Can Fragrance Go Bad? Here's How to Tell If You Need to Toss Yours

Plus, why you should be storing it with your leafy greens.

Most Popular

The beauty of investing in a fragrance is that, unless you're overdoing it on the daily, it feels like it lasts for ages. I've been loyal to my bottle of Valentino Valentina Assoluto for a couple of years now, and it blows my mind that I still haven't run out. 

But as for whether or not a perfume can truly, if rationed, last for years and years to come, the jury is still out. Or rather, it just kind of depends. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

While a quick Google search will tell you that the majority of fragrances only have a shelf life of about 3 to 5 years, I spoke to two individuals who practically live and die by their sense of smell and insist it can be much longer than that—under the right circumstances.

Most Popular

Jan Ahlgren, founder of niche fragrance house Vilhelm Parfumerie, believes that a quality scent can be akin to a fine wine.

"If you store it correctly and avoid direct sunlight, fragrance can be like wine…it improves over time," explains Ahlgren. That said, he would advise you to check to check in on your scent after about five years.

As for the best way to store it, it can't be stressed enough that sunlight is the enemy. "I would suggest keeping it in a closet so that it's protected from sun, heat and radiators," he says. "Another great place to store it is your bedroom drawer!"

Another man who's just as serious about his fragrances is fragrance expert Chandler Burr, who takes storage a step further. 

"All my serious perfumes are in my refrigerator—the crisper is loaded with them," he explains, adding that he believes they can last for years that way.  Burr warns that light, heat, and variations in temperature and oxygen can destroy perfume over time, which makes the fridge a safe haven of sorts. 

So, to Toss or Not to Toss?

*That* is the question and what it really comes down to is the following three things:

1. The Nose Test: Simply put, if your fragrance smells "off" or like it's gone bad, it probably has. Toss it.

2. The Color: If your fragrance has changed in color, particularly if it's become darker, that's a sign that it has significantly altered over time. Toss.

3. The Label Close-Read: Pay attention to the ingredients. For example, certain notes like citrus are notorious for having a shorter shelf life as they're fast-evaporating. Notes that last long? Those would be chypre, oriental, woody and oud, according to Brigitte Wormser, VP of Creation & Marketing at Atkinsons 1799. One more thing to note: natural ingredients that are free of preservatives won't last as long. 

Read Next: