Do Perfumes Go Off? How to Tell if Perfume Has Expired
Yes, perfumes when they age can change their composition, so that they smell different than they used to, and cause allergic reactions when they did not use to.
Perfumes don't come with use-by dates; it's a well-known fact. What isn't so well known, however, is how to tell if they have gone bad. While a label or sign might say to use within 12 months, or 24 months, it doesn't necessarily mean that the products expire after this time, so how can you tell?
Over the years, I have received gift sets and bottles of perfume, and I have built up quite a collection. I recently made a decision to start using them, and I noticed that I had had some of them for over five years! It's awful, I know, but I tend to have a favourite perfume, and I only really use the others for work. So, I had to go through them to determine whether they had gone off, or if they were still usable.
Why Does It Matter?
Because of the different storage methods, temperatures, and general environmental issues that perfume may have to endure in its lifetime, the chemical balance within the perfume can change; molecules in the perfume can break down and recombine. These chemical changes can cause irritation, and even an allergic reaction if you don't remove the perfume from your skin right away. The reaction may make you think you are allergic to your favourite perfume, when, in fact, the bottle you have is simply out of date.
How can you prevent this kind of allergic reaction in the future?
One of the first signs that a chemical change has happened is that the liquid changes colour. Sometimes the colour of the perfume gets darker, which can be difficult to judge if you haven't looked at the bottle for a while. Sometimes the liquid takes on a milky appearance. If so you may also see a milky layer on the bottom, where some of the particles have settled. If this change hasn't occurred, there is another obvious way to tell if the perfume has expired.
This is the most obvious sign. When you spray it on, you probably won't like the smell of out-of-date perfume.
Now, depending on the type of perfume, there can be differences in smell when they expire. Personally, I have found that Eau De Toilette sprays tend to smell more like alcohol as they age. Let's face it, you don't want to walk around smelling like you've been drinking, especially first thing in the morning! On the other hand, Eau De Parfum sprays tend to take on an almost spicy, curry-like smell. Then again, some perfumes simply lose their strength. It's hard to describe, but I assure you, you will notice the difference from the usual smell!
Now, unfortunately, if you have discovered that your perfume is out of date, there is probably nothing better to do with it than bin it, particularly if the scent has altered to some unpleasant spicy smell.
What you can do, though, is try to prevent this from happening again.
Proper storage of your perfumes is important, because if they are exposed to extreme temperatures (hot or cold), or to light, they could turn bad. Storing in a cool, dark place, out of direct sunlight, would be best.
Think of your perfumes as consumables, and use them in order if possible, starting with the oldest first. You wouldn't use fresh eggs first, and let the other ones go to waste, would you?
If there are perfumes that you simply don't like, perhaps arrange a swap with a friend. You wouldn't believe the number of bottles over the years I've received as gifts that I just can't wear for one reason or another. I'm sure there are plenty of others who are the same!
Remember, prevention is better than cure. I'd definitely prefer to use up all of my bottles rather than dispose of them, but unfortunately I left it too late this time. Don't make the same mistake!
© 2013 Lynsey Harte