How Long Does Perfume Last? [Both Opened & Unopened]
October 10, 2022
You might be one of those people that enjoy having a big collection of fragrances at their disposal, or maybe you are picky when it comes to colognes and perfumes, and many of those that you received as a gift end up catching dust on your shelf.
No matter the situation, after owning a perfume for a few years, you might wonder if it has an expiration date and whether or not it can go bad in the first place. In this article, we will debunk the “how long does perfume last” question and discuss how to store your perfume properly and aid its longevity.
Does Perfume Expire?
Perfume does not technically expire, but it does go bad. The average expiration date for perfume is three to five years from the time of manufacture. However, many renowned brands, such as Dior and Paco Rabanne, do not come with a set-in-tone expiration date. As a result, some colognes and perfumes might begin to expire within a year of their purchase, while others may last up to 10 years even.
What Determines How Long Perfume Can Last?
Perfumes come with a different chemical composition which determines how long they’d last. So, though we can’t precisely answer the “How long is perfume good for?” question, we can give you some insight according to their compound structure.
Perfumes are made of oils, base notes, middle notes, and top notes, and according to expert claims, those made with heavier base notes last the longest. So you can expect perfumes that have oriental scents, such as amber and patchouli, to last longer than those with lighter base tones. For instance, floral perfumes are bound to have a shorter shelf life.
DID YOU KNOW: You can use essential oils to make your own perfume; however, first, you must learn to be aware of the precautions, as the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) clearly states that essential oils can be both sensitizing and irritable.
How Long Does Perfume Last?
Knowing if perfume can go bad is just the first step. But, you should also be able to spot the early signs of a perfume losing its charms.
How to Tell if a Perfume Has Gone Bad?
Here are some signs you should be on the lookout for when you suspect your fragrance might be expired.
Take a look at your perfume or cologne and try to notice if there are any changes in its color. For example, if the color seems darker than when you purchased it or started using it, it could mean that your perfume has gone bad.
For most people, the most obvious way to tell if the perfume has gone bad is by smell. The scent is what is most transparent about fragrances. So, if the smell is significantly different than the one you started with or smells of vinegar, then your perfume is well overdue.
Less Perfume in your Bottle
Usually, perfumes with a higher alcohol concentration tend to last longer as the alcohol prevents the aromatic molecules from oxidizing. However, over time the alcohol might evaporate, which will cause a noticeable difference. Without the stability provided by the alcohol, your fragrance is likely to go bad.
Take a Look at the Fragrance Packaging
Usually, most perfumes come with either a batch code or a Period After Opening (PAO) number on which you can find the expiration date. You can find these either on the bottom of the perfume or printed on the packaging. If you want to know the exact perfume expiration date, you must be able to distinguish between the two.
The Batch Code: The Batch code includes the manufacturing date and is part of company quality control policies. It helps them determine which products are overdue and should be taken off the market.
All branded perfumes must have a batch code; however, there are many variations, and this code can be from 3 to 12 numbers long. You can do your research, or find some examples of batch codes here, so you’ll know what to look for.
Period After Opening: When does your perfume expire based on the PAO number? The PAO represents the number of months you can use a perfume before it expires. So if you want to know exactly when your perfume expires, look for a small symbol that represents an open jar and find the numbers next to it. The typical usage time is around 30 months; however, that varies depending on quality.
How Long Can a Perfume Last if Unopened?
Once you open a bottle of perfume, the use it or lose it policy takes power. However, this makes you wonder how long a perfume can last if you decide not to open it. Well, one thing we should keep in mind is that storage conditions play a major role. If stored improperly, a perfume can go bad even though it hasn’t been opened.
Vintage perfumes are prized by collectors, but this is not due to the fragrance found inside, as, over time, all perfumes tend to lose their smell and no longer “look like themselves.” So for those asking, “how long are perfumes good for?” — it will depend on their chemical structure as well, but we can say that the lifespan of an unopened bottle may range from three to five years.
DID YOU KNOW: One of the reasons why some perfumes are more expensive than others is that they are made of hard-to-find ingredients.
How to Extend the Perfume Expiration Date?
Does perfume go bad? Sad to say, yes. But is there anything you can do to postpone its expiration date for as long as possible?
As we already mentioned, the shelf life of perfumes does have its enemies, which is why making sure your perfumes are properly stored can make all the difference.
