How to Tell When Perfume Has Gone Bad

By Marianne Mychaskiw,

If you’ve ever had a fragrance for a long time, you may notice that it’s starting to smell a little off upon making contact with your skin. Perfumes typically have a shelf life of 3 to 5 years when stored correctly, but depending on the notes used, the timeline can vary.

“If a certain perfume has a lot of naturals, like citrus or other fast-evaporating ingredients, it’s more likely to turn bad much faster than a fragrance with lots of musky or woody elements,” says Jan Fockenbrock, perfumer at Drom Fragrances.

One rule of thumb to go by—if your fragrance smells like it has gone bad or you notice a change in the appearance of the liquid, it’s probably time to pick up a new bottle. “After a year, you should consider buying a new one,” he adds.

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To prolong the life of your scent, Fockenbrock suggests keeping air out of the bottle, which oxidizes the scent, and storing them in a cool area where there is little light. “Heat and light both influence the lifetime of a fragrance,” he says. “The worst place to put it would be on the windowsill as it is being exposed to direct sunlight and heat.” This causes the scent to break down faster, particularly if the glass is clear.

If you’re the type who doesn’t mind extending your vanity to your kitchen, Fockenbrock believes that the best place to stash your scent is in the fridge, and if you decide to do so, we recommend leaving it there. Temperature fluctuations can also add stress to your scent, and as a result, cut its lifespan short.

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