that great to begin with!

So if you’re in the market for some new essential oils, consider trying out our favorites for a massage or some edible essential oils to enhance your favorite meals. After all, there is nothing better than a fresh start!

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