Vintage Perfumes Guide – Longevity, Durability, And More

Vintage perfumes are one of the most coveted things in the fragrance world and it’s easy to see why. Brands constantly release new and amazing scents that soon become beloved favorites only to be discontinued several years later. Perfumers try to re-create these timeless classics but they struggle to capture the essence of the original bottle making the modern versions disappointing to say the least.

This is why the originals are so precious; memory and nostalgia are linked to smell so a spray of a certain perfume can bring back all kinds of wonderful memories. It’s no wonder so many of us actively seek out these vintage perfumes.

However, when it comes to buying a vintage perfume, there are many questions surrounding their worth, durability and authenticity. So, if you already have your hands on a bottle or are about to start your hunt for an old favorite, this article will clarify the what’s and ifs around vintage perfumes.

Are Vintage Perfumes Still Good?

Vintage perfumes can go off if not stored properly or have been exposed to air. If stored correctly, they can last many years past their expiry date especially if they contain high-quality ingredients. 5-10 years after expiry date is no rare sight, and there are even bottles lasting 20+ years.

There are many factors that can cause a perfume to go off regardless of their age; therefore, it becomes more about the chemical makeup and storage rather than simply just the expiration date. You may see some bottles that have a date stamped on the bottle neck but this does not mean it suddenly becomes unwearable.

Unlike drinking milk past the expiration date (not recommended!), perfumes can last for years past their expiration so it’s better to use it more as a guide to when the scent may begin to change.

When a perfume starts to expire, it’s more of a gradual process. First, the top notes evaporate, and after many months or years later, the scent can discolor, become cloudy and smell off. Depending on the chemicals used in production, how it’s been stored, and the quality of the ingredients, a perfume can acquire that off-scent in just a few years.

Exposure to air is a huge factor in preserving your perfume; as much as we may want to change the bottle (or have to if the nozzle breaks), exposing the liquid to air can do damage over time. Any oxygen molecules that get inside can oxidize the perfume giving it an acidic, metallic or sour smell.

Another massive contributor is heat – heat can break down the chemical structure of perfume leaving to scent changes. Also, if your bottle is plastic and kept in sunlight or a warm environment, the plastic can melt or warp and leak plastic particles into the liquid. No one wants a plastic-smelling perfume, so keep it in a cool place out of the sun.

So, don’t panic if the expiration date is just around the corner. This is just a guide; storing your perfume correctly and limiting its exposure to air will keep it smelling like brand new for longer. It is important to remember that cheaper perfumes may change quicker, regardless of how well you take care of it purely because the ingredients are of slightly lesser quality.

How Do I Store Vintage Perfume

The best place to store a vintage perfume is out of the sun in a cool place with a consistent temperature. Cabinets and drawers are the go-to. Also, limiting the liquid’s exposure to air by keeping it in its original bottle will help preserve it longer.

Storing your vintage perfume correctly is important for preserving your scent for as long as possible as we saw in the previous section. However, storage of a vintage perfume is exactly the same as storing a normal one – keep it cool.

Temperature has one of the biggest effects on your perfume and has the biggest influence on the smell over time. It is best to keep it out of direct sunlight and out of a hot room like a sweltering conservatory. Some people go as far as to put theirs in the fridge for preservation but it’s best to keep it cool, not cold.

It won’t necessarily have a detrimental impact on your perfume if you pop it in the fridge for safekeeping but every time you remove it to use it, you’re changing the storage temperature drastically.

This constant fluctuation in temperature is also not good for perfumes. It’s best in a corner of a room out of direct sunlight, it’s as simple as that. You can keep it in the back of a cupboard if you never use it, it’ll definitely be protected there.

Also, try not to expose it to air, again, as mentioned previously. If oxygen is mixed in and it oxidizes, the chemical structure will break down and make it smell off or acidic. If you do need to change the bottle then try to do it as quickly as possible and be prepared for the fact that it may not last quite as long.

The general rule is, if you look after your perfume and store it correctly, it will last longer. If you do want any more information on storage then take a look at this article.

Additionally, there is also a difference between opened and unopened bottles. We wrote a whole article on how long opened and unopened bottles last and the impact of opening your perfume. You can find that article by following this link!

Are Vintage Perfumes Safe To Wear?

Vintage perfumes are safe to wear. Any perfume can cause irritability but they are not any more hazardous than other perfumes or fragranced skin-care products.

The short answer is yes. Vintage perfumes are safe to wear and lots of people wear them on a day-to-day basis with no trouble at all. It’s worth bearing in mind that anything you put on your skin (especially anything fragranced) can cause irritability.

This is true of soaps, oils, creams, and new perfumes as well as vintage ones. If you are prone to sensitive skin or have a sensitivity to particular ingredients; oakmoss for example is a common one people have trouble with, then just spray a small amount on your wrist as a tester.

There are no ingredients in vintage perfumes that are different or more dangerous than modern perfumes. So, if you’re comfortable with your standard perfume, give vintage a try!

What Does Vintage Perfume Mean

A vintage perfume is one that has been discontinued and is no longer being produced. This also contains fragrances that were reformulated, with the old formulation being the vintage one. It means there are a limited number of bottles in the world, which increases their value.

‘Vintage’ is defined as a time when something of quality was produced. In the fragrance world, the definition of vintage is vaguer. An old perfume from 1912 would be classed as vintage, similarly a perfume released in 2010 that has since been discontinued would also be so.

Generally, a perfume is vintage if there are a limited number and no more are currently being produced making the value of each bottle much greater.

This usually entails fragrances that have been discontinued or fragrances that have been reformulated. Old bottles of Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit De l’Homme, for example, last much, much longer than the one that’s currently produced. These older bottles are classed as vintage, simply because they are no longer produced. The same goes for fragrances that are completely discontinued.

