Does Aftershave Go Off? Easy Ways To Tell

Find out how long it takes aftershave to go off, what types of fragrances expire quickest and much more.
aftershave that has expired

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Both aftershave and perfume can go off over time. However, their longevity can be influenced by storage conditions. For optimal shelf life, it’s essential to store fragrances away from high temperatures and direct sunlight. This helps in preserving their original scent profile and ensuring they remain effective for longer. 

While many perfumes don’t come with a specific expiry date, their lifespan can range between 1 to 10 years. The duration largely depends on the composition of the fragrance. 

Specifically, fragrances that are built around heavier base notes tend to have a longer-lasting presence. More on this later.

Why Perfumes Go Out of Date 

Heat, light, and air can wreak havoc on your favourite scent. 

Think about it.

Your aftershave on the bathroom shelf, hit by the sun’s unforgiving UV rays. This exposure breaks the fragrance’s delicate chemical bonds, causing it to lose its charm over time.

Years ago, I used to keep a cherished aftershave on my dresser, bathing in sunlight everyday. I believed the sun was its friend. Big mistake. Months later? A not-so-pleasant transformation. My favourite cologne went off in a matter of months.

Learn from my lesson and save your fragrance from such a fate.

Fragrances don’t have a strict shelf-life like sun cream or food. Some last six months; others, six years. And after expiration? They’re often still usable.

So, why have an expiry date at all?

They won’t harm you like bad milk, but their scent can change. Over time, your perfume might smell different than when you first bought it.

What Types of Perfume Notes Go off Quicker? 

graph showing which perfume notes last longer
Image: FragranceX

Perfumes with heavy base notes, like woody scents with patchouli, oud and amber, last the longest. Think of them as fine wine—maturing gracefully over time.

On the flip side, lighter base notes mean shorter lifespan. Citrus, green, and floral scents often fade faster.

Remember: Perfumes with dominant base notes have longer shelf lives. 

Storage plays a role too. Properly stored perfumes outlast poorly stored ones. 

Be careful with old aftershaves.

I always test them before applying to my skin to make sure they don’t smell bad, irritate my skin or trigger any allergies.

3 Simple Ways to Tell If Your Aftershave Has Gone Off

To quickly tell if your perfume or cologne is out of date, check how it smells, inspect how it looks, or refer to the packaging. 

Let’s take a look at each method in more detail. 

Test How it Smells

The simplest way I’ve found to gauge if my perfume has gone off is by taking a whiff. 

Some perfumes, especially those with fats like vegetable oils, can expire, altering their scent over time. A perfume without fats often lasts longer.

If your fragrance has radically changed from its original smell or has taken on a vinegar-like or chemical odour, it’s likely past its prime.

Inspect How it Looks

Take a moment to assess your perfume’s colour. If it has darkened or become cloudy, it’s showing signs of ageing. 

Likewise, if the volume has dropped and you’re sure none of your family or friends have been stealing a spray here or there, your aftershave may have seen better days. 

High alcohol concentrations in perfumes can evaporate over time, making the remaining essential oils more potent. 

In other words, if there’s less perfume in the bottle, it’s probably expired .

Check the Packaging

Many manufacturers provide an expiration indication on the packaging. This could be in the form of a batch code or a PAO (Period After Opening) number. 

These codes are often located on the bottle’s base or the box it was packed in. 

Referencing these can give you a clear idea of the perfume’s longevity.

Batch Codes

A batch code is a unique identifier, indicating when and where a perfume was crafted. 

These codes help perfume brands with quality control, allowing them to trace and possibly recall a defective batch. 

Every genuine branded perfume will carry its distinct batch code, typically ranging from three to 12 characters, which can be a mix of letters and numbers. 

These codes might look different from other printed details since they’re added post-production.

batch code on perfume
Image: CheckFresh

The number in red highlight is just the bar code, which won’t be much use to you (which I only found out hours into a Google session). 

The code in green is the batch code, which has clearly been stamped onto the packaging most recently. 

TIP: CheckFresh offers a dropdown to identify designer-specific batch codes. You can input your code there to determine your perfume’s age.

Examples of batch codes:

  • Billie Eilish: 16327ra
  • Acqua Di Parma: 6549X
  • Paco Rabanne: 83471

PAO Number

Your perfume package might display a symbol of an open jar accompanied by a number. This indicates the number of months the perfume remains optimal after opening. 

Typically, a perfume’s suggested use extends to about 30 months post-opening, so by the 2.5-year mark, it’s wise to assess its condition.

pao number on a perfume bottle
Image: A Beauty Edit

How to Store Perfume to Make it Last Longer

  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Before placing your perfume anywhere, remember that sunlight can deteriorate its chemical structure. Store your aftershave away from direct sunlight, in places like bedroom drawers or closets. 
  • Maintain Steady Temperatures: Keeping the fragrance away from areas with temperature fluctuations, like your bathroom, which regularly fluctuates from hot to cold. As perfume is highly flammable, it’s also important to keep it out of direct sunlight or near heat sources.
  • Seal properly: Ensuring that the bottle is sealed properly to limit air exposure and maintain perfume quality. Remember, excessive air exposure can upset the perfume’s chemical balance, leading to evaporation and a shorter shelf life. Not to mention the risk of an unproperly sealed bottle leaking, making it difficult to get rid of the smell of perfume from your room.
  • Keep the original packaging: Utilising the original box as an additional protective layer. The original packaging is the additional shield your aftershave needs against external factors. By using the original box, you add an extra layer of care, ensuring longevity.
  • Limit Air Exposure: I know how handy decanters are if you want to top-up your fragrance on the go. If using a decanter, keep it mostly full to maintain the fragrance’s quality. This practice limits the air inside and thus preserves the fragrance’s quality and notes.
  • Avoid Moist Areas: Ensuring that the storage area is dry to preserve the fragrance’s integrity. Avoid moist or humid environments that may spoil your perfume.  


Proper storage of aftershave is paramount to preserve its scent and longevity. While fragrances like aftershave can indeed go off over time, their lifespan can be considerably extended with the right care. 

Factors like sunlight, air exposure, and fluctuating temperatures can degrade the quality of the scent. 

By understanding these elements and adopting best storage practices, you can ensure your aftershave remains fresh and effective for much longer. 

Remember, a well-preserved fragrance not only smells better but also provides a more delightful experience each time you wear it.

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