If you want to keep your fragrances fresh, you need to store them properly. It’s best to store your perfume collection in a cool, dark, and dry environment, away from harmful elements that can rapidly degrade fragrance.
The most common culprits when it comes to shortening a fragrance’s lifespan are extreme temperatures, oxygen exposure, excessive humidity, and light exposure. Let’s go over why and how to avoid them.
Know Your Ingredients
First, it’s important to understand why certain elements can make your perfume go bad. Perfumes are typically made of water, alcohol, and fragrance. Water and alcohol are fairly stable ingredients, but fragrance–which can mean either fragrance oil, fragrance molecules, or a combination–is more fragile.
Essentially, it’s the fragrance part of your perfume that can be easily degraded or damaged by heat, light, air, and humidity. When this happens, your fragrance can become weaker or change scents, or even start smelling rancid.
This means that certain types of fragrances are actually more sensitive than others. Blends that contain a high percentage of fragrance, like extrait de parfum and eau de parfum, tend to be more sensitive than less concentrated eau de toilette, eau de cologne, and eau fraiche fragrances. Blends with more fragile fragrance notes, such as citrus notes, are also more prone to degradation.
So, if your perfume contains more fragrance oil or has more sensitive ingredients, it’s extra important to practice proper storage techniques if you want to preserve quality.
Store in a Dark Place
Many perfume bottles are beautiful enough to display–but leaving your favorite fragrances out in the light can damage them. Light exposure degrades perfume over time, weakening or changing it.
To avoid light damage, it’s best not to store your perfume collection out on a vanity or countertop. Store your fragrances in a dark place, like in a cabinet or drawer, or in an opaque container like a wooden box.
Store in Your Original Bottle
Oxygen is another element that will slowly break down fragrance, so you want to minimize how much air gets in your perfume bottle. A great way to do this is by keeping your fragrance in its original bottle.
A perfume’s original packaging is almost always the best storage solution. Fragrance bottles are airtight containers with tight seals and spray heads that excel at keeping oxygen out.
But what if you want to transfer a scent to another container? If your new storage container is a glass bottle with a tight seal and a high quality atomizer, and you make the switch fairly quickly, that should keep air exposure fairly low. However, leaving your bottle uncapped for an extended period or using a low quality container will introduce quite a lot of oxygen.
If you want to put your fragrance in a lower quality container, like a plastic bottle you want to travel with or a vintage glass bottle without a good seal, you still can. But just be aware that this will probably lead to a shorter shelf life.
Did you know excessive shaking can promote oxidation inside a bottle of fragrance? Shaking perfume distributes oxygen throughout the liquid, creating more contact with sensitive fragrance molecules. This repeated exposure to oxygen will degrade the quality of perfume over an extended period of time. If you want to avoid oxygen exposure, don’t shake your beloved fragrances.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s also no reason to shake perfume. As a product, perfumes are designed to stay blended for years. So, in addition to causing an unnecessary exposure to air, shaking perfume is unnecessary in general.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
Cold temperatures and extreme heat can both take a toll on your fragrance’s chemical composition. In general, you want to avoid exposing your fragrance to extreme temperatures, as well as excessive temperature fluctuations. Keep your perfumes in a cool area away from heat sources.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Exposure to direct sunlight can degrade fragrance quickly due to a combination of light and heat. Even a ray of natural sunlight can heat up perfume to the point of damaging it, so keep your favorite fragrances far away from sunny windows.
Don’t Store in Your Bathroom
Keeping fragrance in a bathroom is a very common storage mistake. People often store other cosmetics in the bathroom, so it makes sense that they might think it’s a good place for perfume–however, that couldn’t be more wrong.
Perfume experts have a nickname for the bathroom: the perfume graveyard. This space in your home not only has excessive humidity levels, but also frequent fluctuations in temperature. This combination of temperature change and exposure to moisture is extremely hard on fragrance, so storing perfume in a bathroom is just not a good idea.
Use Your Own Judgment About Refrigerator Storage
Some experts say you should store your perfume in your refrigerator, but not everyone agrees. It’s true that the inside of your fridge is cool and dark, with a consistent temperature. However, some experts worry that perfumes can be damaged by the cool temperatures inside a fridge.
The jury is still out on whether fridge storage is a good idea, so we suggest using your own judgment before transferring your fragrances into your fridge. One thing to remember is that extraits and eau de parfums are more sensitive than eau de toilettes, colognes, and eau fraiches. Some fragrances, like citrus scents, are also more sensitive. Take extra care before putting potentially sensitive fragrances in a fridge–and definitely don’t put them in your freezer.
Know the Signs Your Scent Has Gone Bad
Now you know all about proper care techniques. But how do you know if a fragrance has gone bad?
Perhaps the most common sign a fragrance has gone bad is a change in scent. Your fragrance’s original scent can become diluted or change, or even start to take on unpleasant notes. Perfumes that have expired can smell sour, vinegary, or chemical.
Other signs your perfume has gone bad include discoloration, cloudiness, uncharacteristic oiliness. If the contents of your bottle of perfume look or smell significantly different, it may be time to toss it.
Whether it's due to improper storage or the passage of time, perfumes can go bad. But by following these expert tips, you can extend the life of your fragrance and enjoy it for years to come–if you manage to resist using the whole bottle before then.