How long does aftershave last?: The signs you need a new fragrance

Wait… aftershave has an expiry date!?

Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news gentleman, but that bottle of Ralph Lauren on your chest of drawers isn’t going to last forever and it is indeed true that every fragrance you own is a sand-timer of scent, it’s potency slowly diminishing with each passing day.

Determining when this actually occurs can be tricky though and many of you will be wondering if it’s even an issue.

I mean what’s the worst that can happen?

Well, apart from them starting to give off a more unusual odour, the chemical changes occurring within the bottle may start to react differently with your skin as the product goes off – causing skin irritations or even allergic reactions.

Even though most quality men’s fragrances have expiry dates of around 2½ years, there are plenty of situations that may cause your aftershave to spoil early, meaning being able to spot a dodgy one could help you prevent stinking up your next few nights out with a sour scent.

So without further ado, here’s how to determine what’s the good, the bad, and the just plain stanking.

How To Tell When Fragrance Has Expired

The typically long shelf life of an aftershave means it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to worry about an expiry date, as most folks tend to drain a bottle dry within the year.

However, blokes who receive a couple of fragrances every Christmas and birthday may soon find their desks swarming with various scents and while it’s fun to mix and match, you’re gonna struggle to get through them all in a hurry.

So if you’re still having a squirt of an old Sauvage present 3 years down the line – it might be wise to clue yourself up on the key signs your scent is turning into a bit of a rotter.

The Smell Test

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but an expired aftershave will commonly not sport the same pleasant whiff after a long period of time.

If you know your notes, you’ll be aware that fragrances release their scents in stages when sprayed onto your skin, a bit like a pyramid, with the top notes being early and fleeting, followed by stronger middle notes, before you’re finally left with pungent and deep base notes to finish.

On your skin in the open air, this process lasts just a few hours, but the exact same breaking down of notes is also occurring inside the bottle, just at a much slower rate.

This means over time, your aftershave will eventually no longer give out the top or middle notes, meaning the best aftershaves to buy are those that promise the strongest base notes, as they can begin to smell stronger and more alluring with age.

After a while though, even this begins to fade, with the first signs of expiration being a seriously diminished strength in smell.

Alternatively, the issue may become a lot more alarming and obvious should the fragrance begin to smell actively bad.

Over a certain period of time, some fragrances may begin to evoke a pungent sour or vinegary stench or may just smell of chemicals should the ingredients within the bottle start to break down – a common occurrence if your aftershave has been kept in inadequate conditions.

The Appearance Test

While the bottle always looks classy and finely crafted, the liquid within is not always a pretty picture.

Changes in your fragrances colour are a sure-fire sign that things are starting to go pear-shaped and liver-spotted, with aftershaves typically growing darker or more opaque as they begin to go off.

Believe it or not, the alcohols in your fragrance can also begin to evaporate when the end is nigh creating a sort of gaslighting situation in which your bottle has less and less fragrance every time you look at it – regardless of whether you’ve used it or not!

Solving The Expiry Date

For whatever reason, perfumes make figuring out the expiry date incredibly tricky, usually featuring it in the box as part of batch code or Period After Opening (PAO) number.

You can spot these typically on the back of your aftershave box underneath the bar code and working it out can leave you feeling like Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code.

The batch code signifies where and when your bottle was created and is a helpful piece of coding should a bad batch of aftershaves be discovered, meaning manufacturers can quickly determine faulty products and have them taken off the shelves.

They usually appear as a series of seemingly random numbers or letters and have usually been printed onto the box in a way that’s discernibly different from all the other information.

Once you’ve found this code you can then find batch code checking websites online such as this one – – which will be able to tell you how old your product is.

If it’s approaching three years old or more… it might be time to get rid.

An easier way to tell though is by consulting the PAO number which is usually pictured on an illustration of an opening jar.

In essence, this is the best before date of your aftershave and will typically read somewhere between 20 and 40 months.

How To Prevent Your Fragrance From Prematurely Spoiling

Proper storage is the best way to prevent your aftershave from going off early, as seemingly innocent changes in condition can have seriously detrimental effects on your bottles of scent.

Harsh temperature changes are the main early killers of a great fragrance, meaning keeping a bottle out of direct sunlight and away from areas of fluctuating temperature like the bathroom is a must!

Instead, aim to place it somewhere cool and dry and keep the perfume in its original container, as transferring it elsewhere exposes it to the air and immediately upsets its chemical balance!