Does cologne expire? Yes, it does. And it’s a sad fact if, like me, you’ve coveted a cologne for many years. You may find that over time, the scent is not so potent or maybe even smelling sour.
In 2017, during a visit to Demark, I bought Cedar Root Black by Scandinavian fashion designer Henrik Vibskov. I was knocked out not only by the unique peppery, wood scent but also by the quirky hand-carved topper on the niche fragrance’s bottle.
Not knowing when or if I would ever get to replace it one day, I sprayed it sparsely. I didn’t realize that, as chemist and co-founder of NUELE, Christine Martey-Ochola, Ph.D., says, “Typically, a more musky or woody type of perfume will last 12 to 15 months.”
I still have a small drop left and noticed some changes in the appearance and smell of the juice. This got me thinking, does cologne expire? What’s more, if it does, how long does it take for cologne to expire?
Moreover, could I have done anything to slow the process down? After a deep dive into scientific studies and perfume experts’ minds, I discovered the simple answer is yes. So, if you are one of an army of cologne collectors, then you’ve reached the right corner of the internet.
Here at Fashionbeans, we’ve done a lot of research to bring you the best men’s fragrances of all time. Better yet, we can make sure that scrapping your scent sooner than necessary is a pattern of the past.
Scroll on and discover how long your cologne will last, how to tell when it’s expired and how to store your favorite fragrance to successfully extend its shelf life.
As you are enjoying your most-loved fragrance, have you ever wondered, “Does cologne expire?” Cologne, like most other cosmetics, has a shelf life.
But knowledge is power. Let me teach you how to detect if your signature scent has turned sour, and better yet, learn how to make your cologne last longer. Armed with this information, you can maximize the lifespan of your favorite colognes and get the most from your investment.
Does Cologne Expire?
The clock starts ticking on your cologne’s lifespan the moment you open the packaging and spritz that first treasured drop. As soon as oxygen finds its way into the bottle, the process of oxidation begins. This process can take a toll on the juice and eventually turn it sour.
How long does it take for cologne to expire? According to Sebastian Jara, The Perfume Guy, “two to three years is pretty much the life of a fragrance.” However, Sebastian says you can boost this with correct storage. Under the right circumstances, “there’s vintage fragrances that last for years, 10 plus years even.” Let’s say your cologne is off-the-shelf rather than vintage. In this case, you could feasibly aim for four to five years with proper care.
In the battle of longevity, some colognes perform better than others. Leading the pack are perfumes with cedar, amber, or leather notes like Dolce & Gabbana The One and Tom Ford Tuscan Leather. Lagging seriously behind are patchouli and citrus scents which tend to lose intensity and turn sour the soonest.
How To Tell If Your Cologne Has Expired
1. Do a Sniff Test
The quickest and most obvious method for figuring out if your cologne is off is to spray a little and give it a sniff. Choose a clean patch of skin free from other cosmetic products so you can judge the scent on a fair playing field.
Can you smell a faint metallic or vinegar-like odor? Does the cologne smell weaker than usual? Or is the smell just plain different than you remember? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it’s time to send the cologne to the bench.
When I test a cologne I fear may have gone sour, I like to spritz it on a paper testing strip. That way, if your suspicions are correct, you’re not left with a funky smell clinging to your skin all day.
2. Pay Attention to How it Looks
Take the cologne to a well-lit spot and make a visual inspection. You’re keeping an eye out for a few tell-tale signs. If the juice seems to be a darker color, it can be a sign of expiration.
If you bought your cologne a while ago and don’t remember the original color, a quick google search should help you find a reference photo. A cologne that appears amber but started life clear or pale golden is most likely a goner.
Finally, make a note of how much is left in the bottle. Colognes with a high alcohol content will evaporate more quickly, especially if stored somewhere in direct sunlight or in warm temperatures. Expired cologne will typically have less juice in the bottle than the last time you checked it, even if you didn’t spray it in between.
3. Find the PAO Number
These days, most cosmetic products have a PAO number. PAO stands for “period after opening,” and you’ve likely seen the small symbol on packaging dozens of times without realizing.
The symbol looks like a small round jar with an open lid and has a number with an “M” next to it. This number represents how many months of use you can get from the product after opening the packaging.
If you still have the original box for your cologne, hunt out this small symbol. The symbol is often printed on the bottom or back lower corner of the box. A little mental math should help you figure out whether you’re still within the range of safe usage.
Over time, oxygen in the air can alter some of the fragrance’s molecules. When a fragrance expires, it can smell slightly sour due to the oxidization.
The good news is, most of the time, expired cologne will just smell a little off. If you apply expired cologne, it can cause skin irritations or an allergic reaction, depending on your skin’s sensitivity, but don’t stress; this is uncommon.
If you’re in any doubt, test the cologne before you spray. According to Medical News Today, carrying out a patch test helps to identify products or ingredients that may cause a skin reaction. Finally, if you are the type of guy who likes to spritz directly onto clothes, beware, expired cologne can sometimes stain fabric.
Like women’s perfume, men’s cologne loses its strength and intensity as time passes. While some last for many years, others degenerate a lot faster. Most fragrance manufacturers recommend sending your cologne to the trashcan after 1-3 years.
But as cologne doesn’t have an expiration date in the same way foods do, some scents may last for up to 10 years with sensible storage. In this case, don’t be too hasty in banishing the bottle.