Due to the usual expensive price tag that comes along with perfumes, it’s no surprise to think how long they actually last. Do perfumes expire? Do they go bad? Are some questions that may come into mind as you see your collection of fragrances for every possible occasion and season.
If you own some of them for months or years, chances are you’ve noticed that some of them have already lost their strength or now smell differently, making you think if it’s still fine to use them. To answer all those questions, we’ve collated all the information you need about perfume’s lifespan and some helpful tips on how to make them last longer.
Does Perfume Expire?
Perfume doesn’t technically expire like how food does, but it does go bad. From the time of manufacture, a typical perfume bottle has an average expiration date of three to five years. Yet, most renowned brands don’t have a set expiry date. Some might start to expire within a year from purchase, while others can last up to 10 years even.
How long a perfume lasts depends on its chemical composition. Experts say that those with heavier base notes have a longer shelf life. Many even regard these types of perfume as a fine wine that gets better with time.
On the other hand, perfumes with lighter base notes tend to last shorter as their solution is usually more volatile. In addition, perfumes with higher concentrations of water or alcohol may disappear faster due to evaporation.
Storage also affects the shelf life of a perfume. One that’s properly stored will always last much longer than one that is not. If your perfume expires, its original scent may fade, its color may change, and it may begin to develop an unpleasant aroma. If you open a perfume that you’ve kept for a long time and can’t detect any of the scents it should exude, that bottle was on your shelf for quite too long.
Take note that applying expired perfume can cause skin irritation or, in severe cases, an allergic reaction. So, if you’re keeping a perfume in your dresser that’s already a couple of years old, it’s best to test it first (we’ll discuss more later!) before you use it.
How Long Does Perfume Last if Unopened and Opened?
Now, how about a perfume bottle that’s never been opened? Will it still expire? How long will an unopened perfume last? Will it still go bad if you’ve never even sprayed the scent?
Truth to be told, there isn’t any hard-and-fast rule, but a bottle of perfume is sure to last a couple of years to a decade if left unopened and stored properly. Once you’ve opened a bottle, it’s either you use it as soon as possible or lose it. The main culprit behind its quicker deterioration —oxygen.
As you open the bottle, oxygen is able to enter, triggering an oxidation process that alters the fragrance. The process will be much faster if the perfume is also out of the box. Such doesn’t happen to an unopened bottle as it is still airtight, preventing oxidation and preserving the scent.
While oxidation is the primary reason for the deterioration, heat, light, and storage also play a role in how long a perfume will last. Though many perfumes cost a pretty penny, the components of a fragrance will inevitably start to break down over time and decrease its lifespan.
How To Tell if Perfume Has Expired?
Here are some ways to know if your perfume has expired and it’s to get a new bottle:
1. Inspect Smell
For most people, the easiest and quickest way to tell if the perfume has gone bad is by testing its smell. After all, the scent is the most striking feature of fragrance. Does it smell the way you purchased it? Has it lost its strength? Is there a hint of a sour or metallic smell? Or, maybe you smell something rancid or off, like vinegar?
If yes, it’s very likely that its chemical composition in the fragrance has broken down and mixed together, signaling that it’s overdue and is no longer fit for use.
At first, don’t spray the perfume directly on your skin. One good trick is to spritz on a piece of paper and give it a sniff to check if there’s something unusual. Through that, you don’t risk irritating your skin and don’t have to spend the entire day wearing expired perfume.
2. Check How it Looks
After inspecting the smell, the next step is checking how it looks.
Do you see a thick layer of droplets appearing on the bottle? If yes, your old perfume has gone bad. After a certain period, the fragrance oil and alcohol will start to separate from the water-based formula, causing the appearance of these droplets.
As both the fragrance oils and alcohol are flammable, they may spontaneously combust when exposed to sunlight or heat, so make sure to keep them away from these elements.
Next, see the perfume’s color as well. If it changes from clear to yellow or brown, develops opacity, or appears darker than when you purchased it or used it, it’s a tell-tale sign that the perfume may have gone bad.
Meanwhile, perfumes added with higher alcohol concentration usually last longer as it keeps the aromatic molecules from oxidizing. The catch is that alcohol evaporates over time, leaving the perfume more concentrated in oils. If there’s less perfume in the bottle, your perfume is likely expiring as there’s no more stability provided by the alcohol.
3. See the perfume’s packaging
Most perfumes will include a Period After Opening (PAO) or a batch code from where you can check the fragrance’s expiry date. If you have kept the box, you can see it either printed on the packaging or on the bottom of the perfume bottle. Note that the two pertain to different things, and you need to know each to determine the perfume’s expiration date.
