Love At First Sight: The Science Behind Pheromone Attraction

Updated March 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever been attracted to someone as soon as you meet them, but you didn’t know why? Maybe you didn’t see anything remarkable in their appearance, but there you were, standing right next to them, and you suddenly felt attracted to them. Love at first sight, lust, and intense attraction can all be a part of a pheromonal attraction that is common in humans and other animal species. Pheromone signals can cause you to act in a way that you can’t explain.  

Pheromone Attraction

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

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

What's The Connection Between Sexual Attraction And Pheromones?

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

Androsterone is a human sexual pheromone that is produced by the adrenal glands, testes, and ovaries and is released through sweat, skin, hair, and urine. Women also produce and release the pheromone but at a rate four times less than men. This pheromone is also produced by the sex glands and secreted through sebaceous glands as smegma from the sex organs of men and women. 

How Do Men And Women Differ With Pheromones And Attraction?

Learn About Pheromones And Attraction

Women also produce a sex pheromone called copulin in addition to androsterone. Men do not produce copulin, however, and the pheromone seems to correlate to women's menstrual cycle when measuring amounts of the pheromone.

The levels of pheromones a person is producing may influence their sexual behavior and sexual motivation heavily. People who produce an elevated level of pheromones tend to have sex more often, feel more confident and sexually attractive, and bond with others. High levels of pheromones may also make people more sexually attractive to others and therefore encourage more attention and social engagement.

People who have a love-at-first-sight reaction to someone or who feel a strong attraction to another person are usually experiencing a pheromone attraction. The same can be said when you meet someone and automatically feel unattracted to them. When you meet someone and do not like them for seemingly no reason, you could be having a pheromonal reaction to the person. In these cases, your pheromones may be telling you that this person is not a genetically appealing match for reproduction. 

Pheromones And Attraction

Pheromones are not just 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 always moved toward the pad that belonged to the mother. These studies suggest that we can detect each other through unique smells produced by pheromones. This type is what’s known as signaler pheromones.

Pheromones And Moods

Pheromones have also been known to 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. Men also were more relaxed, and their sexual arousal levels were lowered when they smelled tears recovered from women while 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 orientation proved that gay men were attracted to the scent of men who were also gay, and the scent of women aroused straight 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 had a 52% improvement in starting conversations and an even better rate of improvement in staying engaged in conversation. They also received more compliments, had noticeable flirting from women 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; 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 found more attractive by their partners.

Although researchers speak of being able to smell pheromones, the putative human pheromone androstadienone, which is perhaps the most well-known pheromone, doesn’t 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 what makes sweat have an odor. It is thought that adult humans don’t have a well-developed vomeronasal organ, which is very pronounced in other animals, but this is something that is 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 means 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 may allow him to see the behavioral responses he wants when he wears this pheromone.

Natural pheromones 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 produced by sweat. For example, a man’s sweat can alter levels of their human sex pheromone. If you are sweating, pheromones might be present on your skin and in your hair. Exercising also rids 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. There are a few supplements that are said to increase testosterone, including zinc. There are also products on the market with dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA. This chemical is naturally produced in the body and seems to be a precursor to the 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.

The Future Of Pheromones

Learn About Pheromones And Attraction

Researchers are still studying and beginning to uncover more information about human pheromones and 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 help manage mood, relax, or reduce anxiety and depression. Pheromones are also showing to be useful in sex counseling for couples that want to improve intimacy, especially older adults.

As pheromones become more popular and funding becomes more available for research, mental health and intimacy may be at the forefront of this 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.


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. BetterHelp can match you with an online counselor who can discuss ways to increase your confidence and self-esteem, even without pheromone therapy or treatment. Research has shown online therapy to be just as effective as traditional in-person therapy. With BetterHelp, you can communicate with a therapist via video or phone, in addition to using the in-app messaging feature. Take the first step and contact BetterHelp today.

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