Here are some things you should pay attention to in order to ensure your perfume doesn’t go bad before it reaches its expiration date:
Keep it Away from Sunlight
A warm storage place or prolonged exposure to heat and sunlight are some of the factors that negatively affect perfume shelf life. Heat breaks down the chemical structure of perfumes easily and contributes to perfumes and colognes losing their fragrance more quickly. Similarly to heat, direct exposure to sunlight should also be avoided as it affects both the consistency of the liquid and the perfume color.
Avoid Harsh Temperature Changes
It is only logical that if a warm environment is considered harmful, then keeping your perfume in the refrigerator seems like a reasonable solution. Although it is true that the fridge environment suits fragrance needs, if you decide to keep your perfume in your refrigerator, you must be careful. Perfumes need a consistent temperature meaning that after using your perfume, you must place it back in the refrigerator right away to avoid extreme temperature changes.
Keep it in its Original Bottle
Some of the other factors that can have an effect on how long cologne lasts is exposure to oxygen. Perfumes and colognes are readily sold in decorative containers, and often people find a more suitable container and decide to rehome the liquid.
While this might be tempting, exposing perfume to air can break down its chemical composition and cause a portion of the alcohol to evaporate. Another great risk is bacteria exposure which is why bottles usually come with spray tops aimed at protecting the fragrance.
Is Using an Expired Perfume Safe?
Perfume expiration dates exist for a reason, and using expired perfumes comes with its risks. Experts claim that the oxidation process that happens during a perfume’s lifespan can generate compounds that act as skin irritants. So they recommend doing a patch test on the inside of your wrist, and if you see no effect within the next 24 hours, you can use the perfume. But, remember, you are doing so at your own risk, and using the perfume might lead to an allergic reaction.
An alternative to applying perfume on your skin is spraying it on a handkerchief or a scarf you carry around in your pocket or purse. However, applying it to your wardrobe might not be a good idea, as getting perfume oils off clothes can be challenging.
What to Do With an Expired Perfume?
As you know by now, sadly, perfume expiration is inevitable, which raises the question of what to do once you are certain your perfume is no good. Unfortunately, throwing it away in the trash can have a very devastating effect on the environment, as the bottle will end up in a landfill.
No matter if the bottle is plastic or made of glass, due to the fact that it still contains liquid and traces of fragrance, it is very likely that it won’t be marked as recyclable.
Due to such issues, many US brands aim at introducing recycling programs. Some, such as Pharmacy and Bliss, make use of the TerraCycle platform and recycle their products only, while others, like Nordstrom and Credo Beauty, accept products that weren’t originally purchased from them.
Repurposing Perfume Containers
How long a perfume is good for is not the only thing we should worry about when it comes to these products. Perfume lovers should also consider what to do with the bottles and fragrances they no longer use. Besides recycling, another way to avoid contributing to the production of massive waste is to find a new purpose for the bottle.
After cleansing the perfume thoroughly, you can use it as a scent diffuser or a homemade air freshener by filling it with your favorite essential oils. You can also remove the pump and use it as a fancy flower vase, or put your creativity to use and find a solution of your own.
- The average expiration date of a perfume is 3–5 years from the time of manufacture.
- Perfumes with oriental scents as base notes can last longer than floral perfumes.
- A change in smell and color can indicate a perfume has gone bad.
- Keeping your perfume away from direct sunlight and heat is essential.
So how long are perfumes good for? Shortly, we can say that what determines the perfume’s shelf life is its ingredients, chemical structure, and the way they are stored. As we mentioned, leaving perfumes unopened will not make them last forever, so when you get your hands on a perfume you don’t like very much, don’t just put it on your shelf.
Perfumes always make lovely gifts, even for people who have everything, and they often make a very clever gift for the type of mom who claims to want nothing, so why let a fragrance go to waste?
Yes, perfumes can go bad. Though the exact perfume expiry date varies depending on the structure, typically, perfumes can last anywhere between 3 and 5 years, while with proper care, some brands might last up to a decade.
Usually, perfumes come with a Period After Opening label, known as PAO, which represents the number of months a perfume is good for after the initial opening. So to answer — how long does perfume last after you open it? — you can generally rely on this number. The typical usage time mentioned on the PAO label is 30 months.
There are a couple of things you can do to check if your perfume is past its expiration date:
- Check if there are any changes in its smell
- Look for changes in color
- Try to notice if there is less liquid in the perfume bottle
- Check the details on its packaging
Just like perfumes, colognes and toilettes also have a limited shelf life, which is determined by their chemical composition. The cologne’s shelf life is also predetermined by its structure.