Period After Opening (PAO): PAO refers to the number of months a perfume is stable and safe for human use after opening for the first time. You can also look for a symbol depicted by an open cosmetic jar with a written number of months or years.
Batch Code: Also called the code number, lot code, or lot number, the batch code is a series of numbers and/or letters, usually 3-12 letters long, which includes the date of manufacture. It’s a part of quality control policies and is utilized by companies to determine when products are overdue and must be pulled out from the market.
4. Test the perfume on your skin
Lastly, you can test the product on your skin. If you wear any perfume without any issues, a skin irritation or an allergic reaction could signal that the perfume has expired. Be mindful that you should only test the perfume after checking the smell, appearance, and packaging. If you need to test, remember to do it on sensitive areas first, such as behind your ear, your inside wrist, or your inner elbow. Apply cautiously at your own risk.
Knowing whether your perfume has expired or not can be tricky. Generally, if you have not taken out a bottle of perfume from your dresser for more than two and a half years, you may want to look for signs of expiration. If its smell remains unchanged and it still has the same consistency and color, it should be safe to apply.
How to Make Perfume Last Longer?
Your perfume will inevitably go bad, but how quickly it is depends primarily on how to store it. So, here are some things you need to follow to ensure a longer shelf life for your perfume:
1. Keep your perfume away from direct sunlight and heat
While your perfume bottle may look pleasing on your window sill, it’s the worst place to put your fragrance, as light is one of perfume’s enemies. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and heat will break down the chemical structure of the perfume, affecting its consistency and color and making it unstable and prone to oxidation. So, better to keep your perfume away from direct sunlight and heat if you want to preserve its integrity and potency.
2. Avoid harsh changes in temperature and humidity
Given that your perfume hates direct sunlight and heat, it might be logical to place it inside your fridge. But, it isn’t! Though the environment inside the refrigerator is generally what fragrances require, you must devote extra caution. Like with most things, sharp changes in temperature and humidity can take a toll on your perfume.
Fragrances need constant temperature. After using it, return the perfume back immediately inside the fridge. Plus, wrap it in aluminum foil, as other family members may constantly be opening up the refrigerator, lighting up the inside.
3. Keep it in its original container
Perfumes often come in large decorative containers, which tempts people to rehome the fragrances into more suitable bottles, especially when traveling. Doing so leads to exposure to oxygen that upsets the makeup of the perfume and causes some of the alcohol to evaporate, making it expire faster. Another risk is bacteria contamination, which is why fragrance bottles normally come with spray tops to preserve and protect the perfume.
4. Store it in a cool, dry, dark and place
For the best results, stash your perfume bottles in a cool, dry, and place like dressers and bedroom drawers. These places normally have ideal temperatures and are protected from heat and light, making them best suited for your fragrances.
5. Purchase from renowned brands
Only buy your perfume from reputable brands. Such companies have long, proven experience in creating and selling fragrance products. You’re assured that your product is of high-quality and has not been diluted or has been resold in used packaging. Unscrupulous traders often deceive customers with fake solutions or cheap imitations.
What To Do with an Expired Perfume?
Sadly, your perfume will eventually expire, which puts the question of what to do when it reaches that point. While you may opt to throw it simply in the garbage bin, there are better, eco-friendly ways of disposing of your expired perfume rather than ending up in a landfill and causing devastating effects on the environment. Here are some of what you can do:
Join brands’ recycling programs
Due to environmental concerns, many brands have set up their own recycling programs. Some accept products purchased from their brand, while others take products even if not bought for them. Often, all you need to do is download a free shipping label and attach it to your perfume’s packaging, and they’ll recycle it.
Take it to the local recycling centers
Alternatively, you may simply bring the empty bottle to a household waste recycling center or glass bottle banks in your locality.
Repurpose perfume containers
If you can find a recycling program or a recycling center, repurpose your perfume bottle instead to avoid adding to the massive waste on the planet. After cleaning the bottle thoroughly and getting rid of residual perfume, you can consider turning the bottle into a scent diffuser, a homemade air freshener by filling it with essential oils, or a fancy flower vase. With a sprinkle of creativity and imagination, you can make recycling your fragrances’ empty bottles more fruitful and enjoyable.
Majority of the perfumes don’t have a specific expiry date, and the time it goes bad relies on how you’ll keep it. Given that you’ll store them properly, expect that they will last a long time and will keep you smelling adorable. So, do your best and never let even a single drop go to waste.