If you’re a perfume collector, including perfume samples, you may wonder if your fragrances ever go bad.
Most likely, you’ve spritzed an old scent and thought, “did the scent change over time, or did my sense of smell deviate?” Of course, this leads you to question whether or not the scent went foul over time.
Let’s get down to the brass tacks.
In terms of labeling, you won’t find an expiration date on your favorite perfume bottle. But technically, perfumes do expire over time, even if not formally.
Don’t worry; unlike food, a perfume beyond its shelf life isn’t likely to cause you harm. More likely, the fragrance will lose its potency. When a perfume “expires,” the powerful top and base notes you bought it for will become less abundant to your senses.
How long a fragrance maintains its potency depends on a number of factors.
The biggest driver of a perfume’s expiration date is the simple act of opening it. You don’t buy a perfume to rest unopened in a cool cabinet. But a perfume exposed to oxygen is a perfume that begins to decline.
When you open the perfume bottle, the potency immediately begins to wane. Clearly, in the early days, the waning of your perfume’s scent is unnoticeable; but given a long enough timeline and suddenly, your perfume just doesn’t smell the same.
A fragrance can last up to a decade, but perfume labels don’t specify a “best by” date. So the reality is that every perfume is different. However, most perfumes should last up to 5-years at full potency, claims Rebecca Wilkin, a perfume connoisseur at The Perfume Shop.
Storing your perfume in a cool, dry, dark location helps extend its shelflife.
How Can You Tell if a Perfume is Expired?
Your nose will tell the tale. If the scent smells “off” or less potent, that’s a huge indicator that the perfume is beyond its prime. Additionally, when a perfume’s color changes, that’s another good indicator that time has taken its toll on your fragrance. Often, you’ll notice orange hues that weren’t present in your fragrance when you first opened it.
The quality of your perfume can matter. Cheap perfume is more likely to go bad before an expensive perfume. But that’s not a hard and fast rule. Fragrances offering heavier base notes tend to stay potent longer. And that makes sense, given that top notes are the first notes to dissipate after application to the skin.
Many perfume makers utilize UV filters on their bottles to help stave off sunlight degradation. Also, stabilizers are injected into perfumes as a way to help prolong the scent’s potency. In other words, perfumes last longer than ever, thanks to science.
So please don’t fret about that fragrance that’s been sitting a little while, you can still use it, and it is likely still great.