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Perfume is part of a ten-billion-dollar marketplace. Extremely competitive, with major ad campaigns based on extensive market research, each new fragrance targets a precise demographic and has a limited life span. Top models become the “look” of a brand. Elaborate marketing is one factor that contributes to the high cost of perfume. Precious oils are another. Learn to spend your fragrance dollar wisely by increasing your perfume’s longevity. Here are ways to enjoy the same amount of fragrance over a longer period of time.

Fragrance Facts

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Perfume is the most luxurious grade of fragrance. Its scent contains more precious oils and less alcohol. Cologne and eau de toilette follow with greater portions of alcohol and less costly oils. Body products are also members of the fragrance family. Lotions, powders and bath products scented with your favorite fragrance can be used in conjunction with your perfume to extend your scent application for up to a full day.

How Fragrance Works

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To understand shelf life and the question of expiration dates, it is necessary to grasp how perfume works. Scent is designed to release or “unfold” in three stages. The most noticeable phase occurs during the first 10 to 20 minutes when the top note, or the initial scent, is released. This happens because your skin warms the fragrance and evaporates its alcohol content. The heart of your perfume, or the middle notes, which convey the perfume’s message, come next. They last between four and six hours. The final unfolding comes with the base notes, which linger and create your final fragrance memory. These notes unfold during the final two to three hours of wear before the scent dissipates entirely. The best made perfumes unfold seamlessly and are consistent throughout all three stages with only the intensity fluctuating.

Shelf Life

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Perfume has an average shelf life, or life span, of three to five years, regardless of whether an expiration date is stamped on your bottle or box by the manufacturer. After a certain period of time, the oils break down and the color may turn darker. This darkening is known as oxidation. Because fragrances are designed to unfold in three segments, each segment has its own clock. Anywhere from three to five years after the initial purchase of your perfume, the notes from each phase begin to deteriorate at their own pace. Most commonly it is the base notes that decompose first.

Dos and Don'ts

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No matter how tempting it is to display your fragrant treasures, do not expose your perfume to direct sunlight. It will break down the precious oils, cause oxidation and take away from your perfume’s shelf life. Do store in cool, dry and dark places like dresser drawers, remote areas of your wardrobe and unused cupboards. These are ideal environments that will extend your perfume’s life. Do keep your fragrance in its original box to create another barrier against harmful direct light. Do close caps tightly to prevent alcohol evaporation.

If you so desire, store inexpensive splash colognes in your refrigerator. A cool summer treat awaits you when you apply a chilled body splash. Humidity, however, can affect the contents, so when it comes to storing costly fragrances and perfume, don’t refrigerate.


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Special fragrance deals, in the form of manufacturers’ promotions, arrive with the holidays, especially Christmas and Mother’s Day. Stretch your fragrance dollars and buy during these annual events. Often, holiday shoppers will find deluxe sizes for the price of smaller versions; gift sets and free gifts, known as GWPs (gifts with purchase), are on hand. You may find pairings of powders, lotions and travel-size products at no extra charge when you buy a full-size cologne or perfume. Use these products together. The layering effect of a lotion under your perfume and a powder over it extends its wear.

Make sure to not overdo it when you shop for fragrance. Buy only as much as you can use. There is no use in overindulging if you cannot use it within three to five years.

About the Author

Kieve Kavanaugh

An accomplished Fashion and Beauty Expert currently operating personal development and modeling camps. Kieve Kavanaugh's background includes owning a southern California modeling agency, teaching Fashion in Paris and forming a nonprofit to help girls recognize their personal "beauty". She is also an accomplished grant writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from Charter Oak State College.