The Power Of Scent In Love

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There is a now-classic article in Psychology Today, The Smell Of Love, which details the ways in which scent plays a powerful role in attraction. While you think you pick partners with your ears or your eyes or your mind or your soul…scent is a major player in matters of love. I’m not talking about perfume here- quite the opposite- we are talking pheromones! 

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Ever find yourself crazy attracted to someone and don’t know why? It could be their “scent.” Pheromones are particular to us, and they give others lots of information about our genetics as well as our potential as sexual partners.  After all, on a primal level, part of attraction is finding someone with genes that will “mesh” well together to produce children. What is funny and counter-intuitive to our study of scent: Frequent showers and baths, perfumes, chemical deodorants and antibacterial products all “mask” or actually deplete our pheromone levels.  As we get older, the levels we produce start to decline, which is a fascinating study for those of you who are interested in anti-aging products. And the jury is still out on whether or not synthetic pheromones (which are being added to some perfumes, by the way!) are actually effective.

Naturally, there are ways to increase your pheromone levels.  The most obvious is to stop wearing perfume and switch to a natural deodorant. Saunas are thought to be helpful in small sittings to keep the skin flushing out toxins and bringing these scent hormones to the surface.  Less frequent bathing – um, no thanks- is also recommended by some.  More vigorous exercise is probably one of the more sensible- and all-round beneficial- ways to boost pheromones.

According to Psychology Today’s article that I mentioned at the top, The Smell of Love:

Choosing a genetically compatible partner can be difficult it today’s perfume rich postindustrial jungle, and getting your immune system genes profiled can be expensive. Before you run to a doctor for blood work to see whether your mate is a suitable match—and sire for your future children—try listening to your nose. (Unfortunately, the sniff test will only work if you’re not taking birth control pills.)

  1. Declare a deception-free day for the nostrils. Have your beau shower with fragrance-free soap and wear clean cotton clothing for a day, away from smokers and the perfumed masses. Be sure you don’t have a cold, and that you yourself haven’t been around smokers for a few days.
  2. After he spends a day and a night in his cotton clothes, before he tosses them in the direction of the hamper, wrestle them from him and have a “smelldown.” Make it a romantic experience. If your man’s shirt doesn’t offend, you should be safe. (Find the scent alluring or sexy? Even better! That attraction is nature’s way of telling you he’s a safe contributor to your offspring’s genetic ensemble.)
  3. If your man’s odor reminds you of your father or of a brother, you may want to consider getting in touch with your doctor and ask about genetic tests before trying to conceive a child. Tell the doctor you’re concerned that you may share a close MHC or “HLA” profile. (HLA, for human leukocyte antigen, is a technical tag for human MHC.) Meanwhile, a deceptively pleasing gift of cologne might be in order.
  4. Genetic incompatibility is not the only reason you may find his odor offensive. Does his body scent seem unusually intense? He might have a medical condition that explains the smell. Ask him to bring it up at his next medical checkup. A very sweet scent is sometimes evidence of diabetes or schizophrenia—both of which appear to be heritable. It is wise to discuss these issues with each other, and with a doctor, before having kids.
  5. Before you decide that your relationship stinks, check your mate’sdiet. A taste for spicy foods or an overindulgence in garlic can cause strong body odors.
  6. If your mate still offends, don’t head for the hills just yet. Some clothing detergents can prove to be a bad mix with a fella’s scent. Ask that the next time he visits the laundry, he change brands—and give the stinker a second chance!

Trippy stuff, right? If you find scent fascinating, you’ll delight in knowing that there are fine artists who use scent as their medium. Yep: scent exhibitions in museums, even!  Sissel Tolaas is one of the more famous. You can read more about her HERE.   Its so wildly incredible to live more in your senses!  xoxo Dana

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