“Seductiveness is embedded in the history of perfume — that’s why it’s lasted across the globe and across the millennia,” Mandy Aftel, perfumer and author of the book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent told Refinery29. “The height of that was Cleopatra filling her ship with rose petals, wading knee-deep through them to go and meet Mark Antony,” the expert explained, “creating the indelible image and smell of a bouquet of roses.” As it turns out, the Egyptian queen was on to something.
Science has since proven that certain scents can influence a person’s attractiveness — for better and for worse. Of course, that might not be your reason for wearing it. While Frédéric Malle, a perfumer at Carnal Flower, told the publication that fragrance is “all about increasing our magnetism,” he admitted that some use perfumes for reasons that have “nothing to do with pleasing others.” Nevertheless, you might just be curious to know which scents possess the power of attraction. And we have to warn you: some of them are… odd. Here are the most surprising fragrances that make women more alluring to men.
Your natural scent
Even if you wear unscented deodorant, launder your clothes in fragrance-free detergent, and generally stay away from perfumes, you still produce a distinctive scent. Your own brand, if you will.
In a truly wild study published in September 2018, female volunteers — termed “odor donors” — placed cotton pads under their armpits for three consecutive nights to collect their au naturel scent. Afterward, male volunteers — “odor raters” — gave those cotton pads a whiff. All in the name of science. Nevertheless, the experiment produced some interesting results. “We found that the men highly agreed on how attractive they found women’s body odours,” wrote the researchers. The odor raters found that women with higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of progesterone produced a “more attractive” odor. As such, the study concluded that body odor “acts as a valid clue to potential fertility.” Hmm, time to start bottling up that fertile armpit scent, ammiright, ladies? No? Okay, then.
Lily of the valley is "quite old," but delightful
While men may prefer the scent of a fertile Myrtle, they’re not a huge fan of florals. Glamour interviewed a panel of men to find out their favorite and least favorite scents. Afterward, the publication also spoke with Alan Hirsch, neurologist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. When asked about floral scents, one man told the publication, “If it’s too flowery it makes me think of an old lady.” In research Hirsch had previously conducted, other men shared a similar opinion. Overall, men just didn’t dig florals. However, the scent expert found that lily of the valley was the exception. After all, it is a much milder fragrance.
Perfumer Frédéric Malle revealed to Vogue, saying, “The best attempt at a lily of the valley fragrance is quite old.” It dates back to the mid 1950s with Dior Diorissimo. As the publication revealed, French fashion designer Christian Dior’s favorite flower was lily of the valley. And because of Diorissimo’s highly realistic scent, Malle swears “it’s still the best one to wear today.”
Rose oil, but not roses
According to men’s noses, roses may be too strong of a scent — sorry, Cleopatra. However, rose oil is a horse of a different odor. In a 2014 study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania discovered that rose oil — that is “an essential oil smelling like roses” — influenced participants to rate pictures of women’s faces as more attractive than they had when smelling something “undesirable.” In this case, fish oil was used.
One of the great things about using an essential oil for fragrance is not having to buy a bottle of expensive perfume. Plus, rose oil is taken from real rose petals, so you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals that might be used in artificially-scented perfumes. In an interview with Allure, Sejal Shah, a dermatologist based in New York City, even recommends using rose oil to brighten, heal, and tone your skin. The fact that your partner may like the smell is just an added bonus.
Vanilla is universally well-liked
Vanilla perfume is surprisingly anything but vanilla. Perfumer Christine Nagel, who has produced fragrances for Jo Malone London, Armani Privé fragrances, and Narciso Rodriguez, told Refinery29 that vanilla is “soft, almost sweet, but it has a strong, intense, and animalistic facet.” Craig Warren, director of scientific affairs at the Sense of Smell Institute, agrees that vanilla is a winning scent. He explained, “Vanilla produces the feeling of happiness universally around the world. Of all the materials that go in fragrances, vanilla is the most liked globally.” With vanilla scents being so common in perfumes, you have an awfully good chance of finding one you like.
Signs also point to vanilla being a successful aphrodisiac. Phil Lempert, a trend-watcher and food industry analyst, told United Press International, “The smell and flavor of vanilla is believed to increase feelings of lust, but some studies show vanilla can raise levels of catecholamines, or adrenaline, in the blood.” Vanilla is more powerful than many people give it credit for.
