Why Perfume Doesn’t Last and what to do about it

You have found a perfume that seems perfect – the first few moments post-application are enjoyable but then, over the course of the day, you find the scent has disappeared. You might as well not have worn anything. Fragrance that doesn’t last is one of the most frustrating occurrences for a perfume lover, and I’m often asked to explain why it happens. And that’s what I do in my FT column, The Long and The Short of It: making perfume last.

I explain why some fragrances have a fleeting presence, how to test for it, how to correct for it and give examples of perfumes with different types of presence. You can also read my article, One Perfume, Four Ways to Wear It, with other tips on making perfumes last.

One of the reasons a perfume doesn’t last is because of our physiology. To put it another way, your perfume is still present, but you stop smelling it and hence it seems as if it has disappeared. This phenomenon is called olfactory fatigue, or olfactory adaptation, and it happens when odour receptors are saturated with an aroma to the point that they stop sending a signal to the brain about it. If you wear the same perfume every day, such an olfactory adaptation is likely to happen. Also, some materials are more likely to cause an olfactory fatigue, such as ambers, sandalwood and other heavy, enveloping woods. To continue reading, please click here.

As I was writing the article, I became curious to find out from you if longevity is the most important characteristic in a perfume? If you find a perfume you love but that doesn’t last, will you still buy it?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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55 Comments

  • Tara C: Longevity is not the most important factor, but it is a major consideration. With the high price of niche perfumery nowadays, if it doesn’t last at least 4-5 hours I would not buy it. April 26, 2019 at 9:16am Reply

  • Gabriela: If I love a perfume but it doesn’t last, I will only buy it depending on the price. Although I do love and owe A la nuit, despite its price! April 26, 2019 at 10:05am Reply

  • Marge Clark: I find spraying it in my hair makes it last much longer than on my skin. Try that with your shortlived favorits. April 26, 2019 at 10:31am Reply

    • rickyrebarco: I agree. Spraying on hair makes fragrances last longer– also spraying on clothing. My shirts and sweaters hold a fragrance much longer than my skin! April 26, 2019 at 3:49pm Reply

      • Carla: Yes and if I lift my hair at the nape or shake my hair out the fragrance comes alive again. April 30, 2019 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Lari: It is an issue for me. Not the first, but if it’s perfect and doesn’t last I can’t invest.
    I ordered a decant if DSH (I believe dark moon) loved it but on hour after putting it on-POOF. I used up the decant and would’ve considered a full bottle but couldn’t because it refused to stay. April 26, 2019 at 11:21am Reply

  • Joy Erickson: I love Chanel’s Cristalle so much that I buy it even though it’s longevity is poor. That first burst of fragrance has such a powerful influence on my outlook, somehow it is worth it. The fragrance used to last much longer, edt. It would stay with me much of the day. I find it lasts a little longer if I spray it on an item of clothing. April 26, 2019 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Dorothy Van Daele: I love Cristalle too. Mine is about 25 years old and I have the eau de parfum as well as the eau de toilette (i notice they are slightly different: I’ve been told one has an orange base the other lemon). I realize I choose each at different times of year. I wonder if changing the concentration might help for you? April 26, 2019 at 1:45pm Reply

    • Carla: Oh I love Cristalle too. (EDT) I just ordered a new bottle and it’s a pleasure to receive it in the Chanel box. I should have made that my Mother’s Day request. It’s such a special scent yes I think it has little longevity but is worth it. I have never tried any but the edt. April 30, 2019 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Deanna: Last year I applied some Diva perfume in the morning, early, then went about my day, and forgot about the perfume. Returning home on the underground train, early evening I smelt something lovely in the air. I kept looking round the train at the women passengers to guess who was wearing this wonderful fragrance, eventually there were just 2 women passengers left, so I
    had to ask them what perfume they were wearing, one said she hated perfume so wasn’t wearing anything, and the other said she wasn’t wearing any either! Then I really felt a fool as I realised that it was me! Somehow the Diva had rebloomed in the heat of the train. So if this isn’t impressive silage……. Sadly a Chanel perfume wouldn’t do this. April 26, 2019 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Rosie Jeffery: How lovely, I would have loved to have been sitting next to u on the train, it’s so great when perfume suprises you like that. April 26, 2019 at 3:29pm Reply

