Why Are Fragrances Discontinued?


I come from a large family and distinctly remember my aunts as wearers of expensive perfumes. This is why I developed a love of fragrances. Now, nothing evokes memories of my youth as much as the waft of a certain scent. Feeling nostalgic, I recently tried to buy my grandma’s favorite fragrance, Tweed by Lentheric, only to find it has been discontinued. I was surprised as it was so popular once-upon-a-time! So I’ve been on a mission to discover why this happens.

Why are fragrances sometimes discontinued?

Why are fragrances discontinued?¬†There are three main reasons why fragrances are discontinued: key ingredients become unavailable or scarce, particular ingredients are declared prohibited, or the fragrance isn’t selling enough meaning its production is no longer profitable.

Ingredient shortages and discontinued fragrances

Fragrances that use natural rather than synthetic ingredients can become impossible to produce if an ingredient suddenly becomes unavailable. An ingredient goes up in price once it becomes scarce making it difficult to produce that fragrance without hiking its price to a level that would make it unlikely to sell.

Many plants used in fragrances are cultivated especially for that purpose in order to meet consumer demand. However, if a particular brand happens to target rare plants for their unique scents, overexploitation often leads to a severe shortage or even extinction which in turn leads to discontinuation of that fragrance.

Prohibited ingredients and discontinued fragrances

The use of materials derived from animals – such as ambergris from Sperm Whales – causes ethical and moral concerns. It is now illegal to use natural ambergris in the US because Sperm Whales are an endangered species. Many manufacturers now use synthetic ambergris for this reason. Ambergris was once referred to as whale’s vomit but is actually a solid, waxy, substance produced by the digestive system of sperm whales and then excreted.

Ambergris from a sperm whale
Ambergris – produced by the digestive system of sperm whales

In 2017 The European Commission prohibited the use of three fragrance allergens: HICC, Atranol, and Chloroatranol. Atranol and Chloroatranol are extracted from tree moss and HICC is a synthetic fragrance.

Fragrance producers must phase out these ingredients by 2021. The big fragrance houses have already found suitable alternatives but those that haven’t may have to discontinue fragrances that use them.

Why less popular fragrances are discontinued

New fragrances are developed all the time as producers strive to stay ahead of the game. Developing a ‘new classic’ is always the aim – one that the world will go crazy for.

Every fragrance developer wants to be the one to produce a new iconic perfume. Of course, this means there are many casualties along the way. If a new fragrance doesn’t sell as well as was hoped, production will cease. If it has become someone’s new favorite go-to scent, they will be disappointed.

Why fragrance houses discontinue popular fragrances

Will these fragrances ever be discontinued
My classic fragrance collection

There are two main reasons why what were once popular fragrances are suddenly discontinued:

To update the outdated

The fragrance your mother or father used, let alone one your grandparents used, is probably not one you’d choose to wear. Fragrance fashions can be as fickle as clothing fashion. As new fragrances are formulated, old ones often fall by the wayside.

A perfume house is likely to decide not to keep up the production of a non-profitable fragrance. It may choose to lose fragrance ranges it considers outdated and replace them with fresh new scents.

It can be heartbreaking if your favorite fragrance is discontinued but it’s just one of those things. A fragrance must make a profit if it’s to stay in production. With so many to choose from you’re bound to eventually find another fragrance to love.

Unavailable or prohibited ingredients

If an ingredient is exploited to the extent that it becomes difficult to buy, the fragrance that uses it may be discontinued. Even if that ingredient made up just a tiny percentage of the fragrance, its absence can completely change the scent. If a fragrance can’t be exactly reproduced with alternative ingredients it has to be discontinued.

Sudden prohibition of ingredients for health and safety reasons is another problem faced by fragrance producers. They will endeavor to use alternative ingredients in place of the banned substances so as to continue making the fragrances that use them. If this proves impossible, the affected fragrances are discontinued.

Should you stop using your fragrance if it is discontinued?

