Does the perfume expire? Signs your perfume has gone bad

We know we’re supposed to throw away our makeup and skincare products once they’ve passed their shelf life, even though we don’t always follow that rule (guilty as charged here). In fact, experts have warned that using a cosmetic product for too long can lead to allergic reactions and an increased risk of bacterial infections.

But is it the same for perfume?

During my last spring cleaning, I discovered a few bottles of perfume that I’m pretty sure I received as gifts in college, which means I’ve had them for at least eight years. When I sprayed them in the air I was pleasantly surprised that they still smelled great.

Still, I couldn’t help but think that I might be committing some kind of perfume world sin. To address these concerns and get answers, I turned to perfumery professionals.

Below, fragrance experts explain if scent actually goes bad, how to spot it, what to do with it, and more.

Does the scent spoil?

“Yes, perfume can ‘go bad,'” said the perfumer and founder of Eat. Sweat. Undress Alexia P. Hammonds. “Depending on certain variables like the bottle, quality of ingredients, exposure to light, and where it’s stored, perfume can ‘go bad’ anywhere between one and 10 years.”

She noted that over time, perfume tends to undergo a process called oxidation, a chemical reaction that occurs when the substance is exposed to oxygen or other oxidizing agents.

“There are three main reasons perfume deteriorates: light, heat and air, especially oxygen,” said Sarah McCartney, perfumer and co-author of The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide. to Choose Your Next Scent”. “If you don’t open a perfume―and the bottle is perfectly sealed―it can last for decades. I opened a century-old bottle of L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain, and it was magnificent, absolutely perfect. It had an airtight glass stopper and had been kept in a dark warehouse.

She noted that the more oxygen there is in a bottle, the faster it can deteriorate. So if you’ve used more than half a bottle, don’t try to save it for special occasions – just use it.

How long does it take to go bad?

“Fragrance can lose its potency and sophistication of fragrance notes, but some fragrances can last for years,” said Terry Carter, Chief Perfumer at Travertine Spa, Inc. “It is recommended that fragrances be used in both to three years, depending on the composition of the ingredients.

Fragrances formulated with more natural ingredients have a shorter shelf life.

“Most perfumes these days are formulated with synthetics, which means they are ‘man-made’ or made in a lab from ‘aromatic chemicals’ that attempt to replicate natural ingredients,” said Sue Phillips, founder of Scenterprises. “Therefore, since they are mostly not made from natural ingredients, they have a longer shelf life and do not change.”

Gheorghe Dreava/EyeEm via Getty Images

Perfume can stay fresh for years depending on how it is stored.

Some scents may also be more or less likely to last longer.

“What I really notice is that perfumes with a lot of citrus turn around faster,” said Sebastian Jara aka The Perfume Guy. “If you ever have fruit or vegetables in your house in a bowl or something and they’ve gone bad, imagine how they smell. That’s what I remember.

Fragrances that are in tightly sealed spray bottles also have a better chance than those in bottles that you pour out and therefore expose to more air – although this may depend on how often you open the bottle.

“I believe that more whether it is open or not, it depends more on how the perfume is stored and the weather conditions,” noted Rajiv Sheth, master perfumer, founder and creative at All Good Scents.

This is because perfumes are best stored in dark, dry, and cool places, so if you want your perfume to last longer, place it in a dark closet or other place that provides these three conditions. Don’t keep your perfume in a humid environment like the bathroom or a sun-drenched area like the windowsill.

Can you still wear an old perfume?

When it comes to wearing older scents that may have gone bad, opinions are divided.

“There’s no harm in spraying a perfume shot on your body, except that it won’t have the desirable olfactory impact and can stain your clothes,” Sheth says.

Even if it does not have its original “olfactory impact”, the smell of an older perfume can still appeal. Jara explained that top notes – the first impression notes of a perfume – are more likely to be extinguished in a perfume gone bad, but base and middle notes (or middle notes) will probably be what you will remember.

“I buy a lot of vintage perfumes and when I know it has a lot of citrus in it I know I’ll deal with the bad top notes, but that doesn’t mean I have to throw it away,” he said. he declared.

“In most cases, the odd or vinegar-like smell is in the top notes and will disappear within minutes,” Sheth echoed. “Very few perfumes will go bad overall. This can especially happen if kept for several years and/or stored in warm or hot places.

Fragrances don’t usually have an expiration date, so you have to follow your instincts and consider things like when a bottle was first opened, how it was stored, and what ingredients it contains.

“I wouldn’t risk using vintage perfume on my skin, even if it smells good,” McCartney said. “Certain materials ― natural and synthetic ― have been shown to cause skin irritation and their use has been restricted. Some, including natural fig absolute, have been banned. Citrus essential oils contain natural molecules that can oxidize into other more sensitizing materials, so “off” fragrances have a higher risk of causing a rash.Best not to spray them on the skin.

Test your old perfume on a card or piece of cloth before spraying it directly on your skin.

Aleksandrova Olga/EyeEm via Getty Images

Test your old perfume on a card or piece of cloth before spraying it directly on your skin.

She noted that she might consider spraying vintage perfume on her clothes, though. Carter advised using “good and reasonable” judgment before spraying any perfume you think has gone bad directly onto your skin.

“Make sure the perfume smells like before,” he said. “One can do a skin test to see if skin irritation occurs.”

For those sensitive to scents, certain scents can also trigger headaches and respiratory issues, so be careful of others you might come across.

How do you know if your perfume has deteriorated?

A perfume that has gone bad will usually change color, becoming darker due to factors such as exposure to light.

“If the scent is initially a nice golden hue and after a while you notice it getting darker and more like ‘rum’, it’s a good idea that the scent has deteriorated. and should not be worn,” Phillips said.

If you’re unsure of the color, test the aroma by spraying the scent on a paper card or fabric – ideally not your favorite clothes or anything light in color. With an older scent, the scent may get stronger, but the aroma loses its freshness and takes on a stale quality.

“I’m often given old perfume bottles to add to my fragrance library, and I’ll always try them on the map before deciding whether or not to keep them,” McCartney said. “It may just be the scent in the pump tube that has gone out, so it’s worth spraying a few times until the tube is completely clear, to see if the remaining scent is still good. .”

Hammonds advised taking into consideration the type of bottle as well.

“For perfumes in glass bottles, if you notice a change in color or chemical composition (separation or floating particles), throw it away!” she says. “If your perfume is in an aluminum bottle – which in most cases extends shelf life because UV rays can’t penetrate and alter the chemical composition – then spray it and use your best judgement.”

And all technical instructions aside, you should not keep a bottle of perfume if the smell is unpleasant. If it’s totally intolerable, find an ethical way to get rid of the scent. Never pour perfume down the drain.

“I could use it for room fragrance if it’s the trick but not terrible,” McCartney said. “But it’s better not to wear it.”

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