With almost every DIY we post, someone asks ‘how long will this last?’ And it’s a great question! When you spend time and money to make a body wash or a face oil, you want to use every last drop! But this common question is one of the hardest to answer. With so many variables – how you make it, what ingredients are used, how it’s stored – it’s hard to give a precise amount of time.
BUT! There are things you can do to get the most out of your recipe and avoid the biggest DIY spoilers. Here are some general guidelines for recipe storage and shelf life for oils, balms and other beauty potions.
4 Rules for DIY Beauty + Bath Product Storage
The two most common reasons a recipe goes bad are 1) mold or bacteria starts to grow (ew) and 2) the deterioration of an ingredient that goes bad or rancid. One or both problems can occur. These storage rules will help you avoid the biggest reasons a recipe goes bad and also prolong shelf life.
Oxygen and heat: Keep your recipes in airtight containers in a cool, dry spot. Refrigerating recipes can also extend the shelf life of some oils.
Sunlight: Dark colored bottles will further protect recipes from the harmful effects of sunlight. Essential oils especially lose their potency when exposed to sun.
Bacteria: Make sure your equipment, counters and hands are sanitized before starting a recipe project. Then do your best to keep your fingers out of the container. Use a clean spoon or scoop to dispense the product.
Moisture: Make sure your containers are clean and completely dry before storing recipes. Then keep water out of finished recipes – often a challenge in the bathroom, I know. Storing your products in pumps or spray bottles makes this easier. (Rail19 is a source we love and use often for pretty containers.)
How long will a DIY recipe last?
Masks and Scrubs
Recipes with fresh ingredients – fruit, yogurt, eggs – are best if used immediately. You can keep them in fridge, but they probably won’t last more than a few days. Powder based cleansers and oil/sugar scrubs will last longer if you keep water and hands out.
Toners and Shampoos
Water-based recipes have the shortest shelf life after those with fresh ingredients. Using distilled or filtered water will help, but bacteria growth is inevitable.
Lotions, Butters + Oils
Oil-based creams and balms will last longer than lotions that have water as an ingredient. Six months is a good estimate as most carrier oils don’t last much longer than that at room temperature.
Bath salts, bombs + bubbles
These will last 6 months to a year, but always keep bath salt and bath bombs in containers with air tight lids. I left a big open jar of bath salts sitting beside the tub, but without a lid it sucked up moisture from the air and turned into one solid block of salt. Oops.
Citric acid loses its potency if exposed to the air so the fizz will fizzle out in about 6 months if it’s not kept in a lidded container. If you’ve included any essential oils the scent will start to degrade after a couple of months.
Soap + Body washes
With melt and pour soap it’s easy and fun to add special ingredients like chia seeds or charcoal, but beware that these additives can grow mold. And I learned from experience that fresh additives like herbs and citrus will eventually turn brown after a few months. Wrap melt and pour soap in plastic wrap as soon as they are set to prevent moisture accumulation.
Body wash is generally oil and Castile soap. So again you’re looking at 3-6 months depending on the shelf life of the oil you use.
Tips for increasing the shelf life of your recipe
- Don’t make huge batches. Most recipes only take a few minutes to mix up, so it’s better to start small and remake often rather than having it spoil.
- For a natural preservative, add a couple of capsules of vitamin E to your recipe. It contains natural antioxidants which can extend the life of your products. Read about other preservatives you can add.
- Use labels! Seriously, you will forget what you made and when you made it. So add a label listing what’s in the bottle or jar and a rough expiration date.
- And if it smells bad, it’s time to toss it. Better safe than sorry.