    • Anne-Marie: That’s great! I love stories like that. You should not be surprised to find yourself followed by mysterious strangers on trains though. Not creeoy, just perfume stalkers. 😊 April 26, 2019 at 6:41pm Reply

    • Lydia: That’s a delightful story, Deanna. April 27, 2019 at 10:38pm Reply

      • Deanna: Thank you, glad you enjoyed the story! It’s not the only time I’ve asked complete strangers what they were wearing, once again on a train, in response to my enquires, someone said she was wearing Miss Dior, and in a supermarket I followed a delicious trail of scent which I tracked down to a girl in a hurry, who just hurriedly called out it was Lady Million, or 1 Million, or something Million,she said you have to get the…….version, and was gone, so I never found out which version it was! Any ideas from anyone?
        Obviously both these perfumes are long lasting enough to make their mark in the wider world. April 28, 2019 at 2:52am Reply

        • Lydia: I never heard of Lady Million but now I’m curious to smell it.

          I wore The Body Shop’s Dewberry oil years ago because I smelled it on a colleague at a conference and loved it instantly.

          I once smelled a truly perfect classic cologne on a well-dressed young man on a bus, and years later I still regret not asking him what he was wearing. April 28, 2019 at 9:09pm Reply

  • Dorothy Van Daele: I bought a sample of Mohur by Neela Vermeire, a dab-on. It’s really lovely but fleeting. I think I’ll try a spray sample next. I’m not sure if my perception that it doesn’t last is due to a personal oddity or perhaps seasonal allergies, but if I really, really love it, I’ll buy it. April 26, 2019 at 1:32pm Reply

    • Rosie Jeffery: Sadly Mohur didn’t want to stay with me either. April 26, 2019 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Rosie Jeffery: Iris 39 is another short lived perfume that I had high expectations of, but it just doesn’t bloom on my skin, so money saved! April 26, 2019 at 3:26pm Reply

    • katherine x: Rosie,
      Perfumes don’t generally last long on me – yet ironically, Iris 39 and Mohur both have great staying power. I can’t recall if that’s true for my skin, because generally I wear fragrance in my hair, sometimes a sweater. Marge and Ricky mentioned the same above – could be worth a try. April 27, 2019 at 6:08pm Reply

      • Rosie Jeffery: Thanks for the tip Katherine, I will try this. April 28, 2019 at 5:05am Reply

        • Madaris: According to eBay, there is a Lady Million and a One Million by Paco Rabanne. April 29, 2019 at 11:15pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: My favorite light white florals do not stay with me more than 4 or 5 hours usually. But If I layer them with matching lotion or body cremes the fragrances last much longer.

    The perfumes I own that are extraits stay with me for days, literally. Auphorie’s Iris Macchiato and Miyako are very longlasting on my skin. I have to be very careful not to spray too much of them.

    Also, my higher concentration Ormonde Jayne’s are very long-lasting. I have Vanille Iris and Ta’if in the intense concentrations.

    Finally, for my favorite perfumes that may only last 4 hours, I am happy to re-spray. I keep travel flacons with me for fragrance touch-ups. April 26, 2019 at 3:46pm Reply

  • Old Herbaceous: If the price isn’t too exorbitant, I enjoy reapplying. I love the opening of Un Jardin Sur le Nil so much that I’ll reapply it even when I can still smell the base notes, if I’m at home. I enjoy experimenting with spraying a bit of fragrance on my hair or a scarf if I think it might fade too fast. Has anyone here tried the fragrance primer from Canvas & Concrete? Does it extend the fragrance? April 26, 2019 at 5:40pm Reply

  • Becca A: I have a completely different problem. Perfumes that smell lovely in the bottle and during the first minute on often degenerate into something that smells awful–chemically or just bad–on my skin. This is my primary problem with perfumes. There are very few perfumes I can wear as most seem to have some ingredient that conflicts with my skin. I wish I knew what the ingredient is. I can’t wear any American perfumes or Chanel #5 for example, but can wear Chanel #19, #21. April 27, 2019 at 6:57am Reply

    • Lydia: I’ve noticed something similar, Becca A. I have slightly sweaty, earthy-smelling skin and light florals seem to clash with it. Incense and spice notes, on the other hand, blend beautifully and are right at home. Citrus works nicely, but fruity vanillas don’t.

