Love At First Sight: The Science Behind Pheromone Attraction

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever been attracted to someone as soon as you met them, but you didn’t know why? Maybe you didn’t notice anything remarkable about their appearance, but you suddenly felt attracted to them. The concept of love at first sight, as well as lust and intense attraction, may be due to a pheromonal attraction that can be common in humans and other animal species. Pheromones can be defined as chemicals that can stimulate hormone levels, sexual arousal, and other responses when released. It can be possible to increase your pheromones with regular exercise and the use of supplements, although it’s always recommended to consult your doctor before adding any kind of supplement to your regime. If you’ve encountered challenges with attraction, love, or relationships, working with a therapist online or in person can be helpful.

Pheromone attraction

Scientists in osmology have determined that individuals in the same species are often attracted to each other through chemical messengers. These chemicals, pheromones, can stimulate sexual arousal, desire, hormone levels, and even fertility when released. Pheromones are typically detected through smell and produced through sweat, saliva, and urine.

The first pheromone thought to be discovered was present in female moths and is known as bombykol. In animals, pheromones are normally used to signal others within the same species when it is time to mate or be territorial.

What's the connection between sexual attraction and pheromones?

Androsterone, or androstenol, is generally defined as a putative human pheromone that may make men sexually appealing to women. Only 10% of men are typically believed to secrete an abundant amount of the pheromone, and these men may be considered desirable. Androsterone can change the way people perceive someone’s desirability. 

In general, androsterone is a human sexual pheromone that is produced by the adrenal glands, testes, and ovaries, and can be released through sweat, skin, hair, and urine. Women may also produce and release this pheromone, but at a rate four times less than men. This pheromone can also be produced by the sex glands and secreted through the sebaceous glands of male and female sex organs as smegma. 

How do men and women differ with pheromones and attraction?

Learn about pheromones and attraction

Women usually also produce a sex pheromone called copulin in addition to androsterone. Men do not normally produce copulin, however, and the amounts of the pheromone released seem to correlate to women's menstrual cycles.

The levels of pheromones a person produces may heavily influence their sexual behavior and sexual motivation. People who produce an elevated level of pheromones tend to have more frequent sex, feel more confident, and bond more easily with others. High levels of pheromones may also make people appear more sexually attractive to others, potentially encouraging more attention and social engagement.

People who feel a strong attraction to another person or experience “love at first sight” may be experiencing a pheromone attraction. It’s also possible that, when you meet someone and automatically feel unattracted to them, you could be having a pheromonal reaction to the person. Your pheromones could be telling you that this person isn’t a genetically appealing match for reproduction. 

Signaler pheromones

Pheromones may not only be produced for sexual attraction. Numerous research studies have been done on breastfed newborns and their mothers. When two breast pads were placed on either side of a newborn, one the mother's and the other a stranger's, the newborn usually always moved toward the pad that belonged to their mother. These studies suggest that we can detect each other through unique smells produced by signaler pheromones. 

Pheromones and moods

Pheromones can also alter human moods. The scent secreted by fear hormones through perspiration can raise another person's anxiety levels when detected by smell. Studies also show that women tend to be more relaxed around men who produce androstadiene, a hormone that comes from testosterone. In general, men were more relaxed, and their sexual arousal levels were lowered when they smelled tears recovered from women crying during a sad movie.

Pheromones and sexuality

Pheromones may also have a link to human sexuality. A 2005 study that tested individuals of different sexual orientations suggested that homosexual men were attracted to the scent of men who were also homosexual. Meanwhile, the scent of women usually aroused heterosexual men. This test was done through blind sweat-smelling tests.


Increasing your pheromones for attraction

Because pheromones may increase attractiveness, fragrance and cosmetics companies have been working to bottle the scent of pheromones like androsterone into perfumes. Studies using pheromones at The University of Chicago showed that men who used topical pheromones usually had a 52% improvement in starting conversations and an even better rate of improvement in staying engaged in conversation. They also typically received more compliments, experienced noticeable flirting from female recipients, and saw a 40% increase in women’s sexual responsiveness.

In the same study, women who used topical pheromones found themselves asked on dates more often and saw an increase in foreplay during sexual activity. Approximately 74% of the women who participated in the study saw a huge increase in their interactions with men overall, with most reporting having sex more often and receiving more intimacy, such as hugs and cuddling after a sexual act. 

Another study in 2002 by San Francisco State University showed that women who wore synthetic pheromones were usually found more attractive by their partners.

Although researchers sometimes speak of being able to smell pheromones, the putative human pheromone androstadienone, which is perhaps the most well-known pheromones, doesn’t normally have an odor that we can consciously detect with our noses. Specific areas of our nasal tissues may process pheromones and send messages to the brain about the scent, even though we don't smell it. Pheromones are thought to be present in sweat, but the chemicals are not usually what makes sweat have an odor. It is thought that adult humans don’t have a well-developed vomeronasal organ, which is typically very pronounced in other animals, but this is something currently being studied for further comprehension.

Winnifred Cutler, one of the discoverers of pheromones and a reproductive biologist, opened the Athena Institute for Women's Wellness Research and contended that generic substrates could mimic pheromones and react with our body's natural chemistry to have the same effect as natural pheromones. This may mean that a man who does not produce androsterone could potentially wear a synthetic version of the pheromone that would have the same effect as the natural chemical. This could allow him to see the behavioral responses he wants when he wears this pheromone.

Natural pheromones tend to vary from person to person, but there are a few ways in which you might increase your pheromone output if you are looking to do so naturally.

Exercise regularly

Pheromones are often produced by sweat. If you are sweating, pheromones may be present on your skin and in your hair. Exercising can also rid your body of toxins, and when your pores are clearer, the pheromones you produce may be stronger. For men, regular exercise can also increase testosterone levels.

Use supplements

A few supplements can increase testosterone, including zinc. There may also be products on the market with dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. This chemical can be naturally produced in the body and seems to be a precursor to sex pheromones. Taking supplements with DHEA may boost sexual pheromone production. Most of these products have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, nor are their claims always clinically proven, so it’s generally recommended to exercise caution when taking them.

The future of pheromones

Learn about pheromones and attraction

Researchers are generally still studying and beginning to uncover more information about human sex pheromones, including how they relate to reproductive physiology and affect pulsatile secretion. The most compelling uses for pheromones may include using them for therapy and medication. Pheromones might be used to manage mood, induce relaxation, or reduce anxiety and depression. Pheromones may also be useful in sex counseling for couples who want to improve intimacy, especially older adults.

As pheromones become more popular and funding becomes more available, mental health and intimacy may be at the forefront of research. A healthy sex life can have significant mental health and emotional benefits. Pheromones may also be instrumental in improving self-esteem and confidence because of the increased attention and attraction that they may produce.

Online therapy for attraction challenges

If you are experiencing depression or have questions about pheromones, intimacy, self-esteem, or confidence, you can discuss these concerns with an online therapist at BetterHelp. This online therapy platform can match you with an online therapist who can discuss ways to increase your confidence and self-esteem, even without pheromone therapy or treatment. Plus, you can attend sessions from the comfort of your home, which can help you feel more comfortable discussing these types of topics.

Research has shown that online therapy can be just as effective as traditional in-person therapy. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for the professional guidance you deserve.


Pheromones can be involved in attraction, detection, and various other responses. However, in general, more research needs to be done on human pheromones. It can be possible to increase your pheromones by exercising regularly and taking certain supplements, but be sure to consult your doctor before doing so. If you’re interested in pheromones due to difficulties with attraction or relationships, you may find it more helpful to get insight from a licensed therapist. You can connect with a therapist in your local area or through an online therapy platform.
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