The inspiration for this blog post comes from many customers asking us “Does Perfume Expire?” and “Does Perfume Go Bad?“
We all like to extend the life of our beloved fragrance, but determining when it’s time to discard it can be difficult as certain conditions can cause it to expire faster.
We all love a wonderful perfume and we enjoy leaving our mark with a fragrance that creates memories or lingers in the room even after we are gone, i.e. sillage. Fragrance is a powerful tool of seduction, memory, and emotion. Everyone has a signature scent that they have spent hours browsing in stores or online, sampling and comparing different perfumes before finding their favorite. But the question that lingers in every perfume enthusiast’s mind is: does perfume expire?
The answer is not straightforward, so let’s take a closer look at the subject.
To assist with this, our in-house perfumer, Huib Maat, advises how you can recognize when perfume has expired and offers tips how you can extend its shelf life.
What Is The Shelf Life Of A Perfume?
The shelf life of a perfume bottle depends on the type of perfume, the chemical composition, and storage conditions.
As a rule of thumb, your perfume should last at least 2 years from the time you purchase it.
Our in-house perfumer, Huib Maat, expects that your perfume bottle will last between two and five years, if it stored in a cool, dark place like a beauty fridge, drawer or wardrobe. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as different perfumes have different shelf lives.
Does The Formula Affect Perfume Expiry?
Perfume is a very complex personal care product that contains a mixture of natural and synthetic fragrance oils, alcohol, oils with skin care benefits, water, solvents, colourants, other additives and/or preservatives. Each one of these ingredients has its own expiry date.
When looking at these ingredients, you can divide them into groups:
- naturals: natural ingredients are alive and change over time. They will be the first ones to expire. In other words, one of the drawbacks of natural products is that you won’t have as much time to use them. They are also more sensitive to heat, humidity, oxygen and light.
- water: when you see water (INCI: aqua) in a perfume, it must contain a preservative to extend its useful life to at least 2 years. The water content will be one of the causes why your perfume expires.
- inert: these are materials that do not change over time, such as pigments (colourants). Unless they react
- synthetics: although these also do expire, they tend to have a longer life span. This is one of the benefits of synthetics.
Complex Fragrance Ingredients
The accord of a perfume is made up of 50 – 200 different fragrance ingredients that can be grouped into the top, middle, and base notes.
The top note is the initial scent that you smell when you spray the perfume. It lasts for a few minutes and is followed by the middle note or the heart of the scent. The base note is the scent that lingers on your skin for hours after the other notes have faded. This is commonly referred to as the fragrance pyramid or olfactive triangle of a perfume.
Whether a fragrance raw-material or essential oil is a top note, heart or base note does not affect how long the perfume lasts. This is a common misconception. The perfume pyramid only classifies ingredients by their volatility or perception, and not by how long they last.
What has a significant impact on its useable life, is the amount of naturals or delicate ingredients it contains. A good example are citrus oils. These are usually high quality, natural and affordable materials and they lend a wonderful freshness to a fragrance. Keeping this in mind, it becomes obvious that a Cologne note or a fragrance with a recogniseable amount of natural citrus, lavender, geranium or other naturals, will expire more quickly.
How To Store Perfume To Extend The Shelf Life?
To store perfume, it is recommended to keep the bottle in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat.
This is the reason why it is recommended to keep a perfume bottle in its original box. In other words, to protect it from exposure to light and humidity.
To extend the useable period or shelf life of your perfume easily, we recommend investing in a Mini Fridge for your perfume and beauty products. They are ideal to keep your perfume in a cool and dark place.
Some perfume houses specially design their bottles to protect the fragrance molecules from light, heat, humidity and oxidation. For example, a coloured bottle will reduce the impact of sunlight on the perfume.
Equally, a perfume bottle with thick glass or even a double wall, e.g. a glass bottle inside a plastic shroud or leather pouch, will reduce the impact of extreme heat, e.g. when you keep it in your handbag, sports-bag or car.
Does Perfume Expire If Unopened?
An unopened perfume bottle can last longer than an opened bottle.
It can last between three to five years or even ten years (rare cases), depending on the perfume type, bottle, packaging and brand.
However, an unopened perfume bottle is not immune to the effects of extreme temperatures, light, oxygen and humidity. Hence, it is recommended to also store unopened perfumes in a cool, dry place.
What Are Signs Of An Expired Perfume?
How can you spot whether a perfume might have expired?
Here is a list with a few simple signs to look out for.
1. Scent Change
This is the most obvious indicator that your perfume has expired or is about to go bad.
Look out for the following types of notes:
- sour or bitter
- astringent or cologne-like
- acidity or vinegar
If you know your perfume well, you will immediately spot these types of changes.
Once you sense these, it is time to discard your fragrance. Sorry.
This is another excellent early warning signal: do you see any particles or crystals floating in your perfume?
It might be that it looks like a little ‘dirt’ or ‘sediments’ have settled at the bottom of your perfume.
This would be a sign that your fragrance is for example oxidising.
3. Colour Change
This is a further indicator that your beloved perfume may be nearing its end. Having said this, it might not mean anything, as some natural and even synthetic materials change colour without effect on the fragrance note.
Hence, it is just an indicator and not a clear cut sign.
Should you notice a haziness or cloudiness forming inside your perfume, this is another sign that your perfume may be oxidising or that the perfume formula is going bad, e.g. if it contains water the preservatives may no longer be working.
5. Skin Irritation
The worst sign that your fragrance has expired is if you find that it is starting to irritate your skin when you wear it. Signs are redness, skin irritation or an allergic reaction like little bumps or swelling on your skin where you have applied your perfume.
When you see these, it is definitely time you discard your perfume. You really must buy a new bottle and stop using the perfume that has gone bad.
Conclusion – Does Perfume Expire? Does Perfume Go Bad?
As you will have seen above, the questions of ‘does perfume expire’ and ‘does perfume go bad’, does not have a simple or straightforward answer.
Different factors like storage conditions, chemical composition, and type of perfume determine the shelf life of a perfume bottle.
As explained, we recommend to store perfume in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat.
If in doubt, you should test the perfume before using it, especially if it has been stored for a long time. Look out for the signs that a perfume may have gone off.