      Since I wear perfume primarily for my own enjoyment, I usually use whatever I want to, but on days when I want to make an especially good impression, I wear something like Eau de Rochas with its bergamot and patchouli. (I would swear people are friendlier on those days.) April 27, 2019 at 10:56pm Reply

    • Tara C: I went to a perfume lecture last night by Elisabeth de Feydau and she said the principal cause of this is an acidic PH of the skin. Not sure if this is fixable. May 2, 2019 at 9:41am Reply

  • Brooke Belldon: Not at all. I don’t judge perfumes based on their “performance”. I judge them on beauty. If I find I am not smelling my perfume after a couple of hours, I just top it up. But I also sometimes like to wear different perfumes throughout the day, so I don’t always like when a perfume lasts too long. April 27, 2019 at 7:54am Reply

  • Robin: Well actually, the longevity of a perfume is not an issue rather a problem for me. I love perfumes and I know that people smell them although I think that the scent has faded away. Many of my students ask me which perfume I was wearing on such day, unfortunately I can never answer as the perfume I will chose to wear everyday depends upon many factors. The color of the sky, lunch or dinner date, teaching, going to a work out or just grocery shopping, lazy weekend, cultural weekend etc..will influence my choice. I have many of them so I do not like them to stay for ever in my cloths for example. Since every day I am wearing a different perfume, I can find the smell on my jumpers. I do not like overwhelming smells especially if it is powerful and can inconvenience people around. I have been wearing more subtle perfumes like the Molecule or Nomenclature and Byredo because it is an invitation to interpretation and to travel. Just pure bliss. April 27, 2019 at 10:06am Reply

  • Vani: I love Chanel no.5 Eau Premiére on all occasions and No.5 EDP and EDT; I tried to love L`Eau but I can only enjoy the opening because I just can’t smell anything after maybe 1 hour. I would have invested in it if it wasn’t so fleeting or if it had a decent sillage. April 27, 2019 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Deanna: Vani does that mean you think Chanel no5 EDP and EDT have good silage?
      I think they are terrible in this respect.
      Having bought the EDP about 20 years ago, I found I could hardly smell anything, more recently I bought the EDT, gone in a truce, Yet a bottle of Mitsouko from the 1960’s smells still of itself, and strongly so, and still lasts on my skin.
      Chanel Coco, and Chrystal are the only Chanel perfumes I find that last on me.
      No 5 Eau premiere is slightly better than no 5 in this respect, but I wouldn’t buy it for the reason of its weakness. April 28, 2019 at 3:07am Reply

      • Vani: I actually think so. I find that Chanel no5 EDP has a pretty strong, comfortable sillage, EDT and Eau Premiere following right after. Chanel Coco, also has pretty good sillage. However, as far as L’Eau I basically have to bury my nose in my wrist to smell it after 1hr. Chanel Gabriele also feels so very weak to my nose. I’ve never smelled Mitsouko, knowingly at least, but I own Shalimar and its the strongest of all. April 29, 2019 at 12:09pm Reply

      • Vani: Also Deanna, I love re-applying maybe after 4-5hrs, so that I can enjoy it longer if needed. I find that I often have to do it with both EDT and Premiere but never with EDP. Chanel no19, one of my all time favorites, also needs re-application after about 3-4hrs, but I don’t mind because it’s just such a beauty 🙂 April 29, 2019 at 12:25pm Reply

