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True or false: Perfume has an expiration date

17 December 2020 | By Leigh van den Bergh

The great thing about a bottle of perfume is that it seems like it could last for ages. But is that actually the case or will it eventually expire? Read on to find out.


After years of searching for the one, you’ve found a fragrance you truly love – only to realise it’s a limited edition. You’ve probably bought multiple bottles. Fair enough; you want a stockpile. But bear in mind that your quest to smell like your favourite scent until 2045 might be thwarted by the fact that, yes, perfumes do expire. When exactly, is up for debate.

Some companies claim their fragrances expire within five years, but many perfume experts and collectors say they’ve owned bottles for a decade that have yet to kick the bucket. A lot of this has to do with the chemical structure of the perfume – which is out of our control – but there are things you can do to extend the shelf life with a few careful storage tips.

Make it last

Both high temperatures and extreme cold will shorten your fragrance’s lifespan. Same goes for exposure to UV rays, which is why keeping your collection near a window that allows it to bake in the sun, even if it’s just for an hour a day, is never a good idea. Rather keep your bottles in a place where they’re always in the shade. 

Exposure to air is another way to speed up your fragrance’s demise, which is why most perfumes are packaged in air-tight spritzer bottles. Still, if you’re a collector of mini fragrances, you’ll know the majority of them have stopper-style lids, so it’s important that you ensure they’re closed tight. You could also consider decanting them into an atomiser. 

Know when it’s over 

The easiest ways to know when a fragrance has expired are to look at it and sniff it. If the colour has changed or it smells different to how it did when you bought it, its chemical structure has altered. You might like the “new” version and there’s no harm in wearing it, provided a patch test reveals no allergic reaction. If it smells bad, however, it’s time to hit the perfume aisles once more and find a new favourite to love.  

IMAGE CREDIT: shutterstock.com

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