What determines attractiveness? On how pheromones and other odours affect sexual attraction and fertility

What determines attractiveness?

It is generally accepted as common knowledge how women will feel more sexually attracted to masculin men, but will take far more factors into account when they select future spouses, for which they prefer reliable men who will help raise her offspring.

Another assumption is that women will feel most attracted to masculin-looking men at the most fertile phase of their cycle.
In a recent study where women were shown masculinized and feminized faces of the same men, it was concluded that apparently there is no distinct phase in a women's cycle when they feel less or more attracted, but a bigger influence was whether or not they were in a phase of their life in which they desired to have kids.

When hearing about this study, I immediately wondered why they didn't mention attractiveness of body odour?
Would masculin men not also smell differently from feminine men? In a similar vein, they could have modulated a man's own smell by adding perfume that is perceived as masculin or feminine.

Whomever has followed threads on any perfume forum or has watched popular perfume reviews on Youtube will know that one of the most often asked questions by young and inexperienced men is, "what fragrance is a 'panty dropper'?" In other words, will this fragrance make me so irresistible that women will want to have sex with me?"

Nearly invariable the experts will exclaim in unison: there are many more factors that define attractiveness and scents, preferred by one woman will not be enjoyed by someone else.
Nonetheless 'top 10 sexy fragrances' for men and to a lesser extent, those for women are incredibly popular.

We are presenting two such list from the same source

The Sexiest Women's Perfume

14. Taylor Swift Women's Wonderstruck
13. Guerlain My Insolence
12. Britney Spears Women's Fantasy
11. Yves Saint Laurent Mon Paris
10. Victoria's Secret Bombshell
9. Dior Hypnotic Poison
8. Lancôme La vie est Belle
7. Coco Chanel edp
6. Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue
5. Marc Jacobs Daisy
4. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb
3. Dior J'adore
2. Tom Ford Black Orchid
1. Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium

Best Colognes for Gentlemen

17. Giorgio Armani Code Colonia edt
16. Gucci Guilty Eau Pour Homme
15. Tom Ford Grey Vetiver edp
14. Nautica Voyage edt
13. Valentino Uomo Intense edp
12. Azzaro Wanted for Men edt
11. Creed Aventus
10. Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio edc
9. Guess Seductive Homme Blue
8. Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb edt
7. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male edt
6. Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme Ultime
5. Jimmy Choo Man Intense
4. Christian Dior Sauvage
3. Paco Rabanne 1 Million edc
2. Versace Eros
1. Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit De L'homme

So let's move on to how scent and pheromones determine attractiveness.

Odour and emotions are processed in the same area of the brain, the limbic system which is often referred to as the lizard brain or the primitive brain. This most ancient of senses is anatomically connected to the basic emotional pathways that are also involved in the fight-or-flight response and other fundamental emotional responses and states.
The limbic system is defined as a complex system of structues and networks in the brain, governing feelings, motivation, and mood. The limbic system controls basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (hunger, sex, dominance and care of offspring). It is comprised of the hypothalamus, hippocampus and amygdala.
The hypothalamus receives messages from the olfactory nerves which similarly provide information that helps regulate appetite and sexuality.
The limbic system influences the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system and is highly interconnected with the brain's emotion, behaviour and pleasure scenters, all of which play a role in sexual function.
We need not be consciously aware of an odour to have it affect us emotionally. This is why low levels of fragrance are often used in shopping malls, to influence our purchases.

The sense of smell is so important that it is the only sense that is fully developed at birth and in fact, babies can even smell while in the womb. In all animals, including humans, babies bond with their mothers through the sense of smell.

Each person has an odour print as unique as their fingerprint. It is influenced by diet, gender, heredity, health, medication, occupation, emotional state, and mood.

Scientists are now finally investigating how pheromones affect our attreaction to the opposite sex and our own sexual behaviour.
While animal pheromones were known for much longer, scientists have only recently acknowledged human pheromones.
It was then believed how pheromones don't necessarily act as sex attractants, but are indicators of the health of a woman's reproductive system.

Some research suggests the use of contraceptive pills could disrupt our mating preferences by having an effect on olfaction-driven behavioural choices. Genes in the major histocomptibility complex (MHC) govern our personal odour.  
Females often prefer the odour of MHC-dissimilar males. Apparently women, instinctively sniff out a mate with a genetic complex different from our own to insure our offspring's MHC genes are more diverse and will promote stronger immunity in them.
Women using oral hormonal contraceptives have been reported to have the opposite preference, choosing MHC-similar males, suggesting that human modification of hormones and personal odour may directly affect our unconscious reproductive choices.

There is little information on how scent and pheromones affect men. In one such study it was acknowledged scents stimulate male sexual arousal and behaviour, though it found no support for a link to pheromones.
Another study reported men's testosterone is influenced by olfactory cues in women during ovulation.
There's a growing body of evidence indicating that men are attracted to cues of impending ovulation in women, raising the question whether women's cycling hormones influence men's attraction and sexual approach behaviour.
When it was researched what men found arousing it was found that lavender and pumpkin pie odour was most effective.

Pheromones are odoriferous and nonodoriferous substances chemically similar to hormones but are manufactured by the sweat glands.
Sweat glands occur in the armpits, face, chest, anal and genital regions and are ativated at puberty.
Before puberty, a child's perspiration has no odour. This makes perfect sense as their is no need to 'signal readiness' before we are fertile.
Females have a keener sense of smell than males. This may account for the greater prevalence of odour-related complaints from females, e.g. sick-building or chemical intolerance syndromes. Women apparently have up to 50% more olfactory neurons.

It is interesting that girls who are separated from boys in adolescense (as in same-sex boarding schools) generally go through puberty later than girls in a co-ed setting.
Adult male underarm scent was able to regulate female cycles. In half of the women with irregular menstrual cycles, exposure to male underarm scent made their cycles go back to normal. It was already known for much longer how women's cycles will synchronize when they spend a lot of time together.

The ability to detect odours is lowest at menstruation and peaks at ovulation when olfactory sensitivity increases. This makes biological sense as peak fertility occurs when women are most aware of sexual attractants and when they most signal fertile readinuess.
As fertility peaks, a women's sense of smell sharpens. By contrast, the use of contraceptives may blunt olfactory acuity.
When both naturally cycling women and those on contraception were exposed to both natural odours of lemon, peppermint, rose, musk as well as male pheromones androstenone and androsterone, naturally cycling women near ovulation were more sensitive to musk and phermones.
Air-borne fragrant pheromone would activate brain centers even when present at concentrations below a threshold of conscious detection.
After menopause, women's ability to detect musky odours greatly declines. This can be explained by the fact how animal musk molecules closely resemble human testosterone and already can be detected in minute quantities.
Although there is no biological reason for a postmenopausal woman to be attracted to male scent after she is no longer fertile, it is interesting to note how the ability to detect musk is restored when Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is given.
Fertile women exposed to a musk odour had shorter menstrual cycles, ovulated more often and conceived more easily.
Also, people with olfactory disorders often lose interest in sex.

Schizophrenic, depressives, migrain sufferers and very-low-weight anorexics often experience olfactory deficits or dysfunction.
Certain psychiatric disorders are so closely linked to specific olfactory deficits that smell tests should be part of diagnostic procedures.
Zinc supplements have been shown to be successful in treating some smell and taste disordres.
One of the most delightful discoveries is how even happiness can be conveyed by scent. A sad person will feel happier when being with a happy person as the sweat of a happy person can induce happiness in one who inhales that odour.

Us human beings have a lot more in common with other animals than we often proclaim to be!

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