Does Perfume Expire

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Perfume is often a costly investment, depending on the brand you buy so you want to be sure that you are getting the most out of each bottle. But once you have made that purchase, is there a risk that your perfume might expire?

It’s always something that I’ve asked myself when pulling out a long-forgotten bottle of my favorite scent; is it still OK to use old perfume? Is it possible for a perfume to go bad?

Perfume does expire although it doesn’t come with an expiration date printed on the bottle, which can make it difficult to determine when you should use it. Generally speaking, the length of time that your perfume will last depends on the composition. Fragrances with stronger base notes tend to last longer. While a perfume could last up to ten years, on average you should use it within three to five years. 

But there is also the pressing issue of why perfumes go bad; after all, they’re fragrances, not food. We need to remember that your perfume contains a delicate chemical balance and this cannot be upset.

When perfume is exposed to air, this can break down the composition ultimately leading to expiration. The biggest killer of fragrance is that air can cause heightened alcohol evaporation and once this happens, the perfume will be rendered no good.

When Does Perfume Expire?

When you buy a new fragrance, you’re probably keen to get it opened and start smelling beautiful as soon as possible. But did you know that from the moment you open the perfume, the clock starts ticking? So, how long does it take for perfume to expire?

Perfume is a pretty long-lasting product with some of the best ones lasting as long as ten years. That said, there are some inferior perfumes that may not make it past 12 months before expiring. On average, once you open a bottle of perfume, you can expect it to last for two to three years. 

The key is in the composition. Perfumes are made in layers with top, middle, and base notes. The notes at the top are usually much lighter and tend to be less long-lasting than those at the base. This means that perfumes with heavier base notes have a much longer lifespan. 

In fact, over time, those woody and spicy base notes may actually become stronger. On the other hand, perfumes with fresh or green notes will weaken much more quickly. 

While it is impossible to put a shelf life on any given perfume, how long it lasts will be affected by how the perfume is stored. Keeping your fragrance in a consistent environment will ensure the best longevity. 

Any sudden fluctuations in humidity or temperature can really mess with the composition and will cause the fragrance to deteriorate prematurely. While many people store their perfumes in the bathroom, this is one of the worst places if you want to ensure the longest possible shelf life. 

Perfume oils, before they are blended into a fragrance, only have a shelf life of around one year and this very much depends on how they are kept. So, once blended together, any exposure to air or light will speed up the process of deterioration. 

Higher quality perfumes are made with more oils than alcohol and while perfume oils don’t have the longest shelf life, this is good news in terms of fragrance. This is because cheaper perfumes with a high water of alcohol content will suffer from evaporation much more freely. 

But that’s not all; some perfumes are made with vegetable oils which can turn rancid. In contrast, those that are made with pure essential oils will make for a much longer-lasting perfume thanks to a lack of fats. This is one reason why you might consider opting for a slightly higher-quality fragrance when you want your perfume to last longer.

Does Perfume Expire if Unopened?

Once you’ve opened your fragrance, you should use it within a certain timeframe. But does this mean that unopened perfumes won’t go bad? 

From the very moment it is made, perfume will begin to expire. However, if it is kept in a sealed container and not opened, it may last longer. This is because the perfume does not have the same level of exposure to air and other elements as if it had been opened.

However, you must keep in mind that you still need to place importance on storing your perfume correctly. If you don’t then the fragrance will still expire much more quickly than you would have hoped. 

This means ensuring that it is not exposed to any extreme temperatures, particularly temperature fluctuations. It is important to store the perfume out of direct sunlight and avoid areas that are prone to high humidity levels, such as the bathroom. 

Heat is a real perfume killer because it breaks down the chemical composition. But you must also think about that container. For example, if your perfume comes in a plastic bottle, extreme heat could cause the plastic to begin to warp and release toxins into the perfume, affecting its quality.

How To Tell If Perfume Has Expired

Products like face creams, mascara, body wash, and so on, typically come with a use by date, given in months. You’ll see a little picture of a pot with a number on it; this tells you how many months the product is good for. 

But does perfume come with an expiry date? The answer here is yes and no. While it doesn’t come with an expiry date in the same way that a food item would, there are indicators of its ‘best before’ status. 

Batch And PAO Numbers

One of the easiest ways to find out the expiry date is to use an online perfume expiry date checker. This is an incredibly handy tool if you aren’t able to tell by the color or scent of the perfume. You’ll enter the batch number and the checker will tell you the date that the perfume was produced. This will give you a good idea as to whether it’s still fit for use. 

