Just like food, sunscreen, and other beauty products, perfume can expire.
However, how long perfume lasts purely depends on the scent’s chemical composition (the type of natural ingredients and raw materials used), as well as the conditions in which it’s stored.
You see, the power of smell is essential in any human’s life.
Various scents are intimately connected with specific experiences or memories.
For instance, fresh cookies can trigger happy memories, whereas the smell of natural fragrances like uncut grass can remind you of home.
The earliest records of perfume date back to ancient Egypt, where it was used to refresh homes and spritzed in temples for a more calming worship environment.
As technology advanced, though, perfume evolved, becoming an essential product in our lives.
Today, the perfume industry is packed with hundreds of sophisticated brands.
However, as much as these fragrances are considered timeless, the perfume content isn’t.
Does Perfume Expire?
Yes, perfume and other fragrance types like eau de toilette and cologne expire.
Nonetheless, how long a perfume lasts depends on its chemical structure, scent family, and how you store fragrance.
Some of the most popular perfume brands like Chanel or Tom Ford don’t have a set expiration date and can last you up to 10 years.
According to perfume experts, the average shelf life of a perfume is about three to five years.
Additional research shows that perfumes with heavier base notes have a longer shelf life.
Some perfume connoisseurs compare these fragrances to fine wine – they smell better with age.
Fragrances with heavy base notes include oriental scents like amber, cedarwood, and patchouli.
While perfumes with lighter base notes tend to be more prominent, the fragrance ingredients used are usually more volatile and have a shorter shelf life.
These fragrances include citrus, florals, and green notes.
Shelf life also depends on how you store perfume. Fragrances that are stored correctly last longer than those that are stored incorrectly.
How to Know if a Perfume Has Expired?
There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to determining if a perfume has expired.
Some people, however, believe that if the perfume smells good, then it hasn’t gone bad.
According to various experts, the best way to tell if your perfume has expired is by checking the scent itself (its chemical makeup), the appearance of the fragrance inside, and the expiry date indicated on the perfume bottle.
1. The Scent Check
One of the easiest ways to tell if your fragrance has expired is by testing the scent.
Some perfumes feature vegetable oils that expire over time.
If your fragrance doesn’t have any fats, as is the case with essential oils, it’ll last you longer.
If the scent smells of vinegar, or you notice a substantial change in the composition of the original scent, then it might have expired.
2. The Sight Check
You can also test your perfume by examining its color.
A scent that appears darker than originally intended could mean it’s expired.
If it started out with a translucent gold liquid, but now has more of an amber liquid, that could also be a sign of expiration.
Perfumes with high alcohol content also tend to evaporate with time.
An expired fragrance will often contain less perfume in the bottle than it did the last time you used it.
That said, though, sometimes color change doesn’t always mean it affects the fragrance’s sweet spot.
Certain raw materials within perfume oil that start dark can lose their color over time.
Direct sunlight and strong indoor lighting can fade the oil composition and reduce the overall appearance of the fragrance, so keeping your perfume bottle in a dark place can help.
3. The Expiration Date Check
Most perfume brands come with some form of expiry date on the perfume bottles.
It can be in the form of either a batch code or the Period After Opening (PAO) number—they appear on the bottom of your perfume or on its box.
The batch code is a form of identification that shows you when and where the fragrance is produced, while the PAO is the number of months after opening that you can use the scent before it goes bad.
There are often other expiration date indicators like the catalog number, the brand index, and the barcode printed on the perfume box.
So, when you pay for your perfume with the American Express Apple Pay Diners Club Mastercard, be sure to check the printed numbers to see how long it can last you before it expires.
How Long Can an Unopened Perfume Last?
It’s one question every perfume enthusiast asks themselves every time they purchase a new bottle of fragrance, and since many perfumes don’t have an expiration date, it’s one of the most challenging questions to answer.
However, according to some of the most prominent perfumers on the market, an unopened perfume can last you several years, depending on your storage tactics.
It’s also a great idea to ensure that you finish a scent before you start using another as it saves you money and protects you from the dangers of using expired fragrances.
Are Expired Perfumes Harmful?
Yes, they are.
If your fragrance expires, wearing it can result in an unpleasant smell, several skin irritations, or, in extreme cases, an allergic reaction.
So, if your perfume has seen the rise and fall of nations, it’s probably best to test it before you start using it again.
Can You Still Use an Expired Perfume?
From a health standpoint, there’s no risk to using an expired fragrance.
However, some research studies show that when most fragrances expire, they trigger skin irritation or cause an adverse allergic reaction.
So, to be safe, avoid using expired perfumes completely.
How Can You Extend a Perfume’s Shelf Life?
Although many perfumes expire, the good news is that there are ways to help extend their shelf life.
Here are three simple tips.
1. Store your fragrance correctly
Storing it properly means keeping it away from any harsh temperature fluctuations.
2. Avoid storing your perfume in the bathroom
The temperature changes can make your fragrance expire faster.
3. Avoid keeping your fragrance in direct sunlight
The heat breaks down the perfume’s chemical composition, making it lose its scent power.
That doesn’t mean that you go storing your perfume in a refrigerator, though—the temperature fluctuation in a fridge can also damage your fragrance.
The best place to store your perfume is in a cool, dry, and dark place like your bedroom drawer.
It’s also best to keep any new fragrances in their original container since air exposure can alter their chemical balance.
Hot or cold air can also speed up the evaporation of the alcohol inside, making your perfume expire faster.
Which Perfumes Last the Longest?
Perfumes with heavier base notes last longer than lighter ones.
These include oriental scents that feature spicy, woody, and vanilla notes.
The ingredients’ composition within these fragrances is more powerful and structurally stable than citrus or floral notes.
The Bottom Line
Fragrances are meant to be used and enjoyed.
However, when you put your perfume away for an extended period, it can expire or deteriorate, making it completely obsolete.
So, to make your favorite perfume last and to avoid dropping a dime only to have your high-quality perfumes continually expire, use your fragrance often—don’t store it away for special occasions only.
When your favorite perfume is also about to end, mix the last few drops into a scent-free lotion.
This helps transfer the weaker version of the fragrance into a new medium, allowing you to enjoy the alluring scent longer.
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