And, therefore, whether or not it's time to replace it.
Person applying perfume to wrist
Credit: Getty / Visoot Uthairam

You've collected several different fragrances over the years, but you only use one on a daily basis. While it's nice to have variety, is a perfume you've had sitting on your counter for several years still any good? According to experts, probably not. "Typically, fragrances should last around one year from purchase and when they are first opened," says Linda G. Levy, president of The Fragrance Foundation. However, she points out that every fragrance is different, and its longevity depends on the type of raw materials in the formula. "The lifespan of a fine fragrance is wholly dependent on what it's made of and how you store it," she says. "Air and light are the primary factors that breakdown fragrance ingredients, so the amount of air in the bottle affects the fragrance itself."

Since most fragrances don't come with expiration dates, it can be hard to know when they've passed their prime. Here are some key indicators that it's time to toss them out, according to the pros.

It smells different.

Your nose will let you know when a fragrance is starting to turn acidic, explains Matthew Milèo, founder of MILÈO New York. "If you detect an astringent note that wasn't there before, then it's definitely starting to turn," he says. "Over time, that astringent whiff will become vinegar smelling, which means that it's time to toss it." Your fragrance should smell just as it did the moment you made your purchase.

The outer edge of the dispenser has started to crystallize.

This means your product is starting to oxidize and become rancid, says Milèo. "Wipe off the bottle neck with a dry towel, and if you still smell a stale aroma when applying it, then it's time to let it go," he says.

It's turning opaque, rather than translucent.

As a fragrance ages, its preservative system fails causing it to become opaque in appearance. "This allows bacteria and mold to grow which clouds the appearance of the liquid," says Milèo. "If you gently shake the fragrance and see little floaters whirling around, it's time to dispose of the scent and replace it with a new one." If you notice a color change, even slightly, it's likely losing its pigment due to light or heat exposure. These minor hue changes are harmless, notes Milèo.

You get a rash.

If any fragrance causes you skin irritation, you should remove it from your rotation—but this can happen to a favorite perfume you wear all the time if the ingredients have gone bad. Milèo suggests contacting the brand and asking for a list of botanicals contained in the bottle if irritation isn't age related (this will help you narrow down the allergen).

Check the batch code.

The simplest way to find out if your fragrance is old is to locate its batch code (usually on the underside of the bottle) and inquire about the product's expiration date. "This may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy to do, especially since you can look it up on for an immediate answer," says Milèo. "If you still have the box, the expiration date is listed as a PAO number (the open jar icon with the number inside), which is the number of months the product will last once opened."


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