Can Perfume Evaporate? Here’s What You Should You Know!

Last year, I bought a bottle of perfume and I barely used it a couple of times. And yet, the perfume in the bottle had halved! This made me wonder, can perfume really evaporate?

The perfume starts to evaporate the minute it is exposed to the air. The volatile nature of the fragrance molecules makes the perfume react with the oxygen molecules present in the air. Evaporation of the fragrance results in the dilution of the scent in the perfume.

In an open perfume bottle, the smell of perfume dilutes as there is now more oxygen than the scent!  More importantly, if the bottle cap or the spray nozzle is missing on your perfume bottle, then the rate of evaporate is much faster. In fact, you might loose the entire bottle of perfume to evaporation possibly within 3 to 6 months!

So, let’s get to know everything there is to know about Perfume Evaporation!

Can Perfumes Evaporate?

It is normal to find perfume to evaporate and discolor in an open perfume bottle. In fact the minute you have unsealed a perfume bottle from its original packaging, it will start to oxidize, evaporate, and start to change color due to reaction of the fragrance with oxygen.

Evaporation of the perfume happens due to the small, lipophilic, and highly volatile nature of the fragrance compounds that do not last long in the air.

In fact, once a perfume bottle is exposed to air, the fragrance will start reacting to the oxygen causing the scent to dilute. You will have more oxygen than actual fragrance molecules left inside the bottle. Ultimately, the fragrance will oxidize and reduce in strength.   

To keep the perfume from evaporating from the bottle, perfume manufaturers usually add synthetic additives especially ethyl alcohol. To prevent perfume to diffuse or evaoporate in minutes from the skin, base notes are added that help improve the durability or lastingness of perfume.

Science has of course move forward and there better techniques like microencapsulation where perfume oils are captured as nanoparticles. This reduces the rate at which it evaporates. Using profragrances and synthetic perfume molecules is another option.

In fact, these days perfumeries are also experimenting with perfume containers made of viscous like sponges that can be placed in garments, handbags, etc. Another idea is to invest in perfume tablets that come in perforated bags.  

How Long Does Perfume Take to Evaporate?

On average, perfume can evaporate within 15 minutes to 24 hours when applied on skin. It may take 3 to 6 months for perfume to evaporate from an open bottle. However, it may take years for perfume to evaporate in properly sealed and stored perfume bottle.

Perfume evaporates due to the presence of fragrant molecules that are highly volatile and do not last long in air. The initial top notes of perfume evaporate within hours of exposure to air and are the first to evaporate from the bottle. The fragrance molecules are therefore mixed with fixatives and base notes to reduce the rate at which perfume evaporates. 

Here is a quick reference table on how long each type of perfume takes to evaporate once applied on the skin:

Perfume Types and Evaporation Rate

Type of PerfumeHow fast does the perfume evaporate from the skin
Parfum (Extrait de Parfum or Pure Perfume)6 – 8 hours
Eau de Parfum (EDP)4 to 5 hours
Eau de Toilette (EDT)2 to 3 hours
Eau de Cologne (EDC)Upto 2 hours
Eau Fraiche (Splash)Less than 2 hours

If you applied perfume on your clothes, then the fragrance can take even up to 48 hours to evaporate.

If you want to understand this deeper, let me explain: Perfumes are made of top, middle and base notes. Each note has a rate at which it vaporises. Perfumes can take 15 min to 24 hours to evaporate. 

Perfume NoteTimes it takes to evaporateIngredient examples
Top Note (head notes)15 min to 2 hoursLemon, orange, basil, lavendar
Middle Note (heart notes)15 mins to 6 hoursJasmine, rose, nutmeg
Base Note6 hours to 24 hoursPatchaoli, sandalwood, oakmoss, vanilla, musk

The top notes, also referred to as the head notes, are the notes that creates the first impression. It is the initial burst of fragrance that fills the room. These are highly volatile chemicals and these fragrance compounds usually last between 15 minutes to 2 hours before they completely evaporate. 

The middle notes of the perfume have a slower rate of evaporation when compared with the top notes. They are also called the heart notes and usually make up the bulk of the fragrance. These are medium volatility fragrance chemicals and last from 2 to 6 hours.

Hence, one of the most important factors in selecting a day fragrance is checking how heavy is a specific perfume on the middle notes.

The base notes of the perfume stabalize the perfume and reduce the rate at which perfume evaporates. These notes are usually woody or deeper animal scent such as musk. These fragrance chemicals are the most durable and have low volatility. Base notes can last upto 24 hours after application. Hence, these base notes are the most critical additives to fix a fragrance! 

From the perfume notes evaporation rate you may determine that the rate at which perfume molecules evaporate when applied to any surface decreases with time. 

Research published in Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, 2017 also clearly establishes that the type of diffusion surface greatly impacts the time it takes for perfume molecules to evaporate.  

