Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

Have you ever wondered why fragrances are discontinued?

Something smells…

words by: Natasha Marsh
Aug 23, 2021

I’ve never been one to have a signature scent but ever since I turned 30, I’ve been entertaining the idea. Not knowing where to start, I decided to buy a fragrance that a family member had, or at least tried.


I went to the local Nordstrom and asked if they had the scent and found out it was discontinued and they no longer sell it. I went online in hopes of having better luck but sure enough there were enough Reddit-like forums staying the fragrance was no longer in commission. It had me wondering, why are fragrances discontinued? Turns out there are three main reasons: raw materials become scare or extinct, ingredients get declared prohibited in manufacturing city or country, and the sell-through is no longer high enough to see profit.


Raw Materials Grow Scare

Fragrances made with natural materials can become difficult to continue to produce if the ingredient becomes unavailable. It can go up in price when it grows scars, making it difficult to produce the fragrance without up-charging the retail price. Sometimes ingredients were available in one location and now are only in a specific location that is out of the way for the brand, or would cost the brand too much money to have flown in. When this occurs, often times the most effective way at saving cost is subbing in a different ingredient into the cologne formula — which of course, could alter the scent. When a brand can’t find a good replacement, it will discontinue the scent all together.


Prohibited Ingredients

There are many ingredients that cause ethical and moral concerns, like ambergris derived from sperm whales. Ambergris became illegal in the US when sperm whales were declared an endangered species. Another prohibited ingredient, HICC, made from tree moss. Even if a prohibited ingredient only makes up a tiny percentage of the fragrance, the absence can totally alter the scent. Again, if it can’t be reproduced with subs, it will be discontinued.


Low Demand Fragrances

New colognes and scents are being developed constantly to try to capture more customers. Many perfumers are out for one thing: to have the most iconic scent out there. Trail and error has lead to many, many fragrances that don’t always sell well.


On a business front, fragrance houses discontinue scents to update the outdated. In my case, the scents my family members swear by, were purchased when they were young and can sometimes be scene as no longer in fashion. Plus, the more new scents that are out there, the more opportunity for old ones to fall by the wayside.


Should I stop using discontinued scents?

Ah, the real question. Truly, unless the scent is recalled for safety reasons, it’s fine to use a discontinued cologne at your own discretion. If you are unsure, you can always Google to find out why it has gone out of production.


If you really like a discontinued scent… you have options


1. Buy a supply from the store

If luck finds you at a store that sells the discontinued product, buy it. But only if it’s unopened, those can last three to five years if stored correctly.


2. Buy decants or samples

Purchase decants or samples. The only caveat with this is you won’t know how old they are.


3. Stores may sell off their testers

Once a fragrance is taken off the sales floor, bottles are meant to be destroyed. However, you might be able to purchase the tester bottles, either in person or online.


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.


5. Find an close alternative

If you can’t find it anywhere, it’s a good idea to establish what your favorite notes are to determine your overall scent. Back story: fragrances have three different layers to them — base, top and middle notes to create the specific smell. So figure out if you like citrus, floral, musk and then test out colognes that have these as their base note to decide.


If you need help finding a scent, here are 8 colognes that real women recommend for their man.