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Do Pheromones Really Exist In Humans? Scientists Still Can’t Seem To Agree

While decades of research haven’t been able to definitively prove the roles pheromones play in human attraction, it is apparent your sense of smell does matter in mate selection, so it shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Rebecca Alvarez Story, M.A., sexologist and co-founder of Bloomi. “From a biological perspective, [smell] is an arousal system and contributes to sexual attraction, stimulation, and satisfaction,” she says. “If an individual wants to be sexually appealing, the most direct approach is to practice good hygiene, eliminate any repulsive odors, and use alluring fragrances.”

Evolutionarily speaking, it may be wise to intuitively trust what your smell is telling you since it’s one of the oldest senses used for survival and for environmental interaction. A small study of 70 people indicated odor sensitivity positively correlated to sexual experience, with women reporting a higher frequency of orgasm during intercourse. Another notable study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology randomly assigned 96 women to sniff out different scents (a neutral smell, their partner’s smell, a stranger’s smell) and reported the smell of a romantic partner lowered stress while the smell of a stranger increased stress levels. It suggests smell plays a critical role in social communication but calls for further studies.

Meanwhile, in a 2021 study, anecdotal reports found women are less attracted to their partner’s body odor during the dissolution of a relationship. “I have found that couples on the brink of divorce will no longer find each other’s scent appealing and notice new scents in their partner that are not pleasurable, such as noticing their breath or sweat as foul,” Chavez adds.

But while we know odors can alter physiological states and increase desirability, scientists still aren’t sure if pheromones, specifically, sway humans romantically in the same way they can affect animals and their reproductive physiology. This is an important consideration to note since pheromones (and the purported pheromone oils which claim to have captured its essence) are often seen as proven fact.

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