If you have ever owned a cologne for a long time, you may have noticed that the scent has changed over time. This can happen to most any cologne, and it is good to understand how this happens and what causes it to expire.
Yes, cologne or perfume does go bad and it can expire. Colognes generally do not have an expiration date, but a good rule of thumb is that they can start to go bad around 5 years after they are manufactured. This is just an average shelf life for a perfume or cologne though.
There is no hard stamped expiration date on colognes, so there is no easy way to pick up one of your bottles to determine if it has expired or not. However, there are some steps that you can take to determine that though.
The primary factor in determining this is the fragrance composition and how you take care of and manage your collection. We will go over several things that can cause them to go bad, and we will also take a look at some things that you can do to preserve your colognes longer.
What Causes Cologne To Expire
The main factor, as stated above, is the composition of the chemicals in it. This is very similar to how you smell a fragrance. When you spray a cologne, it has top, middle, and base notes. The top notes are generally things like citrus, and base is usually composed of notes like patchouli. You will usually smell the citrus notes first, and they will dissipate quickly, but the base notes will stick around all day.
This is because certain notes are more volatile like citrus. This also plays a role in how long it takes for a cologne to go bad. The notes that are the most volatile will usually go bad first, and some base notes actually become richer over time. A great example of that is dark patchouli essential oil. If you have ever owned a bottle of that and had it sit around for 5 years, you may notice that is has a deeper scent. The base notes are less volatile, and therefore do not break down as easily.
Another factor that causes colognes to go bad is how you store them. When you purchase essential oils, they are usually stored in amber bottles. The dark brown glass protects the contents from light which can break down the chemicals. These bottles are designed for the purpose of protection.
When perfume houses design bottles, the goal is usually to sell more product. Bottle design is part of the brand and image of a fragrance, so it is important to have a marketable item. But, that doesn’t mean it is the best bottle for preserving your cologne. A clear glass bottle is not a good as an amber bottle. If the goal was fragrance preservation, most perfume houses would sell their products in amber bottles. Some are designed in black or dark glass, and this can usually be found in more masculine or unisex fragrances. Those will do a much better job of preserving the scent over clear glass bottles.
In addition to the bottle color, location plays a role in the breakdown of your cologne. Sunlight causes the chemicals to break down, so it is best to avoid keeping your fragrances near open windows. Temperature fluctuations and high heat can also cause a breakdown of the chemical composition as well.
Air can also oxidize your cologne which will slowly degrade it. Most colognes have sprayers, but there are some that have open tops. If you were to leave the top off for an extended period of time, that will further break down your perfume or cologne.
How To Tell If Your Cologne Has Expired
If you have ever held onto a cologne for many years, you may have noticed that it started to smell a little off. That is one way to tell if your cologne has gone bad. This is likely happening because some of the more volatile components have degraded over time. It’s good to note that many fragrances will change over time, and your favorite tobacco scented cologne may not smell the same as the day you bought it, but just because it smells different does not mean you still can’t wear it. If it still smells good, and there are no skin interactions, then you should be able to wear it. Of course, if the scent is off putting, you’re likely not going to wear it.
Colognes and perfumes will generally mature and change over time. This is expected, and it does not mean that your favorite bottle has gone bad.
Another reason you can tell is just by looking at it. Obviously, this is going to be difficult if it is in a dark bottle, but if it is in a clear bottle, you should be able to see it clearly. Sometimes, when fragrances go bad, they may turn cloudy or look differently.
You can also look at the batch code on your bottle to determine its production date. For example, on the bottom of Creed packaging, there is an 8 or 9 digit code printed on it. This is the batch code that they use to label production runs of certain batches. This number can tell you when the product was made. You should be able to inquire from Creed about this information, and there are certain online sites with batch information like checkfresh and checkcosmetic that will give you this information.
How To Help Your Cologne From Going Bad
Here is a list of things that you can do to help keep your cologne for a longer time.
1. Keep It Stored In A Cool Dry Place
Keeping it in an environment like your car or next to your shower is not the best place to store perfume or cologne. Keep it in a dark closet in the bathroom or somewhere like that. It is also best if the temperature is stable. Most people probably store their perfumes and colognes in the bathroom, but something to keep in mind is that the temperature in the room can raise quickly during a hot and steamy shower. A closet or a cabinent where the door can be shut is a great place for storage. I know that a lot of people like to keep a display of their most popular fragrances on their counter, and this is fine because those are likely used up quickly.
2. Keep Your Fragrance In Its Original Bottle
If you take cologne out of a sealed spray bottle and put it in another bottle, this will expose it to air which puts it at risk for unnecessary oxidation.
3. Leave The Cap On
Do not leave the top off of your cologne for an extended period of time. This is another way that you can expose your juice to air. Most colognes have sprayers so this may not be a problem, but for bottles that do not, it is never a good thing for the juice to be exposed to air.
4. Do Not Store In The Refrigerator
You should not keep your cologne in the refrigerator in order to keep it cool. This can expose it to varying degrees of temperature fluctuations taking it in and out over and over again. Plus, your refrigerator contains a lot of gross stuff like raw chicken, beef, and eggs. Not really the best place to store your stuff. According to Fragrance Foundation, only colognes and toilet water should be stored in the refrigerator, but perfumes are too volatile to be stored there, so there are mixed views on this topic.
5. Keep Your Cologne Stored In Its Original Box
If you are not going to use it right away, the best thing that you can do is to keep it stored in its original box. If you keep it in its box in a cool and dry place then you are doing it the right way.
6. Do Not Shake Your Bottle
If you feel the need to shake it up a bit, a simple turn of your wrist slowly will do the job. Any excessive shaking will introduce too many air bubbles into the cologne which could cause it to oxidize faster.
What To Do With Old Colognes
There are several things that you can do with colognes that you don’t want to apply to your skin anymore. When they go bad, it is usually a scent issue, and most of the time, the scent may be a little off. While this may not be acceptable for everyday wear, you can always repurpose it for other things.
- Give it away
- Use it to scent your sheets
- Use it as a room spray
- Scent potpourii with it
- Create your own Poo-Poori
- Spray it in your car
- Use it as a trash can air freshener
The overall majority of colognes will not expire and turn out bad if they are taken care of correctly. There are some citrus heavy scents that will not be pleasant after a few years, but this does not seem to happen to the majority of fragrances on the market.
You can keep colognes for decades with close to their original scent. This of course depends on if you take care of them and store them properly.
You can also expect some level of change in the scent over time, but it is going to be up to you to determine if the scent is pleasant or not. However, if you keep your bottle in your car in South Florida over the summer, take it to the gym, you should not expect that it will hold its natural scent. It will likely expire and turn bad.