Perfume FAQ, Part 1

You spend a certain amount of time in the perfume hobby and a few things start to dawn on you that you didn’t know before. Feeling like a dummy for a few moments is the least of it until you realize that perfume and perfumery is a vast and complicated subject with a rift between the people who enjoy it and the people who enjoy it enough to sift through the how, what, and why of it. That rift is where misconceptions and confusions are born.

This FAQ was written on a bit of a whim to answer questions that keep coming up regarding perfume.

Q. What perfumes do guys/girls like?
A. This is like asking what food everybody in the whole world will like. There is a lot of variety in tastes and what people consider to be “good”. People can have more than one favorite. People might love something that everybody else hates. There’s simply no catch-all fragrance as it is all a matter of personal taste and opinion.

Q. What’s the difference between an Eau de Toilette and an Eau de Parfum?
A. Eau de Parfum has a higher concentration of fragrance oils compared to Eau de Toilette. Therefore, Eau de Parfums tends to smell stronger and last longer when used. Fragrance oils being those lovely things that give the perfume its scent. The higher the fragrance oil concentration in relation to the dilution agents, the more powerful the scent. Some houses also change the formulations between Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette versions, making one smell different than the other. Guerlain is known to do this with their perfumes. More info >>

Q. Is it okay to wear cologne if you’re a girl? How about wearing perfume when you’re a guy?
A. Fragrances do not have genders or gender preferences. It is the people and the marketing that assign genders to perfumes and colognes. Something can smell feminine or masculine but I treat that as a “good to know” sort of thing rather than a hard and fast rule. If you like how something smells but it happens to be marketed to the other gender then wear it anyway. As long as it smells good to you, do what makes you happy.

Q. Is this perfume better than that perfume?
A. Something being better than something else is a highly subjective topic that’s entirely personal opinion. Technically, nothing makes one perfume better than another if we’re talking about personal taste and asking someone else what makes one fragrance better is not necessarily the answer you want because they’ll be judging based upon their tastes when you should be judging based upon your own.

Q. How do I make my perfume last longer?
A. Layering. There is a reason why some perfumes come in sets with soaps, lotions and shampoos. The main goal here is to layer, layer, layer. If you wash yourself with the same scented soap and use the same scented lotion before spraying on the perfume then you gather a few more hours worth of enjoyment out of the fragrance. If a fragrance doesn’t come in a set then you can use unscented lotion on your skin to help your fragrance last longer. Also keep in mind that in hot climates, perfume will fade faster than normal no matter what you do.

Q. Are perfumes made from essential oils safer than the synthetic stuff?
A. Not necessarily because essential oil usage can be dangerous as well. Citrus essential oils can cause photosensitivity. Some essential oils are made from plants that are dangerous and harmful to humans. Certain essential oils need to be diluted or they can cause injury to whoever uses them. Synthetics have a murky reputation. But they are also tested and regulated quite stringently. Basically, you cannot assume that just because something is derived from nature, that it is automatically better than something manmade. In short, no, natural essential oils are not safer than synthetic oils. They are, however, beautiful and useful in their own ways.

Q. How do I correctly apply perfume?
A. Tons of schools of thoughts on this and there is no correct way, just preferred ways. But I’ll make it easy. Perfume will work wherever you want to spray it. Most people will spray it on their pulse points. The most popular locations are the wrists and neck. Some people also apply perfume to the back of the knees, back of the neck, the chest, and sometimes the insides of their elbows. So long as you keep it away from and out of any orifaces on your body, the perfume will work just fine.

Q. How should I store my perfumes?
A. Perfumes should be kept away from their three major enemies, light, air, and heat. Store them in a dark, cool place with a stable temperature. A dresser drawer would be okay. A closet would be okay. A fragrance fridge set to the right temperature would be ideal but expensive. Avoid sunlight especially as sunlight is powerful and can break down the components in your perfume very quickly. Avoid keeping your fragrances in your bathroom as well because most people’s bathrooms will experience frequent temperature fluctuations. More info >>

Got any questions not addressed in this FAQ? Please leave a comment. I plan on doing more of these in the future.


Perfume Expiring? How to Preserve Perfumes

The bewildered look on someone’s face when you tell them perfume goes bad is one of those strange moments in a person’s life where they realize a few things:
1) Most people don’t realize fragrances expire.
2) Most people don’t know how to prolong or preserve their fragrances.
3) Most people just don’t really care that much, nor do they own so much that they should.

Here’s some food for thought, perfumes and fragrances in general have three enemies. They are, light, heat, and air. Let’s do a rundown of how these three components can work against your perfumes.

Light: Probably one of the biggest culprits that cause perfumes to go bad is light. Particularly sunlight. Most people with a bottle of perfume make the ultimate, but very common, mistake. They display the bottle on their vanity, or tabletop, and allow them to be exposed to the sun. This causes some of the more volatile components in perfumes to break down, or alter. Eventually, the fragrance will change on you and oftentimes, this is not for the better.

Now, can you really blame anybody for doing this? Some perfume bottles are downright beautiful and to not display them seems like a shame. But did you know that direct contact to sunlight can start deteriorating a perfume within a manner of hours? So while you’ve got a beautiful bottle on your vanity, that stuff inside of it isn’t doing so well.