Vetiver and its "understated sex appeal"
It’s possible that you’ve never heard of vetiver, but you’d probably know it to smell it. As fragrance expert Chandler Burr described in an article for GQ, the grass indigenous to India smells similar to lemongrass. “It can be warm like tobacco leaves, it can have a crushed-green leaves freshness, or it can be cool like lemon verbena,” he wrote. Although the fragrance is common in men’s colognes, it’s a scent that works for everyone. “Vetiver has an understated sex appeal,” perfumer Frédéric Malle told Vogue.
Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti told the publication that she appreciates “perfumes that keep floating between the two genders.” She added, “A thrill can come from the disruption. Ambiguity brings a mystery that I believe is more sensual, more subtle and more modern as well.” If you’re looking for this thrilling scent, you can try Stem by Malin + Goetz, which is described by Marie Claire as being “the anti-floral scent.” Byredo Super Cedar, on the other hand, carries a woodier vetiver fragrance.
Neurologist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, Alan Hirsch, revealed to Glamour that the smell of fresh oranges is pretty much irresistible to men. However, that presents a few challenges if you want to wear the scent. It’s a smidge difficult to carry and peel an orange everywhere you go. However, perfumers have realized the power of the citrus scent and incorporated their sweet notes in bottle form.
Orange Sanguine by Atelier Cologne captures the scent well. According to the scent’s description on sephora.com, this perfume is “a zesty and energizing burst of crushed ripe fruit, plays off sweet blood orange juice against bitter orange peel and sensual notes of geranium.” Buyers agree that this perfume is all about the citrus. “This scent is pure orange to my nose,” one consumer wrote. Another added, “This smells like ACTUAL oranges. It’s fantastic.” If you’re looking for something with a more subtle orange scent, Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit might be the ticket. Orange is just one of the discernible notes and you’ll also notice the addition of vanilla. You know, the aphrodisiac.
Bring the heat
Just as you shouldn’t fear heavier or so-called masculine scents like vetiver, your man isn’t going to be put off by your fragrance if it has woody or even spicy notes. When giving his opinion on Victoria’s Secret’s peppery-scented Very Sexy perfume, one man told Glamour, “It smells like pure sex. It really does. I’m giving it to my girlfriend the first chance I get.” He’s not the only one in the panel of men who felt the way about floral-based perfumes with a kick. Another revealed to the publication, saying, “If I smelled this on a girl, I’d think she was pretty outgoing — which is a good thing — since it hits you a little bit more than the floral or powdery stuff.”
If you’re not a fan of Very Sexy, Gucci’s Guilty perfume also brings the heat. It features top notes of mandarin — and you know how guys feel about oranges — and pink pepper, as well as the woody base scent of patchouli and even some subtle florals, like lilac and geranium.
Musk is a must
“Musk is the most carnal of all fragrance ingredients,” esteemed perfumer Christine Nagel revealed to Refinery29. “It conveys a thin skinned sensuality, and it can easily arouse all the senses.” Musk is indeed a sensuous scent, confirmed Craig Warren, director of scientific affairs at the Sense of Smell Institute.
While you may be familiar with this primal fragrance in perfume form, musk was, well, all kinds of gross back in the day. Originally, musk was harvested from the sex glands of male musk deers. For real. And, apparently, it smelled pretty horrific until it had been soaked in vodka for at least a few months or even years.
Will Andrews, a principal scientist at P&G Prestige, a branch of Proctor and Gamble that designs perfumes, assured HuffPost that this is no longer the case, saying, “These things are really highly unacceptable in today’s world and we don’t use animal derived ingredients at all anymore.” However, the smell still lingers. As weird as its origins may be, musk remains a popular — and sexy — synthetic scent today. Andrews describes it as sometimes “very fruity, sometimes floral,” but “always soft.”
This old-fashioned confection
In the 2014 study “Human Male Sexual Response to Olfactory Stimuli,” neurologist and psychiatrist Alan Hirsch and Jason Gruss, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation discovered that certain scents had the ability to — this is about to get real weird, folks — produce an “increase in penile blood flow.” The scent of black licorice especially worked some magic.
According to the study, the spicy confection’s odor increased blood flow by some 13 percent. When combined with the scent of soda, the percentage remained the same. However, black licorice paired with the scent of a doughnut prompted an even stronger, umm, response. Penile blood flow increased by a whopping 31.5 percent.
This is even stranger considering that black licorice is divisive. “People either love it or hate it and, as far as I can tell, it’s not a learned like or dislike,” Marcia Pelchat of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania, told NBC News. And yet, the scent of it seems to drive men wild. Licorice is apparently nature’s Viagra.