        • Deanna: Hi Vani! Your comments are very interesting.
          Either my bottles of no 5, EDP and EDT were old, which I very much doubt, since I bought them inSelfridges, London,or they just react differently on different skins.
          The classic Guerlains, like Shalimar, just seem to be so much stronger compared to Chanel
          perfumes.
          I also love no 19, and no 19 poudre, but it is fleeting beauty on me! April 29, 2019 at 1:37pm Reply

  • katherine x: Rosie,
    Perfumes don’t generally last long on me – yet ironically, Iris 39 and Mohur both have great staying power. I can’t recall if that’s true for my skin, because generally I wear fragrance in my hair, sometimes a sweater. Marge and Ricky mentioned the same above – could be worth a try. April 27, 2019 at 6:09pm Reply

  • Klaas: I don’t have many issues with longevity in general. Some scents last long, others not. Whether one wants to spend a lot of money on a fleeting fragrance is a matter of budget and choice. I have a very soft spot for Brin de Reglisse (Hermes). It doesn’t last long but the joy of applying it is such that I can justify its price.

    I onky have problems with fragrances that rely heavily on Iso-e-super. It evaporates on my skin, or I just don’t smell it…..I love Black Pepper (Comme des Garcons) and Poivre Samarcande (Hermes), but they are like wearing water to me.

    l’Air du Desert Maroccain is quite the opposite. It lasts 24 hrs! I have to consider this when I wear it, one doesn’t always feel like living in the same scent for that long! Even if it is a very pretty one…. April 27, 2019 at 6:39pm Reply

  • Lydia: This is a funny topic for me, but an interesting one. I watched perfume review videos by a popular young “beauty influencer” recently and she was positively obsessed with longevity and sillage, almost to the point that it seemed more important to her than what her perfums actually smelled like. I don’t remember being so concerned with that when I was her age, but then again when I was her age we had Poison and Giorgio and Red and all the other forte drama queen perfumes in their original formulations.

    My sense of smell fluctuates a lot during the day, reaching maximum sensitivity in the evening (which I know is strange and the opposite of most people). 100% natural fragrances do fade quite quickly, but most other perfumes don’t on me. I’ve worried about very faint perfumes I got from discount websites which I feared could be fakes, but other than that I rarely need to reapply scent.

    If I want perfume to last longer and have more sillage, I put it on a scarf or other clothing, like Victoria suggests in her four ways article. I also like how that sometimes strengthens different notes than my skin does. (iris in particular, I’ve noticed).

    I fear wearing so much perfume I offend people around me, so if I want to smell it more I apply it to my neck. April 27, 2019 at 11:29pm Reply

    • Klaas: It’s true, some people are obsessed with longevity and sillage. To a point where it becomes rediculous! On Fragrantica there’s quite a few of those as well. And completely oblivious to the fact that some fragrances are ment to be short lived, or discreet.

      I do have the feeling that American people, in general, are more concerned with sillage and longevity then Europeans….please correct me if I’m wrong! April 28, 2019 at 6:12pm Reply

      • Lydia: Hi Klaas,
        That’s an interesting observation. Most people I personally know here either don’t like perfume at all or are so obsessed with “clean” smells that it seems to defeat the purpose of wearing perfum.

        Then again, when I think of characteristic American fashion statements in the media now it does seem to focus on dramatic presentation, at least for women – full face makeup, bright colors, tight pants, short skirts, high heels, and not much subtlty, so maybe loud and lasting perfumes go with that. But I haven’t traveled abroad in years – is that the style everywhere now?

        I also feel at a disadvantage making generalizations about the US because I live in what is sometimes jokingly referred to as “the country of New York,” and it has its own rules. I’ve also lived in the Southern US and I know that different regions can have cultural differences as profound as those of separate countries. I have no idea how that plays out in perfume preferences, but it would be fascinating to learn about it.

