What Is Perfume Made Of?
Most kinds of perfume are made from two main components: fragrance oil and perfumer’s alcohol.
Traditionally, fragrance oils are made from natural plant oils and animal secretions that are mixed into a blend. Modern perfumes also use synthetic chemicals to help produce unique fragrances that aren’t found anywhere in nature.
Unlike fragrance oil, the alcohol component doesn’t usually contribute to the perfume’s scent. However, it’s still just as important as it carries the scent through the air and controls how long smells last. In fact, without the alcohol component, most people wouldn’t be able to smell your perfume.
How Long Does Perfume Last?
Over time, a perfume’s components will eventually break down, and in most cases, that’ll take around three to five years. However, other factors can affect shelf life. For example, eau de toilette tends to go off quicker than purer types of perfume since it has a larger concentration of alcohol.
The perfume’s storage space can also affect how long it lasts as the components are pretty sensitive to certain environmental conditions. Natural and artificial light can change how the perfume smells as it speeds up the breakdown of the chemical bonds that hold the fragrance together. Frequent fluctuations in temperature and humidity also have similar effects on the perfume as these cause the volatile components to react and change the perfume’s chemical makeup.
The perfume’s shelf life also gets a lot shorter once it’s been opened. For one, the perfume is going to be exposed to a lot of bacteria that can contaminate the fragrance oil’s blend. Air from the outside can also affect the perfume’s chemical makeup as it oxidises the ingredients. There’s also a chance that you’ll end up with a lot less perfume as alcohol evaporates when exposed to air.
Are There Risks To Using Expired Perfume?
For most people, the worst thing they’ll get out of expired perfume is an unpleasant scent and a couple of weird looks from the people around them. However, not everyone is going to be that lucky.
In some cases, the difference in the perfume’s chemical makeup will just lead to some minor skin irritation, but in others, it can trigger a bad allergic reaction. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but some of the more common ones are migraines, muscle aches, and even nausea. Unfortunately, some cases also turn out fatal as the reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and death.
How To Check Your Perfume
The best way to check is to see if it smells different from usual. Most perfumes will have an unpleasant vinegar-like smell when they’re past their expiration date, but others might just not smell the way they’re supposed to.
Most expired perfumes will also have a darker and more opaque appearance as the chemical reactions that change the smell can also affect the perfume’s colour.
If you still aren’t sure after checking for differences in smell or appearance, you can also check the expiry date or the period after opening (PAO) date of your perfume. While shelf life can be affected by a lot of different factors, these dates can still be fairly accurate as long as the perfume is kept under good storage conditions.
How Can Perfume Last Longer?
The best way to extend your perfume’s shelf life is to move them away from hot and humid places like your bathroom and into dry and cool containers like a cabinet or even a refrigerator. These work well as storage spaces for perfume as these are often dark and have stable temperatures and levels of humidity.
You also need to minimise your perfume’s exposure to air as much as possible. Keep your perfume bottles and pens covered whenever you’re not using them, and keep extra perfume unopened until you actually need them.
It’s also important that you keep your perfume bottles from shaking too much as the movement can cause the components to mix with the air trapped inside. If you’re travelling, keep your bottles at home and bring your rollerball perfume or perfume pens instead.
When In Doubt, Throw It Out
Perfume may not expire in the same way that food does, but it can still go bad after its ingredients start breaking down. If you have a perfume that’s already past its ‘use-by’ date, consider replacing it with fresher bottles and pens.