How long does perfume last? Does it Ever Expire?

What does an old shipwreck have to do with how long perfumes last? Find out in this article.

Perfume lasts up to 24 months once the bottle is opened. When applied on the skin, they last anywhere between 1 hour and 10 hours on average. Perfumes expire once their bottles are opened.

If a perfume isn’t opened, it can last up to 10 years and even more. There’s now evidence to show that perfume starts to lose its scent profile after years of staying inside a bottle, even when unopened.

If you’ve ever asked yourself how long does perfume last, you came to the right place. It was when I read about a 156-year old perfume that I began to question perfume longevity.

Commercial cologne lasts anywhere between 3 and 5 years before it starts to darken, deteriorate, or evaporate.

I heard about this ship that went down during the Civil War, around the year 1864. More than a century later, it was discovered and there were 2 bottles of perfume in intact condition at the bottom of the ocean. These perfumes were opened, analyzed, and recreated with modern ingredients.

At first, I wasn’t paying attention to this information. But it was when I came across this article that I thought to myself ‘wait, can a perfume lasts for 15 years?’.

The story is true and the ship called Mary Celeste was one of the hundreds destroyed during the Civil War as it went down in 1864. 2 bottles of Piesse & Lubin (London-made perfume) were found in the ship’s wreckage.

One was completely damaged. But the other was still find and a local perfumer immediately recognized notes of rose, jasmine, violet, and ambergris among others.

A method called gas chromatography was used to determine the exact composition. The method analyzes compounds that vaporize, such as fragrance oil, without decomposition.

This 1864 newspaper advert shows Piesse & Lubin scents.

They found out the perfume was indeed made in London, England. It was both a men’s and a women’s perfume as scents weren’t gender-separated at that time. Adjustments had to be made for the ingredients. They replaced the note of musk with exaltone and they generally made the scent safe for the skin as perfumes were initially applied to coats and scarves (the smell on London’s streets wasn’t exactly royal). Today, you can find the fragrance reformulated in Mary Celestia Lili Bermuda.

But what does this story have to do with how long perfumes last? It tells you that an unopened perfume bottle can last more than a century.

This is how long a cologne bottle lasts unopened (how to check the expiration date)

Today, perfumes last considerably less. I can’t leave a bottle unopened for years just to prove this theory.

However, testing methods show us perfumes usually last 2 years once you’ve sprayed them at least once. For example, Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme lasts 24 months once opened. You need to store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight for this to be true.

The composition also plays a role in perfume longevity. Each note has a different shelf life or longevity.

Top volatile notes such as citruses are the most volatile. They have the most reduced longevity.

Middle notes such as greens, florals, fruity, and spicy notes have moderate volatility and they last moderately.

Base notes such as woods, balsam, and musks (as seen in the example above) last the longest with reduced volatility.

However, I’ve also confirmed the old bottle of perfume found at the bottom of the ocean still smelled like citruses after a century of being forgotten away from direct sunlight.

This is how long perfume lasts on the skin

Apart from longevity after being opened, a bottle of perfume is also defined in skin longevity. When a store clerk asks you ‘how much do you want your perfume to last?’, they are typically referring to a skin scent, and not the expiry date on the fragrance.

The cheapest perfumes only last a few minutes. But on a scale from The One to Club de Nuit, perfume lasts between 1 hour and 24 hours.

Skin longevity is very interesting as it is also determined by the concentration of the fragrance oils. Eau de toilette doesn’t last too long. Eau de parfum concentration is the right composition for maximum skin lasting power.

Why perfume lasts more on clothes?

Perfumes last the longest on clothes. This is because they don’t deal with direct skin heat, which evaporates fragrance oils faster. When you apply perfume on clothes, you can expect scent longevity between 4 and 36 hours. I’ve even applied perfume on paper, where you can smell it after 7 days if you keep the piece of paper away from direct sunlight.

The types of perfumes that last

If you’ve been following for a while, you know that citrus perfumes or summer perfumes don’t last long. The volatile nature of these compounds doesn’t allow them to last as long as sweet woody perfumes worn during the winter.

On occasion, dark scents or perfumes with an emphasis on base note the last 10 years but they can even mature to smell better.

You can see my Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme perfume lasts 24 months after opening.


Can perfume go bad?

Perfumes go bad when you notice a change in liquid appearance, usually darkening. They can also go bad when stored in direct sunlight where they’re impacted by heat.

How do you know if a perfume will last long?

You need to look at the list of ingredients to understand how long perfumes last. The heavy base note perfumes as those with intense woods last the longest. Summer perfumes or scents with citruses tend not to last as long.

Is it OK to store perfume in the fridge?

You need to store perfumes in cool places. But perfumes should not be exposed to extremely low or extremely high temperatures. You can keep it at room temperature but away from the sun and other heat sources.

Are testers stronger than perfume?

Perfume testers last as long as perfume.

How long does Dior Sauvage last?

Dior Sauvage lasts at least 7 hours on the skin. 4 hours is the normal projection and the perfume is there as a skin scent for the rest of the time before evaporating.

How long does Chanel perfume last?

Chanel Blue lasts around 8 hours on the skin.

What to do with expired perfume?

There are a few things you can do with old perfume. You can spray it on carpets to make your room smell good. You can spray it on stationery or your office chair. You may even use old expired perfume on your clothes instead of spraying it on your skin.