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Some of us may relate to this problem: we buy too many perfumes or colognes, leave them on our vanity table, and end up only using them once in a blue moon because we end up sticking to a few particular fragrances that we especially love.

At some point of time you may have wondered: does my Chanel perfume expire the same way my Chanel lipstick does? Will my Victoria Secret perfume still smell the same after five years?

Read on to see the answers to all the questions you have about expiring perfume!

Does perfume expire and how long can I keep perfume?

Expired Perfume 1

Here’s the bad news: yes, your perfumes (and colognes!) do expire, and this applies to all fragrances across all brands, regardless of whether it’s a Jo Malone London perfume or a no-name brand you bought cheaply off the Internet.

There is no hard and fast rule to perfume expiration dates. Most fragrance manufacturers will recommend tossing your bottle after anywhere from one to three years, but since fragrance doesn’t expire in the same sense that food does, some experts have given the okay for you to keep using a perfume that you really love for four, or even five years.

What is the shelf life of unopened perfume?

You may be thinking, okay, what if I have never opened my perfume? Does that mean that I can still use that bottle of Dior perfume I’ve left unopened for three years?

In most cases, perfumes will last between three and five years from the date of manufacture, although some can survive for ten years or more while others will start to lose their potency after only a year or two. It really depends on the composition of your perfume – see below for a more detailed guide on which fragrances last longer.

How can I tell if my perfume has expired?

If you’re still feeling unsafe about using the cologne that you haven’t touched in eight years (as you rightly should!), these are some ways you can check if it has already expired:

1. Test how it smells

How Can I Tell If My Perfume Has Expired

The most obvious way to tell if your perfume has gone bad is to test its scent.

If your perfume or cologne smells a little sour, like vinegar, or if you notice a significant change in the concentration of the original scent, chances are that it has already expired.

Another obvious sign of perfume gone bad is if the scent is very different from the one you started with.

2. See how it looks

How Can I Tell If My Perfume Has Expired 2

A change in colour is also another telling sign of expired perfume.

A perfume that has turned darker in colour than what you started out with could mean it has gone bad, especially if you started out with a clear or translucent gold liquid and now have a more opaque or amber liquid.

Of course, you can also look out for a significant drop in the volume of the fragrance in the bottle. An expired perfume will have less perfume in the bottle than it did the last time you checked it, partly due to the fact that many perfumes have high alcohol content, which tends to evaporate over time.

3. Check the expiration date

Don’t trust your senses? Here’s a more foolproof way of confirming whether your fragrance has gone bad: checking the expiration dates.

If you have already opened your perfume before, you should be looking at the PAO number. PAO stands for “Period After Opening”, and is symbolised by an open jar, usually at the bottom or the back of your bottle. The corresponding number refers to how many months the item is likely to last after opening:

PAO Number

If you have never opened your perfume before and want to estimate its shelf life, you can also look up the batch number of your product on websites such as CheckFresh to see when exactly it was produced.

Take note: it is not to say that your perfume needs to be thrown away after this time, but you need to check for signs of deterioration as its quality is no longer guaranteed.

Which perfumes expire the fastest, and which ones last longer?

As a general rule of thumb:

Perfumes that expire the fastest Perfumes that last the longest
  • Clean and alcohol-free fragrances
  • Oil-based fragrances
  • Perfumes with patchouli or citrus notes
  • Eau de toilette
  • Perfumes with high alcohol content (70 to 90%)
  • Perfumes with woodsy, amber, and leather notes
  • Eau de parfum, colognes

If you can’t view the above table, here’s an image of it:

When Does Perfume Expire

Although most of us shun alcohol in our skincare products, you’d want to have in your perfumes and colognes – alcohol prevents the aromatic molecules in your perfume from oxidising, hence perfumes with high alcohol content tend to last the longest.

Typically, colognes and eau de parfum last longer than eau de toilette due to the higher concentration of alcohol (around 70 to 90%) in their formulas.

Perfumes with stronger base notes (e.g. woodsy, amber, and leather notes) will also last a little longer – the lighter top notes evaporate more quickly, even when a bottle hasn’t been opened, whereas stronger base notes have more chemical stability that can stay on even after three years.

How can I help my perfume go bad slower?


If you’ve just invested in a good perfume (say, Tom Ford fragrances), and are worried that it may not last for very long, there are a few simple things you can take note of in order to make your favourite Black Orchid EDP last longer.

Firstly, opened fragrances will definitely expire or go bad first due to the oxygen that’s introduced to the formula, so one simple way to make the most out of your luxury fragrances is simply to keep using it, instead of alternating between 100 different bottles. You are advised to alternate the fragrance only once the bottle is empty, especially for highly concentrated fragrances.

Another way to make sure that your perfumes last longer is to make sure you store them properly. High humidity and heat are not ideal conditions for your perfume collection, so try to keep them in a cool room out of direct sunlight.

The fridge is also a good storage location, but there’s a caveat: if you keep opening the fridge door, the inside is constantly lit up and can cause your perfumes to be heated more often than you like. To solve this problem, wrap your fragrance in aluminium foil, or better yet, try the freezer – perfumes contain alcohol, which prevents them from freezing.

Is there any negative effect from using an expired perfume?

The most obvious effect from using an expired perfume would be an unpleasant smell. We wear a perfume in order to smell good, but an expired perfume would have already lost its original scent, and transform into one that we may not like.

In some cases, expired perfume may cause skin irritation, especially on those with sensitive skin.

What can I do with expired perfumes?

So you’ve given up on that YSL Beaute perfume that smells a little less than desirable, but you don’t have to feel like you’ve completely wasted your money if you use these hacks to make the most out of your expired perfume:

1. Use expired perfume to remove nail polish

Use Expired Perfume To Remove Nail Polish

The alcohol in perfume makes it very useful for removing nail polish – it causes the molecules in nail polish to lose its colour and come off easily.

If you’re out of nail polish remover, simply apply a little expired perfume over the nail paint and remove it with the help of a cotton ball.

Note: Make sure to only use perfumes that do not smell too sour for this purpose, as there is a chance that the chemicals in these kinds of expired perfumes would cause damage to your nails or skin.

2. Clean your keyboards with expired perfume

Expired perfumes can also be used to clean keyboards efficiently thanks to the presence of alcohol as well.

The alcohol effectively removes the dirt accumulated between the keys and edges, and can actually work just as well as a keyboard cleaner solution.

3. Clean your mirrors

Notice your mirror looking a little dirty? Grab an expired perfume with high alcohol content, spray a little of it on the mirror, and then clean it with a damp, soft towel.

The expired perfume can effectively clean your mirror without leaving any stains or streaks behind, and is a better (and arguably safer!) option than glass cleaners and bleach.