Heat: Though heat is a big one, you shouldn’t allow your perfumes to get so cold it freezes either. Despite the logic that if heat is bad for fragrances then cold should be better. The truth is, your perfumes do best in cool temperatures and neither being too hot or too cold is good for it. One of the worst places people keep their fragrances (aside from the vanity) is in the bathroom.

The bathroom has a fluctuating temperature and humidity level. And if you’re like the average person you bathe or shower once a day. This means those perfumes in your bathroom are being exposed to rapid change in environmental temperature on a regular basis. Every time you take a shower or draw a bath, you are probably making the environment in that little room hotter and more humid. Heat can also deteriorate your fragrances like sunlight.

Air: Most people who own bottles of perfumes probably own the spray bottle type with a sprayer nozzle to distribute the scent. These types of bottles do a good job at reducing air exposure which can lead to perfume deterioration. However, if you own parfum extraits, oil pased perfumes, or splash bottles, you’re in a doozy of a time.

It is impossible to prevent air from contacting your perfume if you own a perfume bottle that requires you to open it. In addition, splash bottles tend to be more susceptible to in-bottle evaporation. Some of these types of perfumes hold up better than others. Older perfumes such as classic Carons may last for decades before losing their scent whereas a newer splash form perfume like Chanel Chance probably won’t have those kinds of–heh–chances. Bouquet Roses

Now that you know about the three major players leading to perfume deterioration, how do you know when your fragrances are going to expire? You don’t. And here’s the other kicker, you may never be able to find out because perfumes age according to how they were stored and what their chemical or natural compositions are.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s take Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume oils as an example. These are 5ml bottles of fragrance oils that are composed from a wide variety of different scents and compositions. All scents from BPAL will eventually age and change as they age. Some age for the better (Snake Oil), others go bad (Violet Ray). The beauty of the fragrance depends entirely on the individual but most people would probably agree that a dense vanilla-like fragrance from aged Snake Oil is more desirable than a bottle of flat, scentless Violet Ray.

It is important to keep in mind and note the top notes and compositions of fragrances because you can sometimes tell which notes will go first. Citrus notes are especially vulnerable to aging. Most of these are used as top notes and top notes are extremely delicate. Generally, the stuff you get at the bottom in the base note category should be more robust but with modern perfumery, it is still hard to tell what will and will not last. Or how long your fragrance is going to stay the same one you bought and love.

So without knowing a specific use by date, your best bet to perfume use is to ensure that you store your fragrances appropriately.

1) Get them out of the light. I know how awesome some of those bottles look but leaving them out in the open is deteriorating the juice inside. One of the most convenient containers for a bottle of perfume is the original box it came in. The box can provide the fragrance an extra layer of protection against the sun. For best results, keep your perfumes in a dark place. Put them in your closet, in a drawer, a dresser, under the bed. Whatever’s available and dark. I store my fragrances in their original boxes in a closet.

2) If you must display, use up the juice inside first. I k now some people like to collect perfume bottles because they look nice and want to display them. If you want to display your bottles of perfume, decant your scents into another bottle¬† first. This way you have a bottle to display and don’t have to worry about the stuff inside going bad. If you couldn’t care less about the stuff inside the bottle and just want a full looking bottle of perfume to display then have a blast, I suppose.

3) Reduce exposure to heat. I know it’s hard to keep perfumes in a steady, even and cool environment. Especially if you’re like me and your home doesn’t have air conditioning. For the average fragrance lover who uses their collection on a regular basis, storage at room temperature will do fine.¬† Some hard core fragrance collectors who own rare perfumes or have hundreds of bottles they don’t use regularly have refrigerators that are specifically set to preserve their fragrances. The ideal temperature for fragrances seems to be around12-14 degrees C with citrus heavy fragrances preferring lower temperatures around 4 degrees C. [Source]

4) Avoid freezing and the cold. Just like heat, cold can also damage your perfumes. If you were thinking about putting them in your regular refrigerator or even in the freezer, you can start drawing up plan B. The temperature for a regular refrigerator is too cold for most fragrances. The freezer option shouldn’t even be considered.

5) Get them out of the bathroom and off your vanity. I know the vanity is a great place for display. I know the bathroom is really convenient, but they aren’t doing your perfumes any good.

6) If you don’t plan on using the fragrance regularly or feel that you may take a while to completely use everything in the bottle, opt for a spray bottle (where possible) instead to avoid the air issue. If you do happen to own splash bottles and are concerned about preservation, start using up those fragrances or get yourself a fragrance fridge. You may never win the war against air with your splash bottles but you can at least minimize the impact by avoiding light and heat.

So how long can you keep perfumes if you store them properly? Years and years. Decades. Maybe even centuries. Some fragrances are incredibly robust as there are bottles of Chanel No.5 from the 30s and 40s that still smell the same as they did all those years ago. Likewise there are bottles of classic Carons and Guerlains that smell just as wonderful now as they did when they were first made. Heck, there was that perfume residue discovered in a bottle people think belonged to Hatshepsut that could still be analyzed and probably recomposed.

Don’t underestimate perfume’s ability to stick around, but don’t overestimate it either. Take the necessary precautions to ensure your fragrances last and you can enjoy them for many years.

In short, the best place to keep your perfumes is in a cool, dark place.

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