Pheromone Perfume Myth

Written by shannon o'neill
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Pheromone Perfume Myth
(Image by, courtesy of Pedro Simões)

Wearing perfume and cologne is a popular way humans attempt to attract mates. But human biology has its own chemicals for attraction: pheromones. Some fragrances are laced with these odourless chemicals, but does adding synthetic versions of them to perfume really increase a person's attractiveness? Two studies aimed to find out.


Pheromones are odourless chemicals secreted from the body that attract others sexually. Synthetic pheromones are sometimes added to perfumes and colognes.


A 2002 study by San Francisco State University researchers published in the journal "Physiology and Behavior" aimed to discover whether adding synthetic pheromones to female subjects' perfumes would increase their attractiveness to men. For 14 weeks, 19 women wore perfume that was mixed with pheromones, and 17 women wore untreated perfume.

In another study, conducted in 2005 by ABC News' "20/20," sets of both male and female twins in their 20s went on 10 five-minute-long speed dates. One of each of the twins wore scents laced with pheromones, while the other wore unaltered fragrances.


Both studies concluded that pheromones did indeed increase the test subjects' attractiveness to potential mates of the opposite sex.

The San Francisco State University study found that 74 per cent of the test subjects who wore pheromone-laced perfume experienced three or more of the following at an increased rate, according to an article on "heavy petting and affection, sexual intercourse, sleeping next to their partner, [and] formal dates with men." Conversely, 23 percent of test subjects who wore perfume laced with a placebo experienced an increase in those activities.

The "20/20" study found that nine out of 10 men wanted to go on another date with the female twin who wore the pheromones, compared to five men who wanted to see the other twin again. Similarly, all 10 women wanted to see the male twin who wore the pheromones again, compared to six women who wanted to see the placebo-wearing twin again.


Despite the studies' findings, Columbia University biologist Dr. Stuart Firestein is sceptical.

"Maybe just the idea of knowing that you're wearing the stuff will help," he told "20/20." "There's certainly always going to be a very strong placebo effect in these sorts of things." He added, "We use all sorts of cues. A pheromone alone is unlikely to do it. It's part of a whole package."


According to "Cookie" Magazine, Fresh's Cannabis Santal, Fresh's Cannabis Rose, and Pure Romance's Basic Instinct are examples of perfumes laced with pheromones. (Reference 1)

Bottles of odourless synthetic pheromones can be bought online. The kind used in the "20/20" study costs about £65 for just 1/6th of an ounce. (Reference 2)

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