5 Tell-Tale Signs That Your Perfume Has Expired

Your perfume probably makes you feel confident and good about yourself in any situation, work or social. So the last thing you want to do is lose that familiar and enticing smell! But how do you know when it’s time to toss away the bottle? What are the signs that your perfume has gone off? Wrong smells? Shady colours? Not as intense as it should be? It could be one of these signs, but it may get especially trickier if you haven't used one for a while. In any case, you will want to test your perfume for signs of expiration.

Does perfume go out of date?

While perfumes are designed to last for years, they will eventually lose their potency and go out of date. But when does perfume expire? This will likely depend on many things, including perfume brand, type and intensity, scent oil concentration, additives present, and even where it’s stored, because fragrances expire faster when left in direct sunlight or near heat sources.

Popular perfume brands, such as Chanel, Gucci, and Tom Ford, usually have a shelf life of five years or more, while generic, low-quality fragrances may expire in less than a year. According to scent experts, most perfumes will last somewhere between two to five years on average, where fragrances with heavier base notes will last the longest. So if your perfume contains bottom notes such as vanilla, patchouli, cedar, or sandalwood, it will likely last longer than floral or fruit-scented perfumes.

Regardless, if you’re unsure if your perfume has expired, there are a few telltale signs that can indicate that it has gone off. If you notice any of these signs, it could be time to replace your old perfume bottle.

1. The fragrance is not as intense or potent as it used to be

If your perfume is more than a few years old, you may have noticed that the scent is not as intense or potent as it used to be. You might have even sprayed it more often than usual for the same effect or to make the scent last longer. This is one of the telltale signs that your perfume has started to go off. If you notice it frequently, it might be time to get a new fragrance.

2. It's way past its expiration date

The expiry date of your perfume is usually found on the back of the bottle and on the packaging it came in. It also includes batch/barcodes or catalogue numbers to let you know when and where your perfume was produced.

If you can’t find its expiration date, you can also look for the PAO (period-after-opening) date. This looks like an "opened container" symbol that tells you the number of months you can use the perfume after it’s been opened. In some cases, it is still okay to use perfume after its expiration date as long as it’s been stored properly and doesn’t give off any unfamiliar scent.

3. It has an off-note smell to it

The easiest way to tell whether a perfume has expired is to use your nose to detect any differences in scent. A perfume's smell can differ depending on its scent notes and chemical composition; for example, it may have a sour, metallic, or more ethanol-like smell. But usually, an out-of-date perfume will smell differently and will have a weaker scent than what you are used to. You can test for any off-note smell by spraying it on a piece of paper or cloth rather than on your skin to avoid any unpleasant smell.

4. Your fragrance looks discoloured and different than usual

If you are still unsure about the smell of your perfume, the next thing you can check for is its colour. Does it look different than usual? If you notice any changes in colour, such as the presence of a slight hue or tint on clear liquid, discoloration, or darker shades than usual, this could indicate that your perfume has expired.

5. You notice skin irritation when you apply perfume

An expired perfume may respond differently depending on your body chemistry, skin condition and type. While some people may be able to apply an out-of-date perfume without any side effects, others may have skin irritation when using one. If you notice itchiness or any other skin condition after wearing an old fragrance, it could be another sign that your perfume has gone bad.

Tips on how to keep your perfume fresh and long-lasting

The best way to keep your perfume fresh and long-lasting is to keep it in a cool, dry place at a stable temperature. This is because perfumes have a delicate chemical composition, and any exposure to temperature gradients or direct sunlight can speed up the oxidation process and reduce their potency. It is also recommended to keep perfume in its original bottle, since perfume contains high alcohol concentrations and evaporates when exposed to the air. This can make perfumes expire faster.