If you do not want to read the whole article, read the key points at the bottom of this blog!
Is Body Odor Attractive?
Do you ever forget to put on deodorant before a date and spend the entire time worrying that the person you are with can smell your sweat? Research shows that this isn’t as big a deal as you might think.
Your body odor, or personal scent, might actually be a key factor in how attractive others find you.
Do Men Find Female Body Odor Attractive?
It is known that the female body undergoes changes throughout the menstrual cycle, so it should come as no surprise that body odor changes as well. But did you know that men find the body odor of women the most attractive when women are ovulating (3,4) and that this is due to evolutionary reasons they may not even be conscious of (7)?
First, let’s quickly go over ovulation, in case you’ve forgotten what you might have learned in elementary school sex ed: Ovulation is the stage of the menstrual cycle where an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube, where it can then be fertilized by sperm (6). During ovulation, levels of the hormone estrogen increase, causing cervical mucus (discharge) to smell sweeter and to undergo changes that makes conception likelier to happen (5).
So now that we know that women are the most fertile when they are ovulating, let’s examine what this tells us about male attraction. Research shows that men think women smell the most attractive when they are ovulating and able to procreate (3,4,7). The reason for this is purely evolutionary; men can subconsciously tell when a woman is fertile and are more attracted to a woman when she is able to create offspring (7).
So is there anything in your sweat that triggers this enhanced attraction? Some researchers believe that pheromones might be to blame. Pheromones are released from the body through sweat and can influence the behavior of individuals of the same species (10). Cool, right? As it turns out, one of the main areas where pheromones are produced are the underarms (10). Although they do not have a scent themselves, pheromones might be able to influence attraction (10) and play a role in men being able to detect female ovulation (11).
We wonder if increased estrogen levels during ovulation impact underarm sweat, including the level of released pheromones, and body odor attractiveness; but more research is needed to answer this question.
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Do Women Find Body Odor Attractive On Men?
Women seem to prefer the body odor of men who have a dissimilar major histocompatibility complex to themselves (2).
But what does this scary looking word, major histocompatibility complex, mean? Let’s break it down. The major histocompatibility complex, which can thankfully be shortened to the much less intimidating MHC, is a genetic factor that tells us how closely related we are to another individual. Although our MHC is primarily tied to the functioning of our immune systems, it can also contribute to our body odor (2).
Ok, so now we know that MHC is related to body odor, but this still leaves the question: why do women find the body odor of partners who have a dissimilar MHC attractive? Women find partners with a dissimilar MHC to have a more attractive body odor due to biological reasons. People with dissimilar MHC are less closely related to each other, and when they procreate, healthier offspring with stronger immune systems are created (2).
*There may be MHC related preferences in same-sex couples as well, but more research needs to be conducted before any conclusive hypotheses are made.
Should I Stop Using Deodorant?
Now I know what you must be thinking. Does this mean that I should stop using deodorant once and for all? The answer is…probably not.
I mean, sure, go ahead if that’s what works for you or if you naturally smell like fresh flowers and cucumbers. But unfortunately for most of us, our natural sweat has a not-so-sweet scent because of factors like stress (a main factor implicated in smellier sweat), diet, lack of sleep, and the list goes on.
Wearing products on your underarms is a personal choice, but if you are going to do so, a natural deodorant is your best friend. Many non-natural deodorants and antiperspirants contain pesky toxins, and antiperspirants even block your sweat pores, preventing sweat from reaching your underarm skin and combining with the bacteria there to create an odor (9). While completely blocking your sweat might seem like the ideal situation, some research suggests that long-term antiperspirant use actually creates increased bacteria growth in the underarm area (9). On the other hand, natural deodorants decrease this growth and result in fewer bacteria than if one was to use no products at all (9). Natural deodorants also use ingredients such as rosemary extract that help the body self-regulate perspiration.
