Everyone has those fragrances they've hung on to for years — maybe it’s your middle school body spray or the very first real perfume you ever bought. Maybe you keep it on your vanity, in your medicine cabinet, or tucked away in a bin, and you just don’t have the heart to toss it. It's fragrance… does it really go bad, or can you keep using it for years to come?
The short answer is fragrance can (and does) expire. So, we’re here to help you understand how to tell when it’s time to toss your fragrance and how you can extend the lifespan of your fragrances.
Does Perfume Expire?
While your favorite fragrance won't expire overnight, after enough time passes, it won't have that same oomph it used to have — however, the time it takes for fragrance to lose its luster depends quite a bit on the chemical composition and storage conditions.
What Happens to Expired Perfume?
The way your perfume looks and smells will change when it expires. For one thing, it will start to look discolored, and will start to smell slightly sour over time. The top notes will begin to oxidize as air gets into the bottle, and the oxygen alters your fragrance’s scent molecules over time. Fragrances with fruity, citrus, or green notes tend to be more sensitive to oxidation.
If you’re noticing these signs, look for the expiration date on your perfume to see if it's about time to part ways. If you can't find the date, you can also test if your perfume has expired by spraying it on a perfume strip or piece of paper. Smell the paper, and see if it smells like you remember, or if something is slightly off. By spraying it on a test strip or piece of paper, you're not risking having to wear a less-than-ideal smell all day if your fragrance has gone bad.
At Snif, all of our fragrances have a minimum shelf life of two years, so you'll have plenty of time to use every last drop.
How Can You Tell If Your Perfume Is Expired?
Let's dive a little deeper into the telltale signs that your favorite fragrance might have hit its expiration date.
The Scent Has Changed
One of the first clues that your fragrance may be on the verge of retirement is a noticeable change in the way it smells.
That once-fresh bouquet of floral notes or zesty citrus might begin to morph into something unpleasant. It's like your fragrance is trying to become a new scent, and it's not a good one. If you're getting more of a "Eau de Something's Not Right" smell, it may be time to say farewell.
The Color Is Shifting
If you notice a shift in color — especially if your bottle of perfume is going into murky or cloudy territory, it could be a sign that things are amiss. As mentioned, fragrances often undergo changes once they are exposed to light or air, and the color shift may be your fragrance's way of letting you know it's time to part ways.
The Formula Is Turning Opaque
Does your once crystal-clear perfume now look more like a mysterious, cloudy potion? That's another sign that your fragrance may be expired.
When your fragrance formulation turns opaque, it's generally an indicator that the ingredients are going through a chemical transformation which is altering the scent. This is an easy way to check the quality of your favorite fragrances that come in a clear bottle.
You're Experiencing New Skin Irritation
Your skin has been the canvas for your signature scent for years, but suddenly, maybe it's not so accepting. If you notice new skin irritations or reactions when using your favorite fragrance, it could be a sign that the chemistry between your skin and your fragrance has soured.
Skin sensitivity or an allergic reaction can often be a red flag that the scent's composition has shifted and it's time to throw it away.
How Can You Make Your Fragrances Last Longer?
Now that we know how to check if our fragrance is expired, let's talk about how you can extend your fragrance’s shelf life as long as possible.
Store Them Away From Sunlight
First up, keep your fragrance away from direct sunlight. Sunlight is like kryptonite for fragrances, it can break down the delicate top and base notes, leaving you with a scent that's more "meh" than mesmerizing. Store those well-used and new bottles of perfume in a dark place where the sun can't mess with their aromatics.
Keep Them in a Cool Environment
Just like you wouldn't leave your favorite lipstick out in the sun, don't let your fragrances bake in the heat. Heat can speed up the aging process of the scent, turning your favorite fragrance into the perfume equivalent of a dried-up raisin. The scent will be altered and not as potent. Keep your fragrances cool, and avoid temperature fluctuations.
Keep the Bottle Closed Until You Need It
Keeping your bottle sealed and away from excess oxygen for as long as possible can also extend your fragrance’s lifespan. Once you open the bottle, the expiration countdown clock is on. Keeping the bottle closed when you're not using it helps to preserve the fragrance. The fragrance will eventually expire no matter what, but exposing it to air will speed up the process.
Store Your Perfume in a Dry Area
Humidity is another enemy to your fragrance bottle’s longevity. If your perfume storage conditions are humid, it can speed up scent evaporation. When your fragrance experiences scent evaporation, you'll notice your perfume smells less potent and won't linger on your skin as long.
It is best to keep your fragrance away from the bathroom counter where you take steamy showers or your bed stand if you use a humidifier at night. Choose a dry place for your fragrances, and they'll stay potent longer. We recommend a storage bin or cabinet as a safe home for your favorite perfumes.
Making Your Fragrances Last (and Last)
By safely storing your fragrance, you can make sure you’re keeping it around as long as possible. However, every perfume does eventually expire if you leave it sitting for too long, so be sure to check your older scents frequently for signs of expiration discussed in this article.
And if the day has come when you need to toss your bottle for a new one, be sure to check out our collection at Snif for luxury-level, genderless fragrances at an accessible price point.