Does Perfume Evaporate? (Quick Facts)

Water and alcohol help disperse the fragrance of your perfume. This solvent leaves your skin almost immediately after perfume is sprayed on. And then the fragrance itself evaporates over time. The same is true when a perfume bottle is left open. Its contents will evaporate.

Keep reading to learn about the conditions that cause perfumes to evaporate and how to slow down this process.

Does Perfume Evaporate

Why Do Perfumes Evaporate?

In an article published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2011, the authors quoted researchers’ positions about fragrances and volatility. “Fragrance materials are naturally volatile; otherwise, they would not be detectable.” So, you wouldn’t be able to smell perfumes without them being volatile.

The authors’ position was that fragrances are frequently, yet erroneously, associated with negative outcomes. Overexposure to VOCs can cause harm to humans and the environment. But this exposure would need to be excessive in order to lead to adverse outcomes. 

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, sound threatening, but are actually a common part of our daily existence. They are chemicals that release vapors into the air at room temperature. VOCs can also dissolve in water.

As the American Chemical Society explains, “Volatility is an inherent fragrance attribute and typically implies a reduced perception over time.”

This means that they fade – or evaporate – from the air as time progresses. You don’t have to be any more concerned about the evaporation process of perfume than you would for most other products that you use.

Does Perfume Evaporate from the Skin? 

Almost immediately after spraying on perfume, the evaporation process begins. 

A large portion of perfume formulas is made up of an ethanol and water solvent. Within moments after spraying or dabbing on perfume, this solvent begins to evaporate. And what you’re left with are the fragrance compounds left on your skin in the form of microscopic droplets.

You may wonder why this isn’t preventable. Why haven’t scientists figured out a way to keep perfumes on our bodies for a longer period of time?

Well in most cases natural or synthetic fixatives are added to perfumes for this exact reason. The problem is that perfumers can only add so much. Perfumery is a delicate balance of art and science. Focusing on one more than the other would lead to a product that no one wants to spray on their body.

Secondly, you wouldn’t be able to smell perfumes at all if they didn’t evaporate. So evaporation isn’t a bad thing, it’s part of a bigger picture.

Scent Evaporation Overview

When dealing with layered fragrances, there are top, middle, and base scent notes with between two and six scents assigned to each note.

Top layer scents give you the first impression of a perfume, but they don’t last for long. Fragrances that are chosen for the top layer only last up to fifteen minutes after they’ve been sprayed. 

Sometimes we make a quick decision about a fragrance based on our encounter with the top layer scents, but we shouldn’t because that scent experience won’t last for long.

The middle layer is often referred to as the heart notes because they give you an overall sense of the fragrance. You can expect for this layer to last about half a work day, or up to four hours.

Scents that last the longest are the base notes. It’s possible to smell these scents – which are usually woody, spicy, or sometimes floral – for up to six hours.

Times vary by fragrance concentration and the overall formula, but in general, this is what you can expect of layered fragrances. 

And what this describes is evaporation of scents. After the alcohol and water solution evaporates, then the fragrance layers begin to vaporize one by one. Similar to a diffuser, each scent is released into the air.

With that said, it’s possible for a top note to take longer than fifteen minutes to evaporate. And the missile layer might evaporate within three hours instead of four. There is no specific time frame in which perfumes evaporate. All of this information is approximate because it really depends on multiple conditions.

Can You Keep Perfume on Your Skin Longer?

Different conditions can allow for the evaporation process to unfold more quickly or at a slower pace.

If you have naturally dry skin, and then spray on perfume, you can expect the scent to leave quickly. 

Fragrance molecules like to have something to cling to – preferably oils. When your skin is well-moisturized, the oils can actually slow down the evaporation process, helping your scent to last longer.

If you prefer not to add lotions to your entire body, or you want to avoid applying scented lotion to your skin, there is an alternative. You can apply petroleum jelly or a similar unscented moisturizer to your pulse points before applying perfume. This will hold the fragrance to your skin for a longer period of time. 

You can also choose heavier scents. Of course this depends on your scent preference and bodily response to fuller fragrances. But if you are drawn to ambery, smoky, spicy fragrances – scents often used as base notes – then you can wear these perfumes if you want a more lasting fragrance.

Lastly, spraying perfume onto the lining of your clothes or directly onto your accessories, like scarves, fabric belts, and such, can help keep your scent around longer, reducing its evaporation rate.

Can Perfume Evaporate in High Heat Temperatures?

High heat and humidity can cause perfume to evaporate more quickly.

As explained in this article if your perfume is formulated with more alcohol than water, it will dissipate even more quickly because the rate of evaporation is higher for alcohol than it is for water. 

Does Perfume Evaporate in Cold Temperatures?

Colder weather actually slows down the evaporation process. Your top and heart notes tend to last longer than the time frames mentioned above when applied in cold temperatures. 

Does Perfume Evaporate from the Bottle?

Once you unseal your perfume bottle, its contents become vulnerable. Exposing perfume to the air will automatically cause it to begin the evaporation process. 

Slowing down this process is one reason why many perfume bottles are designed with atomizers. These nozzles evenly spray out perfume, which is the perfect dispersal mechanism. 

But because the holes in the nozzle are so small, very little air can enter into the perfume bottle. Atomizers help preserve your perfume, keeping it as close to its original state for as long as possible. 

What if There’s No Lid on the Perfume Bottle?

Not all perfumes are sprayed in a fine mist. Some you roll on. Others have a small opening that allows you to tip the bottle onto your finger, and then dab the fragrance onto your pulse points. 

However your perfume is released, it’s important to secure the lid when not in use. Immediately after applying your perfume, you should seal the container.

If you lose the lid, then you should buy a replacement cap as soon as possible. You might also transfer the perfume into a different container altogether.

Don’t be too alarmed if you lose the top of your perfume bottle. It would take months for the alcohol and water to completely evaporate from the bottle, leaving behind a gunky mess. But why lose any at all? Perfumes are too expensive to neglect in this way.

Storing your perfume in an airtight container is one of the best ways to prevent it from evaporating when not in use.

Closing Thoughts

The evaporation process is normal for perfumes. You wouldn’t be able to smell them at all if they didn’t evaporate from your skin. Also, they are only meant to last for a few years inside their bottles so use them while you can.

As long as you properly store your perfumes, you can get your money’s worth out of them.


Hello and welcome to Fragrance Advice! My name is Grace Young, and I’ve been drawn to fragrances since I was a little girl. There's just something about scent that brings me so much joy! 

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