Unless there is a recall for safety reasons, it’s fine to continue using any fragrance you own after finding out you can no longer buy it. It is rare for a fragrance to be discontinued for safety reasons so there’s no need to stop using one you own just because it is no longer produced.

If you are unable to find out why a fragrance has gone out of production you could try contacting the company via their website to see if they will give you a reason. They are duty-bound to tell you if it is because of health risks but they may not admit the fragrance just wasn’t popular enough or if an ingredient shortage or ban is the cause.

What to do if your favorite fragrance is discontinued

1. Buy a supply from the store

If you are lucky enough to discover your fragrance ha been discontinued before stores sell out of it you could buy yourself a good supply. Unopened fragrances can last three to five years if stored correctly.

2. Buy decants or samples

You may be able to get your hands on some decants or samples. These won’t be sealed and you won’t know how old they are either. But if you know the scent well enough you will be able to smell them to ensure you are happy they are OK.

3. Stores may sell off their testers

Once a fragrance is no longer for sale you may be able to purchase the tester bottles from fragrances counters. These can also be found in certain online stores. They usually come in plain not branded packaging as they were not intended to be resold and as long as you purchase from a reputable seller you should be safe.

4. You may find online sellers

Online discount perfume sellers sometimes buy up the end of lines and so they often have stocks of discontinued fragrances for a while after the stores have sold out.

Storing your discontinued fragrance supply correctly

Keep unopened fragrances in their boxes (or in a box of some description) to ensure they are not exposed to sunlight as this causes rapid deterioration. It’s best to place them in a cool area of your home where the temperature is as constant as possible but be aware of how the temperature in that place might change with the different seasons.

Some people store their fragrances in a fridge but I wouldn’t recommend this as the temperature is usually too cold and will spoil the scent. If you have always done this and are happy that your fragrance doesn’t suffer, be aware that some fridges do occasionally develop very cold spots, usually right at the back and on the lowest shelves and you definitely don’t want your fragrance becoming a block of ice.

A freezer is definitely not a good option when it comes to storing your discontinued fragrance. Freezing and then defrosting breaks down the components and changes the whole composition and aroma.

Of course, all you’re really doing is delaying the inevitable for a few years – eventually, you will run out of your discontinued fragrance and have to choose a new one. Perhaps you could start your search straight away and hopefully, you’ll find one well before your stash runs out.

Cloning a fragrance

If you really can’t bear to choose another fragrance, there are companies online who produce matches for discontinued fragrances at reasonable prices. For example, Scent Matchers has been doing just this for 10 years now.

Beware of fakes

If you see your favorite discontinued fragrance for sale on auction websites think carefully before you buy as it may not be genuine – especially if it’s been out of circulation for a long time. Even if it is the real deal, it may not be in fantastic condition. You have no way of knowing how old it is or how it’s been stored.

Fragrances are discontinued for three reasons

Finding the perfect alternative to a discontinued fragrance

In order to find a replacement for your favorite discontinued fragrance, it’s a good idea to establish what it’s fragrance notes are, as it is these that determine the overall scent. A fragrance with similar notes will probably suit you well as you probably like the way these smell on your skin.

A fragrance has three different layers referred to as the base, top, and middle notes. Together these create the specific smell. For example, determine if yours is classed as citrus, musk, floral, or oriental and test other fragrances with these base notes to see if they suit you.

To wrap up

Many classic fragrances have been around for years and years and are likely to go on and on forever (hopefully). Occasionally, fragrances are discontinued for the reasons you’ve seen above – and there’s not much you can do about this. There are so many classic and new fragrances available that if you search long enough, you’re bound to find an excellent alternative to fall in love with.

Jane Pettitt

Hi, I'm Jane. I've had a passion for perfume since the age of 18. Purelyfragrance.com answers popular fragrance-related questions and contains guides to all sorts of perfumes, colognes, and fragrances for men and women. I write at home surrounded by cats (we have 4 at the moment) and also blog about these and other pets on petskb.com.

Recent Content