The ability to smell is one of our most powerful senses. Scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined, as Venkatesh Murthy, Raymond Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, tells The Harvard Gazette. Certain fragrances can evoke sensory impressions and trigger vivid memories embedded in the brain.
According to etc., fragrances also give the wearer a unique smell depending on their natural body odor. Ever had the alluring scent of a passerby stop you in your tracks? Smell has the ability to pull you in and amplify your other senses as well.
It’s not a surprise that people stock up on various types of perfume to find their signature scent. No matter how much money is spent on hair and cosmetic supplies, a person’s perfume collection will always earn the most prominent position on the dressing table or vanity. But a perfume’s scent is not imperishable. If you’re the kind of person who wears a costly fragrance only on special occasions, discoveries about its shelf life might change the way you use it. So, how can you tell if your perfume has expired?
The average shelf life of a fragrance, per Shay & Blue, is three to five years, but some can still hold their quality up to a decade. How long a fragrance lasts depends largely on its chemical composition. Perfumes from well-respected brands such as Chanel and Marc Jacobs have a relatively long shelf life. Fragrances with heavier base notes, such as oud and amber scents, are also longer lasting. Those with lighter base notes, such as those found in citrus and floral perfumes, are not as durable.
You know a perfume has expired when the smell is slightly sour, says Givaudan perfumer Jacques Huclier (via InStyle). This happens when oxygen in the air alters the molecules in a fragrance over time, giving it a slight metallic scent. If your perfume smells immensely different from when you first bought it or has hints of vinegar, chances are it has already gone off. Changes in color, especially from bright to opaque, are also telltale signs of expiration. You want to avoid applying expired perfume to your body because it can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction.
All fragrances come to a point when they no longer look or smell the same. But with the right handling and storage, their shelf life can be lengthened. The key to doing so is to keep them “in a dark, cool, and dry place,” as Diptyque’s director of marketing Eduardo Valadez suggests (via Real Simple). The science behind this technique is based on the fact that heat, light, and humidity significantly lower the quality of perfume. Just because a perfume is called “eau de toilette” in French, doesn’t mean it belongs in the bathroom. It is strongly advised to store your perfume in a drawer or another area that is tightly closed to prevent deterioration.
Another enemy of perfume is oxygen, according to Perfume Lounge. To minimize oxygen exposure, tighten the bottle cap carefully after every use and refrain from opening your perfume bottle excessively.
It’s easy to lose track of just how old our perfumes are. If you can’t find the expiration date on the packaging of the perfume bottle, it is best to ask the perfume seller at the time of purchase and make note of it. If properly stored, many fine perfumes can last a very long period.