Experts pitch in on the best ways to keep your perfume fresh, especially during hot summer months. 

By Angelika Pokovba
August 11, 2020
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So you’ve invested in a new bottle of fragrance that, let’s be honest, wasn’t cheap and you’d like to preserve it as long as possible. Unfortunately, perfumes don’t come with instructions or care directions. We won’t even mention shadowing (fragrance layering), because when it comes to perfume, you’re ultimately on your own for how to wear it and where to store it. So, what are the best ways to store your fragrance and keep it fresh?

Perfume degradation starts the moment you open the box. Even though primarily decorative, perfume boxes actually serve a super important purpose in keeping the fragrance away from light, preventing oxygen from getting inside the bottle, and maintaining a stable temperature. While boxed, the fragrance doesn’t have much exposure to oxygen until the first whiff, and so any internal changes will start from there (like a wine after it is uncorked). Once opened, your best bet is to enjoy the fragrance until empty and make sure to store it properly until then. 

“The most simple and practical tips are to keep your fragrance in a dark, cool, and dry place,” says Diptyque’s Eduardo Valadez. This method protects perfume from its three main aggressors: heat, light, and humidity. “A sunny windowsill or a cabinet or shelf near a heater will degrade perfume more quickly than storing in a dark, cool area,” adds Kristen Shirley, New York-based luxury expert, writer, and editor. In order to increase longevity of your fragrance, it is also best to cap it after every use to minimize oxygen exposure. 

The worst place for keeping a fragrance is actually the bathroom, even though it’s somewhat logical as it is where most people get ready for their day. Because of the changes in temperature (while showering, for example) and high humidity, it is practically a graveyard for fragrance.

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Ultimately, both experts recommend the fridge for storing fragrances. Why? Because the fridge maintains a stable temperature—and keeps the perfume away from light and heat—it's the best way to avoid oxidation or chemical degradation. In especially humid or hot places, the natural oils and essences in your fragrance can start coagulating as they break down. If the alcohol and water inside evaporates, you will be left with a syrupy sediment inside (which you definitely don't want).

The freezer is surely on the extreme end of the spectrum, but it isn't an invalid option. “There is a lot of debate around this topic,” says Valadez. “Will it help preserve your fragrance? Yes. But is it necessary? No.” Shirley agrees, but if your perfume is made exclusively from rare ingredients at a hefty price point, the extreme temperatures in the freezer might be a good idea to consider. Don't worry: Your perfume contains alcohol which keeps it from freezing, so it won't turn into an alcoholic ice block.

Brooklyn-based brand DS & Durga went a step further and, in light of COVID-19, designed an ice cream truck of perfumes, dubbed FUMETRUCK. All the fragrance favorites will be served cold over ice for a refreshing mist effect. “We always had the idea to have an ice cream cart for an ‘ice cold spray of perfume,’” the founders say. “When COVID-19 hit and we closed the store, we brainstormed a way to make the store mobile with a safe distance outdoors.” It also turned out to be summer-appropriate. The truck's trajectory is mapped out online and can be found across New York City, and also in front of its SoHo flagship store at certain hours of the day. The brand naturally advises storing fragrance cold as well. 

All perfumes do have a general lifetime, which you can check on checkfresh.com. Brands tend to agree that it falls around a three- to four-year lifespan, depending on the perfume and its composition. Typically, more powerful scents and musks will last longer (and will last longer on the skin as well).

“Some clean fragrances have much shorter shelf lives since they are formulated without any stabilizers or fragrance extenders,” explains The Nue Co. “The challenge is formulating a clean and non-toxic formula which doesn’t degrade quickly and lasts on skin and in bottle as long as a ‘traditional’ fragrance.” Most brands are transparent about the ingredients that formulate their scents, so tracking those will make it easier to understand if you should take extra precautions when storing the fragrance. 

However, Shirley says that you don’t necessarily need to toss your perfume if it’s past its listed lifespan. Like food, the best way to judge if a fragrance is past its prime is by observing it. If the formula has become chunky, or smells sour, acidic, or metallic, it has probably turned. If you start experiencing a rash or allergic reaction to a trusted fragrance you've been using for a while, it has probably degraded. Experts say this is more rare though—the most common outcome is a faded scent that has lost its intensity, so as long as you can still smell something (and it still appeals to you), you should be able to use it for as long as you please. But since we all buy perfume to actually smell it, popping your bottle in the fridge to prolong that scent is probably the best idea.