If you’re a die-hard scent lover, admit it: You probably hoard old favorites that you haven’t worn in years. But if you pull out a perfume that you loved in high school, hoping for an olfactory trip, you might be disappointed to find that it doesn’t smell the same.
Part of the reason is that your smell perception changes over time. What smelled divine to you at age 16 might not impress your more experienced nose today. (And thank goodness, or we’d all perpetually smell of cotton candy, peaches, and green apple.)
But now that the world is experiencing a perfume renaissance, you might have shelled out some hard-earned dollars on beloved bottles that you’re sure you’ll adore dearly for years to come. It’s possible to preserve them, but you have to know what to avoid.
Public Enemy No. 1 (and 2 and 3)
Most people assume that time is a perfume's nemesis. But it’s not; a perfume’s biggest enemies are light and heat. Now, it just so happens that over time, we tend to expose our perfumes to far too much of both. If you were paying attention in chemistry class, light and heat are great catalysts for chemical change—and changes in the molecules of your perfumes will lead to changes in their scent. (Oxygen is another enemy, but unless your perfume is stored in a splash bottle that you leave open, oxygen won’t wreak havoc on your perfume very quickly.)
Maybe you thought your bottles looked so lovely on your dresser where the morning sun streamed through the window and refracted through their glass angles. Maybe you stored your scents in the bathroom cabinet where steamy showers sent the temperature soaring into the 80s every morning. Maybe you tossed your bottles into a hot storage space while you were between apartments. Whatever you did, it probably hastened the demise of the scent that emanated when your perfume was new. The top notes lost their sparkle, the base notes lost their growl, and smelling the scent now feels like listening to music through earplugs.
So how can you preserve the new ones you buy? For the most effective solution, look no further than your fridge. Cold temperatures and infrequent light will ensure that the compositions keep their integrity for a long time, and you’ll get many years out of your bottles. In fact, even the Osmotheque in Versailles—a veritable museum of vintage and ancient perfumes—stores its collections in refrigerators kept at 53 degrees Fahrenheit. (For extra measure, they surround the bottles with argon gas to prevent oxidation, but you probably don’t have argon in steady supply in your kitchen.) Extreme perfume junkies have been known to invest in dorm-sized refrigerators dedicated to fragrances, but that’s overkill for most people. A little section on the shelf of the fridge will do the trick.
But if you’re horrified at the thought of your priciest juice flanked by ketchup and onions—or within reach of kids or less-than-considerate roommates—you could do worse than to store your perfumes in a cool closet or basement nook. They’ll last long enough to serve you well.
Besides, the discussion of how to preserve perfume always leads back to this: If a scent makes you happy, why hide it away for a day that may never come? Enjoy what you love. Experience it as often and as fully as you can. Sure, try to keep it out of daylight and away from heat—but above all, wear it. That's why you bought it.
Will it last for another 100 years? No. But neither will you, so grab your favorite bottle and use it to scent your days. Let the Osmotheque worry about posterity.