As the perfume concentration starts to decrease due to evaporation, the surface that captured the initial perfume, in most cases this should be your skin (as it is the best diffuser), will slow down the rate of evaporation and absorb perfume well.   

Why Does Perfume Evaporate So Easily?

Perfumes remains pure and intact as long as they are sealed. However, the minute the bottle is exposed to air, the oxidation process stars and the perfumes starts to evaporate. It is rather annoying to see your expensive perfume disappear into thin air, and if you wondering why then it is because of the chemical nature of the fragrant compounds.

Perfumes evaporate easily as the fragrance producing molecules are highly volatile and start to oxidize the minute they are exposed to oxygen. Furthermore, the alcohol content of perfume also easily reacts to oxygen and contributes to the dilution of the scent. 

Since the fragrance molecules in perfume cannot last in air independenty they are, therefore, mixed in with fixatives and perfume base notes to stabalize and reduce the rate of diffusion.

A strong perfume base note choice would be oakmoss, musk, patchaoli or sandalwood that would last between 6 – 24 hours when applied to skin.

Overall, the rate at which perfume evaporates depends upon: 

(a) Quantity and quality of perfume notes used in the perfume 

(b) Use of synthetic versus organic fragrance molecules 

(c) Presence of fixatives that provides tenacity to the fragrance by equalizing the vapor pressures and volatilities of the ingredients used in perfume

(d)  Type of carrier or perfumers alcohol used (such as ethanol that helps to carry and improve the perfume absorption rate) 

(e) the diffusion surface on which perfume is applied

Do Perfume Samples Evaporate?

We all love collecting those free perfume sample vials. In fact, it is one of the perfect accompaniments when layering perfumes to create a unique scent. However, if you think these tiny vials will last longer if you use them in fewer quantities you might be surprised that these samples react even faster to the external environment!

Perfume from nearly all perfume samples evaporate. Perfume samples that come in a glass vial may take up to 3 years to evaporate whereas perfume samples placed in plastic tubes may evaporate within months.

It is important to note that when perfume vials come in a plastic tubes, they will tend to leech the chemicals from the plastic on to the perfume changing the scent.

So, it is better to use such scents placed in plastics within 6 months to enjoy the most pristine scent. The glass samples should be stored upright, in a zip lock bag in a cool, dry place to make them last another 2 or 3 years. 

How to Stop Perfume from Evaporating?

So all perfumes start to change scents due to changes in temperature, reaction to humidity in the air and sunlight. It is a natural process. Certain perfumes can last upto 10 years while some cheaper ones that are largely mixed just top notes and ethyl alcohol can start to go bad or oxidise due to air within a year!   

Tips to stop perfume from evaporating:

  1. Store perfume in a cool, dry and dark place: To prevent perfume from evaporating it is imporatant to seal the bottle cap well, and store it in a cool, dry place. Keep it away from humidity, UV rays and oxygen else the fragrance will evapoarte the perfume notes and damage the delicate balance of the perfume ingredients. 
  1. Provide perfume a consistent temperature: To preserve the perfume well remember to provide a consistent temperature of 54℉ to 72℉ (i.e. 12℃ to 22℃). Do not freeze or subject them to intense heat.
  1. Store perfume bottles upright in original containers: When storing a perfume bottle or perfume sample vial, remember to keep it upright and not horizontally. Horizontally, the perfume is constantly touching stopper and has more surface area to start evaporating. The alcohol will turn a good perfume foul if not stored properly.
  1. Vacuum seal perfume sample vials: Perfumes should be kept inside an air-sealed vacuum box even. a Tupperware box that usually lying around in most homes to refrigerate food would do. However, you can buy a special perfume storage box or even an ammunition box that works well. 
  1. In hot weather, perfume might be stored in the fridge: Some of you would like to perhaps place perfumes in your fridge, but before you do so I recommend you also go through my article on the different temperature ranges that different types of perfumes need, and if refrigeration is a good option for your perfume bottle.

In perfume manufacturing world, perfumes are now being engineered to contain nanocontainers of fragrance oils that release into the air slowly. This sustained release of perfume helps to overcome the effects of evaporation of fragrance molecules.

A research paper published in New Biotechnology, Vol 32, 2015, talks of how certain fragrance encapsulation techniques are said to make the perfume molecules last up to even 48 hours! What a gift for our senses.

In fact, did you know that scientists are creating perfumed silk fabric! The research was published in the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, March 2020, where the perfume fragrance will last longer on the fabric by using nanocapsules that will capture fragrances and release them slowly over time.

Final Thoughts

Do please note that perfumes even when stored properly will evaporate and expire. Yes, perfumes have a natural shelf life and no amount of sealing actually can stop this natural process. Here is a quick link to an article if you want to know to check if your perfume has aged or expired!

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