I’ve been seeing a lot of people ask how long their perfume will be good for before they throw it into the trash. Then I see people telling them that the shelf life of perfume is two years and after that, into the bin it should go. It was a little strange to see such a set date and time for the expiration of something like a fragrance, but maybe that’s because I’m sitting on a big pile of perfume samples with some having vintages going back to the 1920s. And believe me, they still smell pretty good.
So I did some digging–okay, I mostly picked up a box of Gucci Flora and turned it over. There it was; 36M or three years. Not the two year mark I was looking for but close enough. Oddly, I apparently picked up the only box I had with an expiration date on it first. Everything else was lacking in that little symbol that conveyed the message that when my bottle hit three years old, I should promptly huck it into the trash with some varying level of fear and disdain.
Chances are, I’ll probably still be using it five or more years down the road if it’s still good.
There are quite a few things I absolutely agree should have expiry dates to warn people before their products go bad. And while I can’t say much against all expiry dates, I do feel like calling into question the practicality of expiry dates on perfume.
In the first place, the expiration dates aren’t very reliable. At least, they haven’t been in my experience. I have a collection of perfume–like anyone else obsessed with fragrances would–most of them are anywhere from two to fifty years old and all of them are doing just fine. I can count the amount of times I had to throw out an old bottle on one hand–two fingers to be exact. Now we all know the dangers of anecdotal evidence, but I just can’t see the point of throwing out perfume because a date had passed because I’ve yet to experience a need to.
Some argue that perfume expiration dates are needlessly scaring people into thinking their perfume is only good to a certain amount of time before they have to throw it away and buy another (probably expensive) bottle. Others argue that the expiration dates can’t be verified because no one knows how long the perfume has been sitting on the shelf. Both good points and points I agree with. On the other hand, people are saying that perfume is a cosmetic and using expired product could harm or irritate your skin. And some people have had perfume expire on or before the expiration date on it.
This isn’t an issue that’s going to be decided on a blog calling itself “That Smell”, but it did make me curious. Mostly about figuring out the exact age of my bottles. And what do you know? There is actually a way!
The Cosmetics Calculator is a neat little tool that can usually give you a date of when your product was made. I’m not sure as to how accurate it is, and I use it as a good to know type of thing. I was also just excited that parsing those lot codes could so easy.
Here’s how you use the calculator: Grab your bottle of perfume, it probably has to be a major brand because only a limited number of brands are supported by that particular calculator. The calculator has a list of brands it supports too. Find the lot code, it’s often either on the box, on the bottle, or on both. Look under the bottle and box for the code it’s often in one of those two places. You’re looking for a four to five character code. Once you find your code, plug the code into the calculator, select the brand of your perfume, and you should be good to go.
Thankfully, Gucci was supported. So I put in my lot number and my perfume was apparently manufactured on April 28, 2009. So it’s been more than three years.
Oh well. I just sprayed myself down with some Gucci Flora about three times just now. And it smells great!
Clearly my “ancient” bottle of Flora did not go bad at the magical three year mark. See, perfume is one of those things that’s hard for me to to justify throwing away simply because it’s old. Maybe I just have a hard time of it because I have a collection of “old” perfume from the 90s that smells awesome and that I wear sometimes. Maybe it’s because I’ve associated people or memories to those old perfume bottles and those old scents and I can’t imagine throwing those away. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never had a perfume that was properly kept suddenly go bad on me yet.
Whatever it is that makes me keep these old scents around, I just don’t think it’s worth working myself up into a frenzy about all the old product I have. After all, I’m currently scented by an (apparently) expired bottle of perfume and I smell just fine. In the meantime, that Cosmetics Calculator is really fun to play with. Apparently, two of my perfumes were manufactured on the same day. Who knew!
I can care less for an expiration date since my experience has tought me that many perfumes can outlive people and still be good (or at least useable). What I would like to have is a production date, at least a year. Then I can decide on my own if I still trust that bottle. Then I’ll know if it’s a bottle of the original formulation or of one of the five re-formulations that followed (though, it would have been even better to have that information on the box as well).
It would be nice if they started stamping perfume with production year. I wish they’d done that a long time ago. It would certainly take a lot of the guesswork and inaccuracy out of determining how vintage something is (and to steer clear of undesirable reformulations) :-D.
As long as I don’t go around smelling like sour milk, I don’t care about expiration dates.
Exactly! Our noses are a better determination of whether something is still good or not than some arbitrary date.