While oranges have an especially tantalizing effect on men, they’re not the only fruit that can make a woman appear more attractive in a man’s eyes. Avery Gilbert, a sensory psychologist, told Women’s Health, “Luscious, fruity notes are disarming but attractive.” Founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, Alan Hirsch, concurs with Gilbert. “Edible odors tend to increase male arousal,” he told the publication.
Regardless, you might just like to wear fruit-based fragrances because you like the way they smell. Whatever your reason, there are tons and tons of fruity perfume options. Brit Sheer by Burberry features some pretty exotic fruit notes, including litchi and yuzu. There’s also a hint of mandarin, grapes, pineapple leaves, and even musk — you know, if you want to kill two birds with one stone. If you want to try something that’s not quite so fruity, Giorgio Armani Beauty combines the scent of raspberry with rose and vanilla bean — aka a trifecta of attractive scents.
Who doesn't like the smell of doughnuts?
If you take away one thing from the 2014 “Human Male Sexual Response to Olfactory Stimuli” study, it might just be that men like doughnuts. They really, really like doughnuts. Although black licorice was found to increase penile blood flow by quite a lot, doughnuts were actually the most prevalent scent in the “Increases in Penile Blood Flow Produced by Various Odors” chart. Yes, that’s a thing.
Just a whiff of a doughnut increased the participants’ penile blood flow by a median of seven percent. Once a soda was added to that combination, though, blood flow increased to 12.5 percent. Interestingly, soda didn’t have that same effect when paired with licorice. To be fair, soda and doughnuts do sound like a better combo.
When the scent of a doughnut was paired with a lavender odor, that percentage went up to 18 percent. Replace the lavender with some pumpkin pie on the side and that blood flow increases to 20 percent. Weird, right? Ironically, Ariana Grande released her “Ari” perfume in 2015 and it just so happened to smell like — you guessed it — doughnuts. And we all know how much Ari loves doughnuts!
Peppermint is exciting
While you may use peppermint essential oil to help treat a headache, the minty-fresh scent also happens to have an alluring effect on men. Perfumer Christine Nagel told Refinery29 that peppermint is an “energizing scent, with fresh and fusing notes that release feelings of excitement.” It’s also a fragrance that “stimulates and opens all the senses with a secondary effect of making people feel happy,” according to Craig Warren, the director of scientific affairs at the Sense of Smell Institute.
Men may like the smell of peppermint on a woman’s skin, but there’s plenty more benefits for the wearer. In addition to being useful for staving off headaches and making you feel a little cheerier, mint has a cooling effect. It wouldn’t be all that fun to wear this fragrance in the winter, but spritzing a peppermint-based perfume on a sweltering summer day would pretty much be the next best thing to air conditioning.
Lavender and pumpkin pie combined
Like peppermint, lavender has been found to have some health benefits, including reducing anxiety as well as aiding digestion. While you may think of lavender as having a calming, sleep-inducing effect, the fragrance was also found to increase penile blood flow in the 2014 study conducted by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. On its own, lavender increased participants’ blood flow by eight percent, just half of one percent lower than — wait for it — pumpkin pie. However, when lavender and pumpkin pie scents were combined, the male participants experienced the greatest increase in penile blood flow of any other scent or scent combination. We’re talking 40 percent!
Although this sounds like a really odd combination, some perfumers have bottled the concoction and, according to staffers at Cosmopolitan, the scent definitely worked to attract men. Harvey Prince’s Temptress perfume features the dynamic duo of scents along with other secondary notes. Fittingly, the company has branded it the “perfume that flirts for you.”
Jasmine has a "sensual facet"
As weird and wonderful as pumpkin pie mixed with lavender may very well be, jasmine is, according to Craig Warren, director of scientific affairs at the Sense of Smell Institute, the most sensual scent out there. This is because jasmine contains the chemical indole. The plant releases this strong-smelling compound to attract pollinating insects. As it turns out, indole is also present in the human body. More specifically, our “nether regions,” Refinery29 revealed.
Like musk, jasmine is one of the more carnal scents one can wear. And you don’t need to bathe in jasmine petals to capture the scent. “Almost all jasmine perfumes are indolic,” perfume specialist Victoria Frolova confirmed to Byrdie. Although indole has an almost mothball-like scent when concentrated, the fragrance pairs perfectly with other florals. In the end, jasmine works to create a “a complex, rich note with many nuances, such as green, fruity, even leathery.” When speaking to Refinery29, esteemed perfumer Christine Nagel said that jasmine exudes “an optimistic solar scent, but with a sensual facet.” And it’s downright irresistible.
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