        Where are you from? Do you see any perfume preferences influenced by your culture there? April 28, 2019 at 8:32pm Reply

        • Klaas: Hey Lydia, I’m in Holland, and like you at a disadvantage when it comes to generalizing about Dutch people, since Amsterdam (where I live) is very different then the rest of the country. Very international, very young, and quite progressive…..a bit like New York, but on a much smaller scale 😉

          Hipster seems to be all the rage here in Amsterdam, and the preference seems to be no-nonsense chic. The Dutch are direct and no nonsense in general, but in Amsterdam people seem to want expensive no-nonsense. Perfume is not something a lot of people do here, at work I never detect people wearing scent. When I go out, if l smell anything at all I get lots of Le Labo Santal…on men and women! Sometimes a white floral, but that’s as exotic as most people will go in public….

          I used to live in France as well, where perfume is much more an everyday thing, which was of course loads of fun! People get and give compliments on their choice of perfume…..so civilized 😉

          The other day I was working with a guy who wore Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel! Now that was a blast from the past! It smelt so nice on him I made a compliment. He was very pleased and turned out to have lived in Paris as well…..so there you go! April 29, 2019 at 7:07am Reply

          • Lydia: Klaas,
            I read somewhere that Santal 33 is the official most popular scent of NYC. I guess it’s the CK1 of this era. “Expensive no-nonsense” (great expression) seems to be the preferred style here too, at least in perfume.

            That’s delightful about the French discussing perfume enthusiastically. I wish it was like that here. When I tell someone I love perfume and it’s a hobby of mine, the conversation always seems to miss a beat as though I’ve admitted to something slightly embarrassing. I wonder how NYC manages to sustain multiple (4 that I know of) niche perfume shops because I rarely notice fragrance on anyone. Either the shops do a lot of online business or a small group of perfume enthusiasts here are buying a HUGE number of bottles.

            I very occasionally do smell Santal-like scents, and every once in a while I get a whiff of something Guerlain-like (possibly even vintage), but those are rare moments. Strangers always have their guard up and asking about their scent feels like too intimate a question. I did recently ask a woman on the subway what she was wearing because it had a glorious lushness that’s really rare these days. (It turned out to be vintage Samsara.) April 29, 2019 at 11:58pm Reply

            • Klaas: Haha, I know, coming out as a perfume enthousiast in public is a bit of a thing here as well! People kind of look at you like you’re mad and will quickly try to change the conversation…..this blog is a bit of a saviour for me!!

              Amsterdam has a lot of niche perfume shops actually, I know of 5, and I’m sure I’m missing some. That plus all the usual high street perfumeries. So yeah, a lot of perfume is sold for sure, but where oh where are all these wonderfully smelling people??

              Oh well, let’s just enjoy this weird hobby of ours and be happy. Life is so much nicer with a couple of spritzes of eau de toilette 😉 April 30, 2019 at 3:53am Reply

              • Alexa: Klass, would you mind listing your favorite of the niche perfume shops in Amsterdam? I am traveling there soon and wasn’t thinking about adding perfume shops to my agenda, but now you’ve given me the idea. Thank you! May 8, 2019 at 2:51pm Reply

                • Klaas: Oh, the one you must visit is the Perfume Lounge (www.perfumelounge.nl). It is a little bit out of the way, and you have to ring the door to get in, but it is by far the best perfumery in town. The staff is incredibly helpfull and knowledgeable, especially the brown haired lady called Phine. Not ideal for browsing, but if you let them guide you, you might be in for a treat. They carry some fantastic brands (De Nicolai, Parfum d’Empire, Bogue).

                  Closeby, and in a nice shopping street is Babassu (Babassu.nl) which also has a nice collection. In the same street you’ll also find Parfumerie Louise, that sells the more regular brands.

                  I can also recommend Skins (there’s two of them in town, check skins.nl), but some of that staff combine attitude with serious lack of knowledge, though I also have gotten great service there at times.

                  Finally, smack in the middel of town, there’s the big Bijenkorf departmentstore (bijenkorf meaning beehive), which has a lot to offer. All Guerlains, All Chanel Exclusives, Dior Collection Privé, some Roja Dove (bring 5 creditcards!) and the Hermes shop-in-shop carries all Hermessences and has fabulous staff.

                  So there, lots to sniff! I hope you’ll enjoy my amazing city!

