Can perfume go bad? And when it does, what happens? How do you know perfume is still safe to use?
The article contains everything you need to know plus we share a couple of tips to help your perfume last for years, so let’s dive in!
How long does perfume last unopened?
An unopened perfume should last somewhere between three to five years if it is kept properly on a shelf.
A process is called oxidation can happen to any fragrance – opened or unopened. One of the first signs is that the fluid will become darker. The shade varies depending on the base notes but some liquids can become completely black.
The oxidation process will be faster if the perfume is out of the box. The shelf life of an unopened perfume also depends on the ingredients and the manufacturer so some (typically the large-scale, commercial perfumes) may last for only one or two years.
Fragrances that have vegetable oils in them tend to have a shorter shelf life and might go off even if they are sitting in a box all the time. Also, check for the alcohol or water percentage in a fragrance of your choice because they evaporate faster.
So if you notice a strong acid smell once you open up a perfume which has been in a perfume shop for quite some time and you can’t detect any notes which should be there, that bottle was on a shelf for too long.
How long does perfume last once opened?
Manufacturers usually do not put an expiry date on the packaging. So while you can’t find an expiry date on a perfume bottle, there might be a sign which says that the perfume should be spent within twelve or twenty-four months after you open the bottle. The general rule among perfume aficionados is to use a perfume within three years after getting it out of the box but if stored properly, a fragrance can last even longer.
Once you open your perfume bottle, you should use it as often as possible, especially if it is closed with a cap and you need to dab the liquid onto your skin. Bottles that have an atomizer do evaporate slower than those with a cap but the level of the fragrance will diminish over time regardless of this fact.
Does perfume expire or go bad?
Perfumes do not go bad like milk or vegetables do. They don’t ‘spoil’, but they will change in color, and more importantly in smell also. It is all because of the oxidation. A lot depends on the ingredients and the type of the perfume you have.
Floral and chypre fragrances can last for years after you start using them, but perfumes based on citrus oils will quickly go bad if you don’t store them properly. Proper storage means not placing your perfumes by your window or near a heat source. The citrus oils are very delicate and there will be a noticeable change in the notes.
On the other hand, oriental perfumes can last for years without any significant change in the notes or the silage of the fragrance but you will see that the liquid inside the bottle is starting to become darker. Orientals often use heavier oils such as vanilla and they are prone to discoloration. The composition of the smell might even change over time and the notes can appear to be stronger.
With many fragrances, the top notes of your fragrances will start breaking down and you will end up with a fragrance that smells spicy, even acidic. This process will be quicker if a perfume is light so be mindful of those fresh green or flowery fragrances. However, old perfumes in vintage bottles from any 1900s decade are excellent collector’s items and they are still sold to people who want to preserve them. The liquid inside is definitely changed by now but these perfumes are a prized possession to anyone who owns them.
There are perfumes which start to smell better after some time, depending on the ingredients but the majority (and especially more recent commercial perfumes) can and will actually go bad. Perfumes with civet, incense and musk might even get better.
How to know perfume is off?
If you noticed that the composition of your perfume is changing and some notes seem slightly off, or your perfume smells a bit different once you spray it on your skin or has a bitter or vinegary smell, the chances are it has gone off.
The sillage and overall staying power of perfumes which are sealed with a spray cap will not go bad so quickly but keep a close eye on roll-on scents. Since the ball gets into contact with your skin, this might contaminate the perfume and make it smell weirdly over time.
Keep in mind that using a perfume that has gone off can lead to skin irritations or allergic reactions so it is not something which you should take lightly. Not to forget that you might smell unpleasant to the people around you because the scent will be slightly rancid.
How to store perfume?
So many outside factors can shorten up the life span of your perfume such as sunlight and high temperatures but you can make them last longer with proper storage and care.
Many of us love displaying perfume bottles on our vanities or shelves because they are seen as luxurious items but if you want to prolong the quality of the scent, think about placing them in a drawer or a cupboard.Perfume bottles do look gorgeous on your vanity or bathroom shelf but it might be better to place them somewhere else if you want to keep the formula of your fragrance intact. And consider keeping the boxes because they add another layer of protection against the sunlight.
Since perfumes are oil-based, any inconsistencies with the temperature can damage the scent. Therefore, avoiding really hot or super cold weather is a must. The best place to store your perfume collection is somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight. Be mindful of heat sources such as radiators or heaters during the winter.
What makes perfume last longer?
Besides keeping it in a cool and dark place, away from the direct sunlight or heat, there are several other ways that can make your fragrance last longer. Humidity is also an enemy to the structure of perfumes so don’t store it in your bathroom. A fridge is not a great idea either because low temperatures can influence it as well.
If you travel a lot and you need to have your favorite fragrance with you at all times, you have probably used decanters. This is a bad idea if you want to make your perfume last because the process of transferring the liquid will expose it to air which will speed up the process of oxidation. So try buying a smaller bottle of the perfume which you can take everywhere because it will be easier to pack. And make sure you always put the cap back on after you use it – this will prevent the air going inside of the bottle.
So how long does perfume last before it expires and what are the signs that something might be off?
It depends on the manufacturer, the quality of the ingredients, and the way you store your perfume bottle. But if you notice that the composition of your perfume is changing and some notes are slightly off, you might want to reconsider using it. And take a look at the color of the fluid – if it is way darker than when you bought it, your perfume is very likely nearing its end.
If you love perfumes, you know how important it is to make them last as long as possible.
You can preserve the precious liquid by applying just a couple of changes when it comes to storage.
Having your full perfume collection on a display does sound tempting but keeping them in a drawer is definitely a better idea if you want them to smell good for years. After all, the goal is to enjoy your favorite scents to the fullest!