When Should I Throw Away Old Perfume?

Image of Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Santal Blanc, Narciso Rodriguez Poudree and Givenchy Gentleman Boisee Eau de Parfum

Have you ever found a fragrance that you’ve fallen in love with and want to wear forever? Perfume can be a real investment, especially if you have expensive taste (guilty!). So, you’ll want to make sure that you do everything you can to preserve the aroma and ensure it smells as good as the day you bought it.

Does fragrance have a shelf-life?

After some investigation there doesn’t seem to be a clear hard-fast rule – it depends on the chemical composition of the fragrance. Most fragrance manufacturers recommend throwing away your bottle after anywhere from one to three years, but fragrance doesn’t behave in the same way as food, so it can be okay to keep it for longer, most fragrance experts recommend around three to five years.

Opened vs unopened? Once you’ve opened a fragrance the oxygen in the air comes into contact with it and that’s what causes it to expire and deteriorate. However, if you’ve not opened the perfume, kept it in its original box and stored it away from sunlight it will prolong the shelf-life. It is important to note though that even though you’ve not opened your perfume, it could still expire – it really does depend on the perfume’s composition.

To make it easier, there are some tell-tale signs to look for when deciding if your fragrance has expired or not. I’ve also discovered there are plenty of tips to help prolong the life of your favourite perfume so that you can ensure it remains wearable for as long as possible.


How to tell if your fragrance has expired

The strength has lessened and it doesn’t smell as strongly as it did when you first opened it.

• It’s developed a strange smell. Scents can become oxidised and as they do they often begin to smell sour or sometimes acidic and metallic. This is because too much oxygen inside your perfume bottle can alter the molecules of the fragrance which can change the scent. Some perfumes can also contain vegetable oils which can also get to smell stale over time.

• Its appearance has changed. If your fragrance has changed colour or has gone cloudy or opaque it’s likely to have expired.

• You’ve noticed that your perfume is slowly disappearing but you haven’t used it, this is because it’s evaporating (and expiring).

• When you wear it, it causes a skin irritation or even an allergic reaction.


How to prolong your fragrance


1. Don’t store your fragrance in direct sunlight.

Perfume bottles are often works of art and if you’re anything like me you’ll want to display them where the light can capture their beauty. However, this is the worst thing you can do for your fragrance. Direct sunlight breaks down the chemical structure of a scent, making it unstable and prone to oxidation.


2. Keep your scent away from heat.

Exposing your fragrance to heat will break down the fragrance molecules and affect its stability. So make sure they are not kept near a heater or a radiator. Ideally you should be keeping your fragrance below 15 degrees celsius to keep it in an optimum condition.


3. Keep using until the bottle is empty – don’t alternate with other perfumes.

This one is easier said than done, especially if you’re a fragrance lover like myself. The problem is that when you use a perfume for a period of time, then stop and move onto another one, you’re leaving the original perfume open to expiring more-quickly because the oxygen left in the bottle can alter the perfume. If you can, finish the bottle and then move onto a different scent.


4. Store in a closed cupboard and also in their original box if you can.

If you are really keen to give your fragrance the VIP treatment then storing it in a cool, dry place away from the light is going to be best. A cupboard or a drawer in your bedroom, office or dressing room is ideal. But stay clear of storing your fragrance in the bathroom – a fluctuation of hot and cool temperatures plus humidity can cause your fragrance to expire faster. If you don’t have a cupboard or drawer you can put your collection in, storing them in their original boxes will also help.


5. Ensure you are replacing the cap properly after each use.

Oxygen is perfume’s worst enemy and when we’re in a hurry, how many of us are guilty of leaving the top off our perfume or aftershave? Even just a couple of hours with the top left off can start to affect the chemical balance of your fragrance and cause it to evaporate.


6. Avoid shaking the bottle.

Many think that they will be enhancing the scent of fragrance by giving the bottle a little shake first before spritzing. The reality is, disturbing the juice in this way can create unwanted oxidation via bubbles that will spoil the composition of the fragrance.


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