                  Another tip: should you want to visit the fabulous art museums, go for the end of the afternoon. You might have the galleries to yourself in the last hour before closing time……. May 8, 2019 at 6:01pm Reply

                  • Alexa: Klaas, thank you so much! You’ve made me excited to explore the perfume shops. And your museum tip is a good one; I just reserved a timed entrance ticked for the last hours the Van Gogh museum is open. May 8, 2019 at 8:15pm Reply

                    • Klaas: It’s an incredible museum, you’ll love it!

                      And Skins is conveniently around the corner from the museum; the Perfume Lounge just a few stops by tram line 2 😉

                      Have fun! May 9, 2019 at 9:26am

  • Aurora: An interesting question, Victoria. It is an important consideration for me except with Colognes that I apply after my bath and wouldn’t want them to last long, for eg. 4711 or Yardley Lavender.

    On the other hand a few perfumes are almost too long lasting: Sahara Noir is so long lasting that I have to decide if I’m in the mood for such commitment, I will also detect l’Heure Bleue sometimes 48h after applying but in this case I never get tired of it. In general the drydown of all the Guerlains lasts on me so it’s lucky that I enjoy the guerlinade. April 28, 2019 at 2:24am Reply

  • Erry: Apres l’Ondee edp is so fleeting on me and in less than 3 hrs it disappears. I bought it (2nd bottle now) anyway because it’s too beautiful to ignore and, in my opinion, nothing come close to it. I spray it freely on myself and in my room. April 28, 2019 at 10:38am Reply

  • Tami: My beloved Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat has almost no longevity. I’ve purchased three bottles of it, so I guess that tells you how I have felt about repurchasing based on its longevity 😉

    That said, I started purchasing it when it was around $60–still kind of steep to consider for everyday wear, even today—but now that it’s over $100, I am rethinking the next bottle. At that price, I might as well get another bottle of Oyedo. Not the same per se, but it more than fits the “beloved citrus” space on my shelf.

    Most everything else has a decent to very long-lasting scent, from my assorted blossomy Jo Malones to my various gourmand and tuberose knockouts. April 29, 2019 at 12:06am Reply

  • Gigi: It is a factor, but only in extreme cases. I had high hopes for 28 La Pausa in EDT but it lasted only for the trip from the nozzle to my skin. As soon as it lasted, it was gone. Osmanthe Yunnan only made it for moments before completely disappearing. Those two, though lovely, were just too short lived to bother.
    I’m impressed when something I like lasts a long time, but isn’t a major factor as long as I get to enjoy for 3+ hours. April 29, 2019 at 1:31am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: I find perfumes that last only a very short period (2 hours, say) problematic. Otherwise I‘m fine with perfumes which have faded by afternoon: time to do something new!
    What I don’t really like are scents which literally stick on you for ever: Dior‘s Oud Ispahan for instance goes on and on for 36 hours plus. God, it really gets on my nerves then! April 29, 2019 at 1:38am Reply

  • Kristina: Victoria, I’m late to the game but as you mention “Angelique sous la pluie” in your article I just have to ask. I love this scent dearly and splurged on a big bottle recently. However, after minutes the scent is completely gone from my skin. I think there have been some alterations with the juice (I bought my last bottle two years ago). Any thoughts on this? April 30, 2019 at 7:06am Reply

  • Sandra: When I wear Omnia I can’t smell anything, but I am sure it’s there.
    I read your 4 ways to wear a perfume and will try the lotion part.. May 1, 2019 at 11:46am Reply

  • Hollis: I am a fan of Annick Goutal fragrances, and two of my favorites, L’Ile au The and Rose Splendide, last no more than an hour on me. It’s like a drug that makes me feel euphoric at first sniff, but then once the high wears off, I need another “hit”! But I do find that it remains on my clothing a bit longer, so when I spray, I make sure that I include the neckline and sleeves of whatever I’m wearing… May 4, 2019 at 8:10am Reply

  • Cristiane Vilar: I think spraying on clothing makes fragrances last longer. May 28, 2019 at 1:18pm Reply

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