Many people believe that scents are foolproof tools for seduction. And for good reason too. Perfume marketers all over the world have us all believing that scent spawns desire and investing on one (or many) would have flocks of our ideal romantic mates chasing us down alleys. But how does perfume make one attractive? If it does have that power, what should we be wearing?
"Any of the oriental perfumes have a lot of natural aphrodisiacs. Vanilla is a psychogenic that works on the central nervous system and animalistic notes such as musk will also make us think of base instincts," says Roja Dove, a “professeur de parfum” and founder of Harrods’ Haute Perfumerie. Dove believes that perfume components can evoke human instincts associated with attraction.
This explanation makes sense when we take time to inspect the primary components of the sexiest perfumes. White flowers like Ylang Ylang and Jasmine, for example, have indoles, a molecule which can also be found in animalistic notes. Combined with Vanilla and a musky base, you’ll have the fragrance usually voted as the most seductive scent in many perfume polls across the inter-webs.
Chemistry professor Milos Novotny has another explanation. He says that we have inherited smell-related traits from our ancestors – from attraction to luscious flower scents to pheromone reactions in humans – thus making our predisposition to some scents genetic.
This explanation has some merit but would not account for the varying levels of attraction that different scents induce. The biochemical reactions of perfumes as a result of the evolution of smell receptors in the human body would only account for the general categories of what’s pleasant and what’s not. It would not be sufficient to explain why musk is sexier than fruity scents.
But then, of course, there are some who argue that attraction to scents is a matter of mind conditioning. Aside from the usual scent-memory connection, some would say that certain scents have hypnotic qualities in them. Let’s take the case of floral again. In this theory, floral notes would be attractive because it makes the person smelling it to stop, as in “stop and smell the roses”. This is the theory of Dr. Stephen Snyder, human relationship psychiatrist and consultant for Dolce & Gabbana’s Desire fragrance.
All theories have their own merit. Whatever theory we pick from whichever field of science, one thing is clear: scent and attraction has a connection and probably the best way to explore this connection is to try and see it firsthand.
After finding out the connection between perfumes and attraction, the looming question now is what scent attracts the best (or the most, depending on your motives). Founder Lyn Harris of the London perfume company Miller Harris notes that musk, vanilla and amber are generally turn-on scents.
As proof, it has been observed that in recent years, more and more perfume designers have turned to musk (an animalistic note) to evoke desire. But there’s a lot more to scent than the top notes that makes it sexy. Most perfume designers don’t stop at just musk, just vanilla or just amber, otherwise the fragrance would not be dynamic.
Biophysicist and perfume specialist Lucas Turin, author of the book “The Secret of Scent”, says: "Some scent molecules may be horrible on their own but in combination they can be beautiful. No single ingredient is intrinsically attractive. There's a tyranny of pseudo-biology about what makes a great recipe, but really it's all about one brilliant combination."
Another factor that affects how a perfume makes you attractive is body chemistry. The perfume’s reaction on your skin is just about as important as all the original ingredients. It is entirely possible that ten women wearing the same perfume won’t smell the same and, just the same, be attractive altogether.
So what scent makes you sexiest? See if the scent that clings and reacts to you best have the sexy notes. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, find a combination better suited to you. Remember: perfume is not always synonymous to attraction. It should be a balance of you, the perfume and the associations/instincts triggered in the person smelling you.