Alternatively, you can use the PAO number (period after opening number) which tells you how long a product is suitable for human use once opened. The PAO number is typically printed on both the external perfume box and the bottle. This individual number refers to the number of months the product can be used once opened. 

However, shouldn’t you be able to check the expiration date of your perfume yourself instead of relying on batch and PAO numbers? It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and there are a couple of key things to look for when trying to determine if a perfume has gone bad. 


By far the easiest way to tell if your perfume has gone off is to smell it. You’ll already be familiar with how the perfume should smell so if there is any difference, this is a clear giveaway. 

But according to the composition, your perfume may smell good or bad. For fragrances that have been made with natural essential oils and no fats, the base notes may have become stronger and richer. This will usually mean that the perfume is much more overpowering and the initial scent may be different since the top notes may have dissipated. 

Alternatively, perfumes that contain fats from vegetable oils may take on a very unpleasant aroma. The most common thing you will notice is that the perfume smells acidic; similar to vinegar or may have a very strong chemical smell. 


Another easy way to tell whether a perfume has reached its expiry date is to take a good look at it. Yes, it really is as simple as that.

We have talked about how alcohol and water in the perfume can evaporate and this will leave behind a higher concentration of perfume oils. Imagine watering down cordial; the color becomes much more transparent and less intense. 

But when you have neat cordial, it is much darker and the same can be said for fragrance oils. Once that water or alcohol evaporates, your perfume will look darker and in some cases, it may even develop an opacity. 

Finally, you should check how much perfume remains in the bottle. If you know that there was an almost full bottle that now looks as though it has been used, this is a sign that some has evaporated. Upon opening the bottle, you will likely also notice a difference in the aroma.

Can You Still Use Expired Perfume?

Imagine drinking milk once it has expired or eating a piece of fruit that looks visibly moldy; you’d have a pretty serious adverse reaction. So surely, once perfume has expired, you shouldn’t use it, right? Let’s take a closer look at the question of whether or not expired perfume is harmful.

More often than not, the worst thing that will come from using an expired perfume will be an unpleasant smell. You won’t have the beautiful, enticing scent that you are used to but something much less attractive. That said, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to expired perfume. 

While it is very uncommon to experience any nasty side effects after spritzing yourself in out-of-date perfume, it’s not impossible. 

But whether you are susceptible to this type of reaction largely depends on your skin type. If you have sensitive skin that is easily irritated then you may find that you are more prone to rashes and reactions. 

The reason that this happens is because of the oxidation process that occurs over the life of the perfume. This is totally natural but will cause certain juices to be released which can be very irritating if you have sensitive skin. 

In any case, it is best to dispose of your perfume once it goes past its use-by date. While it may be difficult to part with one of your favorite fragrances, don’t forget the joy of testing new fragrances and discovering a new signature scent.

How To Dispose Of Expired Perfume

There are a lot of sources that will advise you to tip old perfume down the drain and rinse it away with hot water. Sure, the hot water will eliminate the smell from your home, but what about further down the drainage system? 

Using this method risks contaminating local waterways and with such a prominent focus on protecting the planet, this is the last thing anyone wants. So, if you have a full bottle, what is the best way to dispose of old perfume?

Disposing of old perfume should be done through a local hazardous waste collection center. You can find the contact details of your nearest one online. However, if you only have a very small amount of perfume left over, you may be able to flush this away; but it should be a very minimal amount. 

If you are left with an empty bottle then one of the best ways to get rid of this is to recycle it. You will need to wash out the perfume bottle before taking it to your local recycling center or putting it in with your glass recycling collection. 

It is important to remove any plastic components such as atomizers or lids as these cannot be recycled with glass. That said, many local authorities will also provide means of recycling these as well, so be sure to check this.

In Conclusion

It is not uncommon to have a wide selection of perfumes neatly lined up on your vanity unit. But with so many open bottles, you may not be able to use them all. You might want to use them in order to think about which perfume lasts the longest but how do you know when perfume expires?

The shelf life of perfume will vary dramatically depending on its composition as well as how it is kept. You want to make sure that there aren’t any serious changes in temperature because while it takes a lot for perfume to freeze, it will be easily affected by heat. 

Looking at how to make perfume last longer will help you to get the most out of every bottle and will avoid waste. 

Perfumes with a higher amount of fragrance oil will generally last longer. Not to mention these perfumes last longer on clothes and your skin once sprayed. 

Always keep an eye on the appearance of your perfume as well as its smell as both of these things will be affected once perfume starts to deteriorate.

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