Should we keep perfume in the fridge? Scent storage myths debunked

Experts weigh in on getting the most from your scented sprays

Are you getting the most from your high end fragrances? The fridge, car, vanity table and bathroom are not always the best place to store the pretty bottles. courtesy Parfums de Marly
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A couple of years ago a friend came round to my house and began to lambast me for how I was storing my perfume. Unaware there was a right or wrong way, I had lined the bottles up on my bathroom window sill, to better enjoy the sunshine as it shone prettily through the liquids.

Aghast at my cavalier attitude to the precious juice, she carefully carried the bottles into to my kitchen, and began stacking them into the fridge.

Nervous of putting a foot wrong again, I have never dared move them, and they remain nestled on a shelf where other households may keep the ketchup. However, they act as a daily reminder to discover more about the right, and wrong way to store perfumes; to find out if sunlight is bad for them, and if, after all, they are best kept in the fridge.

The first stop in learning the dos and don't is the French perfume house, Parfums de Marley, and its founder Julien Sprecher, who since 2009 has been crafting scents inspired by the architectural masterpiece that is the Palace of Versailles.

Next we asked Biljana Ristic, Fragrance Master at Sephora Middle East, that stocks 624 different scents, so probably knows a trick or two on how to look after it.

Searching for the best tips on what (and what not) to do when it comes to looking after scents, here is what we learned.

Scents are a delicate chemical balance, and can soil easily

"Believe it or not, perfumes do have an expiration date," explains Sprecher. "Whilst having curated an impressive perfume collection means you have the perfect scent for every occasion, improper storage of said collection can lead to reduced potency of the scents. Essentially, this means you may need a couple more spritzes to get the same level of fragrance you would have got in the earlier stages. The scent might also change over time, from slightly detectable to entirely un-wearable."

Eau des merveilles bleue, Hermes, at Sephora. Courtesy Hermes
Eau des merveilles bleue, Hermes, at Sephora. Courtesy Hermes

Store perfume in cool and dark spaces

While the glass bottle will be beautiful, do not be tempted to put it pride of place on the vanity table. “As tempted as you are to display the bottle in the centre of your vanity, steer clear of this,” explains Sprecher. This is because ultraviolet light can damage the delicate structure of the liquid, changing the smells, or even destroying them. Ristic adds: "The best way to store fragrances would be a dark and dry place, such as drawers or boxes. The same way we treat our jewels and precious items, a closed box or a dark drawers will help your fragrance to stay with you until the last drop."

Don't keep perfume in the bathroom…..

“The bathroom, otherwise known as the ‘perfume graveyard’, is the worst place [to keep perfume]", Sprecher explains.

Applying scent straight after a shower is a clever way to extend the longevity of a scent, however, don't be fooled into leaving the bottle in the bathroom.  “This is the biggest storage faux pas from fragrance enthusiasts everywhere,” Sprecher continues. “The fluctuating temperatures paired with excessive humidity serve as the makings for a quick death for your perfume.”

All ingredients have a natural life span, and too humid an environment will hasten that process. A citrus scent for example will not last nearly as long, while a raw material like patchouli can start to smell 'off'.

Storing perfume in the car is also a bad idea

As tempting as it is to always keep a bottle of your favourite scent handy in the car, in this region especially, that can be serious error. Ristic explains: "As nice it is to have our fragrance on-the-go, leaving it in the car is not advised, especially in our region, since the heat would spoil our beloved fragrance."

Just like in the bathroom, the excessive temperature inside a car will quickly break down the structure of the perfume. It can develop side effects such as a musty quality, while the delicate top notes will become sharper, can go sour, or may even vanish altogether.

Meliora by Parfums de Marly. Courtesy Parfums de Marly
Meliora by Parfums de Marly. Courtesy Parfums de Marly

Do keep the perfume in its original box

More than just a pretty box, perfume packaging is designed to help store the perfume correctly. Firstly, the box will hold the bottle upright and stable, and the volume of the box makes it less likely to be accidentally knocked off a surface.  As perfume is sensitive to UVA rays, the packaging helps prevent any reaching the fragile mixture.

Sprecher explains it is about controlling the environment the perfume inhabits. “Light is good, however, in this case, the introduction of light and humidity can alter the sensitive DNA of your perfume, affecting the properties of the ingredients, which in turn will change the aroma.”

Limit air exposure to the liquids

If you have always longed to have a table filled with perfumes decanted into vintage bottles, topped with elegant atomisers, then you might have to rethink those plans. While old bottles are beautiful (who can resist that silver screen glamour?) it turns out that decanting perfume is not good for it. The bottle that perfume is sold in has been carefully designed to keep air away from the juice as much as possible. Why? Air will effect the composition of the scent, causing it to oxidise, which results in what Sprecher dubs  “weird smells.”

Pouring perfume out of its original bottle into another will trigger oxidisation and ruin your scent. This is also the one of the reasons why perfume bottles have tight fitting caps, to keep the air out. They also help to reduce evaporation, so make to always replace them after use.

Don’t shake the bottle

It is a myth that shaking activates the ingredients in perfume, in fact the opposite is true. “Perfumes are delicate blends, so you want to make sure the contents of the bottle aren’t disturbed," says Sprecher. "Just like oxygen, shaking can lead to oxidation, which will lead to a breakdown of the scent." In fact, it is best to disturb the bottle as little as possible once it is opened to help safeguard the precious ingredients inside.

Do check for discolouration

"Discolouration over time and unpleasant smells are tell-tale signs that a perfume is off," Sprecher says. However, a change in colour can also depend on the ingredients. The ultraviolet rays in daylight can impact on a perfume’s colour, turning amber tones to green.

"Some blends such as those with citrusy bases have a naturally shorter life span compared to their woody and floral counterparts, due to their more sensitive nature," says Sprecher, explaining that natural ingredients, may naturally darken over time, without affecting the scent.

Periodically checking for discolouration is a good habit to get into as it can indicate if the storage is wrong and once again, sunshine is the number one enemy.

Should we keep perfume in the fridge?

Alas, there is still no definitive answer on this, as it comes down very much to which type of fragrance you have. Parfum, esprit de parfum and eau de parfum are the most concentrated forms, and as a result are the most delicate (and most expensive). With the highest concentration of ingredients, these are the most sensitive to extremes in temperature, and the intense cold of a  fridge could be a very costly mistake.

Next is the far more commonly used eau de toilette, eau de Cologne and eau fraiche (often called 'mist') which are less concentrated and so are far more robust. These can be stored in the fridge without real concern, however, once cold, it is best to maintain the chill, as fluctuations in temperature is not good for the scent at all.

However, Ristic is not convinced that a blast of cold spray is the best way to enjoy a treasured fragrance. “Skincare trends brought [using the] fridge to store beauty products to our attention. Although applying cold skincare might bring a pleasant cooling sensation, applying chilled fragrance to our pulse points might not be as satisfying."