woman with perfume


I just realized that my most favorite perfume I’ve worn over the past several years no longer smells appealing to me.  It seems to smell different from the way I remember it.  But I just don’t want to make a mistake by throwing it out (I hate to throw out sentimental possessions) and buying a $60-75 bottle of perfume that I will not like after wearing for the first time.   The $30 billion a year perfume industry just seems to grow annually, even during a recession.  Since antiquity, with its creation in Egypt, women have made perfume a part of their daily rituals.  Perfume is popular because it can heighten our senses in a way nothing else can accomplish.  Our familiar scents can be associated with comfort, closeness and intense passion.  The perfume industry is highly secretive, with little known facts as to how perfume is made or what makes some perfumes astronomically expensive.


Perfumes can last for, on average, five years.  You need to keep perfumes stored in a dry, dark and cool, but not cold, place.  Sunlight and heat can alter the smell.  If you see any brown thickening, the perfume is going bad.  But don’t get rid of your perfumes until you really notice their smells changing.  As we get older, our sense of smell changes, so recognize that your own sense of smell can make the perfume’s scent change over time.  Once you open a perfume bottle, it starts to “age.”

On your body, smell will last longer if your body is moisturized.  If your skin is dry, the perfume’s smell will evaporate more quickly.  A fact I didn’t realize–I thought the opposite was true.  Applying perfume lower on your body will make the smell last longer than closer to the face, where the smell is likely to rise and go away.  Blondes seem to not have as much luck as brunettes when it comes to lingering smell on their bodies.  Blondes do better with floral perfumes that keep their smell longer than other kinds of fragrances.

Citrus scents last the least amount of time, though popular, because citrus perfumes are made from some fresh ingredients.  For men, after shave has the least amount of oils, and therefore evaporates the quickest of all fragrances.  Age is also a factor in determining how a scent will last on your body.


Cologne is less expensive than perfume because it is more watered down.  Also, colognes tend to use Butane, which waters down the lasting scent.  Good perfume contains 20% of essential perfume oils, a higher content of oil than found in cologne.  Because of these reasons, colognes are generally less expensive than their perfume counterparts.

Cologne is more popular than perfume because cologne is less expensive than perfume, and because cologne comes with a spray nozzle that make it quick and easy to apply.  Imitation perfumes that you can find at places like Walgreen’s and Imitation Perfume.com may smell just like the original perfumes (and cost much less), but the Butane and other ingredients contained in the imitation scents will cause the smell to change over time, not resembling the original designer label.  Alcohol is used to give off the smell in the environment, so the better perfumes have a high content of alcohol.


Advertising dollars are the biggest expense when it comes to producing perfume.  The next greatest expense is fancy packaging.  Stores then mark up perfume, on average, 60-100%.  Anywhere from 50-100 ingredients can go into a bottle of perfume, but the number of ingredients in a bottle shouldn’t greatly affect the price.


Know that fragrances will last on your body a maximum of 4 hours

Putting a few drops of perfume on your body while taking a bath will keep the scent alive longer

Don’t keep fragrances on your body for more than a few hours–you will need to start over from scratch to maintain the scent

Perfume in spray bottles lasts longer than perfume stored in a basic bottle—you don’t want air to get to the perfume

Natural scents spoil more quickly than do scents derived from essential oils

Don’t waste your fragrances—put a few drops in your shampoo or conditioner

For more information, visit www.fragrance.org/faq.php

Image: Yvonne Hemsey/Liaison/Getty Images

Jennifer Litwin