How Long Does Perfume Last on the Skin?

how long does perfume last on the skin

Perfume can last on your skin more than 24 hours. Most popular perfumes, however, tend to last anywhere between three and 12 hours.

There are three things that determine how long a perfume will last on your skin. In this particular order they are molecular composition, concentration and your skin type.

It may sound scientific and in a way it is. After all, perfumery has two sides to it: art and chemistry. Here we'll talk about the chemistry side.​

Let's delve into it.

Molecular Composition - The Best Smelling Chemistry Lesson You'll Ever Get​

Just like everything in life, perfume is made of molecules. The molecules that make up the scent of a perfume come in different sizes. To a large extent, the size of a molecule and its smell are correlated.

Light citrus aromas tend to have small molecules. Sweet, musky scents have large molecules. This is the general relationship between molecular size and smell. Exceptions may exist and you can read about those in specialized books.​

The size of the molecule also determines how quickly it oxidizes. In simple terms, the process of oxidization is a naturally occurring chemical reaction in which the molecule gives away electrons.​

Smaller molecules, like the ones that make up citrus scents, get oxidized quickly because they have few electrons to give away. This is why, citrus scents dissipate so quickly.

The molecule of a musk is complex and has a lot more electrons to give away before it disappears. The molecules of some synthetic musks are so large and complex that they literally can last days on your skin.​

how long does perfume last on the skin

Limonene. This is the molecule responsible for the smell of citrus.

how long does perfume last on the skin

Musk Xylol. This musk molecule is used as a base in modern perfumery.

To sum up, large molecules oxidize slower than small ones. As a result, aromas made up of large molecules last longer,hence, fragrances containing large molecules will stick around longer.

This is not the whole story, however.

Concentration - How Much Fragrance is in the Bottle?​

Fragrances come in different concentrations. The most popular ones are Eau de Toilette (EdT) and Eau de Parfum (EdP).

By concentration we mean the amount of essential oils and aroma-chemicals diluted in alcohol. The conventional wisdom goes that the more concentrated a fragrance is, the longer it lasts.

This logic makes sense, however, there is one problem.

In practice, things don't work this way. Putting more fleeting molecules in a bottle doesn't make them less fleeting. It makes the fragrance project more in the same short amount of time. If you don't believe me, try this experiment: overspray with your favourite fragrance and see if it actually lasts longer. Chances are you won't notice any difference in how long it lasts.​


Read more about perfume concentrations and what they mean. 


Many companies release versions of their fragrances in higher concentrations. In 2015 D&G released The One EdP. It is an EdP version of their best seller with the same name but in EdT concentration.​


Read our take on D&G The One EdP.


Many reviewers, including myself, found the EdP version stronger and richer. Few people, however, reported improvement in longevity and, even then, it was marginal.

Therefore, perfume concentration is not a reliable way to improve longevity. The stronger projection could make you "feel" like the more concentrated fragrance is longer lasting. The only way to tell is to test it.

Skin Type - One Place Where Oily Skin is Better​

Oily skin gets a bad rep. It makes you look greasy and is prone to pimples and blemishes. One place where oiliness is your friend is perfume.

The oils in your skin retain the fragrant molecules better and improve longevity. This is why, one trick to make your perfume last longer is to moisturize first. Put on some Vaseline or another oil where you will be applying your fragrance before spraying. The oils in the fragrance will bind better with the oils in your skin and keep the scent longer.​

Does your skin type make a big difference in your perfume lasting longer?

Not really but it could add some minutes to its life. Short of spraying it on your clothes and hair, there is not much you can do to improve your perfume longevity.​


So, what are the perfumes that stay on all day?

To sum it up, they are the ones composed of notes with complex molecules. Oriental, musky and woody fragrances featuring vanilla, amber, musk, and oud tend to be some of the longest-lasting fragrances.

The perfume that lasts the longest would also be one that comes in high concentration, even though that doesn't matter as much as its molecular composition.​

What is your experience with perfume and longevity?

Share in the comments below.​


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