Deodorants like those created by Nala allow you to sweat while covering any unpleasant scent using all free-from ingredients with antibacterial, astringent, and calming properties. Nala has a deodorant for everyone, whether it be soothing peppermint, sophisticated rosewood, or refreshing sandalwood reminiscent of a walk through the forest. And if scent’s just aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Nala’s unscented deodorant has the same moisture absorbing, odor reducing, and protective properties as any of our other deodorants, just without any of the scent.
Deodorant can be used to enhance your natural scent, as part of your self-care routine, because it gives you some much needed confidence in the morning, or because it simply makes you feel like you.
- Men find female body odor the most attractive when women are ovulating because this is an evolutionary signal that women are ready to mate. Rising estrogen levels during ovulation and the release of pheromones may play a role in changing the attractiveness of female body odor.
- Women prefer the body odor of a man who has a dissimilar major histocompatibility complex (MHC) to themselves because this means that their offspring with that man will be healthy and have a stronger immune system.
- While attraction may be related to body odor, using a natural deodorant is still recommended to reduce unpleasant underarm odor associated with factors such as stress sweat.
- Unlike non-natural deodorants and antiperspirants that contain toxins, natural deodorants use free-from ingredients and and improve underarm odor by using ingredients that help the body self-regulate perspiration
Find More Information at the Following Links:
Photographer: Igor Pukhnatyy
- Kuukasjarvi, S., Eriksson, P. C. J., Koskela, E., Mappes, T., Nissinen, K., & Rantala, M. J., “Attractiveness of Women's Body Odors Over the Menstrual Cycle: the Role of Oral Contraceptives and Receiver Sex”. Behavioral Ecology, Jul. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arh050
- Kromer, J., Hummel, T., Pietrowski, D., Giani, A. S., Sauter, J., Ehninger, G., Schmidt, A. H., & Croy, I. “Influence of HLA on Human Partnership and Sexual Satisfaction”. Scientific reports, 31 Aug. 2016, https://doi.org/10.1038/srep32550
- Gildersleeve, K., Haselton, M., Larson, C., & Pillsworth, E. “Body odor attractiveness as a cue of impending ovulation in women: Evidence from a study using hormone-confirmed ovulation”. Hormones and Behavior, Feb. 2012, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.11.005
- Lobmaier, J. S., Fischbacher, U., Wirthmüller, U., & Knoch, D. (2018). The scent of attractiveness: levels of reproductive hormones explain individual differences in women's body odour. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences, 285(1886), 20181520. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1520
- Rocketto, L. “Changes That Happen during Ovulation.” Health, Health, 25 July 2022, https://www.health.com/condition/sexual-health/ovulation-symptoms-what-happens-when-you-ovulate.
- Druet, A. “Ovulation: What is it, and how do I know when I’m ovulating?” Clue, 21 June, 2022, https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/ovulation-101-what-is-it-how-does-it-work
- “Can a man smell when a woman is most fertile?” femsense, 2022, https://www.femsense.com/blog/does-a-woman-smell-fertile/#:~:text=According%20to%20swiss%20scientists%20the,in%20the%20woman's%20body%20odor.
- Kaia Naturals. “*THIS* Happens After Long Term Use of Antiperspirant”. Kaia Naturals, 2022, https://www.kaianaturals.com/side-effects-of-antiperspirants/
- Frothingham, Scott. “Benefits and Risks of Deodorants vs. Antiperspirants.” Healthline, 4 Oct, 2019, www.healthline.com/health/deodorant-vs-antiperspirant#breast-cancer-risk.
- Grammar, K., Fink, B., & Neave, N. (2005). Human pheromones and sexual attraction. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 118(2), 135-142. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301211504004749?casa_token=ueW6m4Hi-8QAAAAA:uQVuh7JJoHQUK0s3OcaPsvX9oGHsMwPfPd_OGX5T0scQ52qtRADENDRTbcQZ3DKGPG_GjfZw
- McWeeney, C. “Scent and attraction: Pheromones and the cycle” Clue, 12 June, 2017, https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/scent-attraction-pheromones-cycle