Many perfumers constantly work to re-create old fragrances by copying their ingredients and chemical structure but they never smell exactly the same. This is why vintage perfumes are so precious; new versions can never capture the same essence that the original perfumers could.

If you find any old perfumes in the back of your cupboard then don’t throw them away – have a look and see if they’re vintage! If they are vintage but not your favorite scent then don’t worry, there is a big market online for selling them and there could be someone out there looking for the fragrance you have!

How Do I Know If A Vintage Fragrance Is Authentic?

Always buy from a trusted seller and do your research. Check the website, the reviews, the item description and ensure the listed price is not too cheap. If you’re unsure, contact the seller directly and ask for the batch numbers of the bottle. Batch numbers can often indicate the authenticity of a bottle.

When buying a vintage perfume, you run the risk of purchasing a fake, watered-down version of a scent or a modern replica of a genuinely vintage perfume. Unless you’re a perfume connoisseur or expert, it can be incredibly difficult to determine a perfume’s authenticity. There are a few things you can do to ensure yours is the real deal.

Always find a trusted seller – this is good practice when buying anything online; read reviews from different places, not just the company’s website. Check that there is a detailed description of the item on the website, which should look professional and well put together.

You can always contact the seller directly; they should be able to answer your questions in a lot of detail making you feel more comfortable. Alternatively, buy from someone recommended; for example, if a friend made a successful purchase, this is a good indicator that the seller is legitimate.

Check the price – we all want to find the cheapest and best deal but a genuine vintage perfume isn’t going to be cheap. If you see a perfume listed for a tiny amount, then it’s probably fake. It’s always worth having a look around at different sellers for your specific fragrance so you know roughly how much it should be costing.

The perfume is going to be in its original packaging, if it isn’t then that is definitely a reason to be sceptical. Ensure the packaging is not recycled and the cellophane is wrapped tightly around the product. These are all signs of a genuine product so any deviances may suggest it’s not legitimate.

When you receive your perfume, read the label – it may sound like an overtly simple suggestion; however, on fake bottles, there may be spelling errors and large grammatical mistakes. These are all things to bear in mind. This all might seem overkill but if you’re going to open your purse for a good perfume, you want to make sure you’re spending your money on something worthwhile.

Are Vintage Perfumes Valuable?

Vintage perfumes are generally more valuable than standard perfumes. This is simply because vintage perfumes are in limited supply. Many people would like to get their hands on a vintage perfume, but they are no longer produced. This instantly ups their value.

There are different factors that make vintage perfumes valuable; how old it is, the brand, if it’s a special edition and what condition it’s in. Their value increases if they’re in the original packaging and if they’ve been stored well, as you’ll know the perfume itself is in great condition.

But even opened and used bottles of vintage perfume can go for much more than the original price. Something limited and sought-after will always be more valuable.

I know you’re thinking ‘but how much money can I get for my vintage perfume?’ The answer to that will depend on the collector; if there is a particular perfume they need for their collection, they may pay more but there isn’t a universal guide to tell you how much each one is worth.

Some can be worth between $50 – $100 or rare ones can even go for several thousand. The vintage Chanel No 5 made in 1921 is worth around $4000!

To see if yours is worth anything, check online to see if it has been discontinued and then have a look to see what others have sold theirs for to give you a rough idea. You can also contact collectors directly to see what they would be willing to part with.

Can A Perfume Get Better With Age?

Perfumes don’t typically get better with age. The scent was made in a particular way and when you let the perfume age, chances are that the scent molecules will unbind and bind with others. This leads to a different scent that’s typically worse than the original.

Even though perfumes don’t usually get better with age, some people swear that their old bottle smells better than a newly purchased one. But this can be contributed to the fact that old bottles have probably lost their top notes.

The top notes are what hit you first when applying a perfume, but these are also the most delicate. After several years, your perfume has been exposed to air, leading to the top notes evaporating. When these are evaporated, they are no longer detectable. So every time you apply this perfume, you’re hit by a much stronger scent, as now the middle and base notes are what hit you first, instead of the top notes.

It could also be the case that their old bottle is an older formulation, once again leading to a different scent. But ultimately, perfume doesn’t really get better with age.

Where Can I Buy Vintage Perfume?

Online is the easiest place to purchase a vintage perfume but you can also go to shopping malls and garage sales. Antique stores and thrift stores usually have some vintage perfumes on hand.  

If you’re wondering where to begin your hunt for your specialty perfume, there are a few good options. Online is usually the best and easiest place to find what you’re looking for these days and chances are you’ll have a lot more choice. eBay can be a good place to have a look and many people have successfully bought gorgeous vintage scents. However, there are lots of sellers trying to pawn know-offs, so you have to do your homework.

You can also try antique stores, shopping malls, thrift stores, and garage sales – you would be surprised at what people sell. Antique stores in particular have some amazing perfumes and they really know their stuff so they (normally) can also answer any questions you have.

Should I Get A Vintage Perfume?

They are worth the price if you have a favorite perfume that has been discontinued or reformulated. If you want to try new vintage scents then buying a decant will be better for testing what you like.  

Vintage perfumes come with a higher price tag, but there are many reasons why you might want them. These really are collector items, so if you’re an avid perfume fan/collector, you might want to add them to your collection.

Maybe your favorite perfume has been discontinued, or worse, reformulated. This is yet another reason why many people are prepared to spend more money on their favorite scent. It ultimately comes down to you; how bad do you want your favorite scent again?

Jasper Pieterse

Hi, my name is Jasper and I've been a long time fragrance fan. Ever since 2014, I started to get a huge interest in fragrances and I've had my nose on countless of different fragrances. I'm excited to share my experiences!

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