The Ultimate Guide to Massage Oil Expiration and Storage

Picture of a possibly expired massage oil laying on the floor

Getting into massage is incredibly fun and exciting. Learning and appreciating the differences between massage oils is part of the journey. As you collect bottles though, you’re left with a growing conundrum. How do I handle all these bottles?

And can massage oil expire?

Massage oil can certainly expire. As the oils break down over time, they will go rancid. You’ll know your massage oil has gone bad when it smells off, becomes cloudy, changes color, or your skin has an unfortunate reaction to using it. You can lengthen the shelf life of your massage oil with proper care, like keeping it away from light and at a stable temperature.

How Long Do Massage Oils Last?

Photo of hands with massage oil

Typically, massage oils have a shelf life of about six months. However, this average can vary a fair amount from bottle to bottle. The actual bottles themselves can be a factor since exposure to air will shorten your massage oils shelf life.

Different kinds of massage oils also have very different shelf lives. Sunflower oil can become rancid quickly.

Jojoba oil has a very long shelf life. In fact, it can last five years or more. This is because jojoba oil isn’t a true oil, but a wax, and its makeup breaks down much more slowly. However, if your jojoba massage oil is a blend mixed with essential oils, the shelf life is based on the life of the essential oils and is much shorter.

Any massage oil mixed with essential oil is likely to have a shorter shelf life. This is particularly the case when your massage oil contains essential oils that are citrus-based since these have shorter shelf lives.

Your massage oil will have a “use by” date marked on the bottle. It’s suggested you don’t use the product after that date.

What Affects the Shelf Life of Massage Oils

The first factor that affects the shelf life of your massage oil is simply time. Over time, chemical reactions naturally occur within your massage oil and they age.

If you have one pure carrier oil, like 100% jojoba oil for example, then that one substance is only reacting with its natural self. If you have jojoba oil mixed with essential oils, then you have the regular chemical reactions that happen with time combined with reactions from the blend. This speeds up the aging process.

Other environmental factors can also make massage oils become rancid much faster.

Photo of essential oils

Massage oils go bad faster when they are exposed to air. This is because of oxidation. The more oxygen your massage oil is exposed to, the faster the oil breaks down and becomes rancid.

Sunlight also increases the rate of oxidation.

Temperature is often considered the biggest factor in a massage oil’s shelf life. A massage oil needs to be kept at a stable temperature. Too extreme of a temperature in either direction can speed up chemical reactions and decrease your massage oil’s shelf life.

How to Store Your Massage Oils So They Last

Make sure that your massage oils are properly sealed. The lid should be on tight, and there should be no punctures or other issues with the container. Otherwise, the massage oil can both evaporate and deteriorate because of oxidation when exposed to air.

A good place to store your massage oil bottles is in your closet, drawer, or pantry. These are all spaces where the temperature will generally stay about the same, and your bottles won’t be exposed to the light.

Should I Store My Massage Oils In the Fridge?

It is not a good idea to keep your massage oils in the fridge.

This may be surprising because many people suggest that you do this. Their thinking makes sense. There are a lot of food items we store in the fridge, so that makes sense. It is dark much of the time. And the temperature stays the same. These are all reasons that lead people to think it’s a good idea.

However, your massage oils will last longer when kept at room temperature. The fridge is too cold. When you remove your massage oil from the fridge to use it, the temperature is going up and down. Your massage oils will actually expire sooner if you keep them in the fridge.

Can I Use Expired Massage Oil?

It is not a good idea to use your massage oil after it has expired. Rancid massage oil will likely smell funny, which will make you not smell great. More importantly, rancid massage oil is bad for your skin.

As you’re enjoying your massage, you are both breathing in massage oil and absorbing it in your skin. You’re absorbing the nutrients in the massage oil that will help moisturize your skin. When the oil has gone rancid, you’re absorbing expired materials, which is never a good idea. You may have skin sensitivity issues or an allergic reaction. This will most likely be acne.

How Can I Tell If My Massage Oil Is Expired?

Photo of massage oil on skin

First, check the sell by date. Most massage oils will be clearly labeled.

However, your massage oil may become rancid before then.

When you start using your massage oil, make some effort to become familiar with the fragrance, even if that scent is just neutral. When most massage oils go rancid, they will smell “off.”

Many massage oils will become cloudy in appearance or even have dark spots in them. As the oil breaks down, the opacity and coloring change. If you see this, it likely means your massage oil is rancid and should not be used.

The final way to really know if your massage oil is safe is to test it. You can do this by doing a patch test. Rub a small amount of massage oil on your inner arm and then place a bandage over the location. You can remove the bandage as soon as an hour later and sometimes see results, but it’s best if you wait overnight. Did your skin have a negative reaction? This may be redness, itchiness, simply a strange greasiness that you would rather not experience over your whole body.

Additional Tips for Keeping Bottles of Massage Oil

Can massage oil expire? Yes. If you want to keep massage oils that last longer, you can choose massage oils with a longer shelf life. You can also take proper care of them, as mentioned above, by storing them in a temperature-stable environment away from the light. However, they will still eventually go bad. And, if you want to experiment with different types, you may buy some that go rancid quicker than others.

Keeping this in mind, you may want to buy smaller bottles of massage oil, especially if you aren’t using the bottle that often. While buying in bulk may be a great plan in some situations, it may only prove stressful when you continue having to toss old bottles.

If you’re going to be making your own blends of massage oil with base oils and essential oils, always make a practice of clearly labeling your bottles with an expiration date. It is normal to tell ourselves that we will remember while we’re doing it, but this isn’t information you’re likely to have on the top of your mind six months from now.

Also, for mixing your own blends, place them in small amber bottles. Unless you’re using your massage oil frequently, only mix a little at a time to avoid pushing the expiration limit on your massage oil.

If you would like to dig a little bit deeper on this topic, check out my article ‘The Fascinating World of Massage Oil Ingredients.’

Enjoy Your Massage Oil Collection

Photo of a woman enjoying a massage with oil

Massage oil can be a source of joy. It’s a luxurious addition to your self-massage practice.

Keep your bottles stored in a dark place with a steady temperature, label your oils, and become familiar with checking their opacity and scent before using them on your skin. By making sure to keep an eye on your massage oils, you can ensure you’re giving yourself the best skincare treatment possible.