The Science Behind Pheromones Attraction

By: Sarah Fader

Updated July 09, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Nicole J. Johnson

Have you ever been attracted to someone as soon as you meet them, but you do not know why? Maybe they are just average looking, they are not wearing fancy clothes or showing off in a way that would attract someone, but there you are, standing right next to them, and you are feeling suddenly attracted to the person? Love at first sight, lust and intense attraction can all be a part of a pheromonal attraction that is common humans and other animal species.

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Scientists in Osmology have determined that both sexes 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.

Sexual Attraction And Pheromones

Androsterone is a pheromone that makes men sexually appeal to women. Only 10% of the male population secretes an abundant amount of the pheromone, and these men are considered the sexiest or desirable in the population. Some of these men may not even be physically attractive; however, the pheromone Androsterone changes the way people perceive their desirability.

Androsterone is produced by the adrenal gland, testes, and ovaries, and is released through a man's 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 in both the male and female sex organs as smegma and has masculinizing effects on men.

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 a women's menstrual cycle when measuring amounts of the pheromone.

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

Pheromones can also have the opposite effect and make you sexually repellent to some. 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 repelled by them. When you meet someone and do not like them, for seemingly no reason, you are probably having a pheromonal reaction to the person. In these cases, your pheromones are telling you that this person is not a genetically appealing match for reproduction.

Sexual Decline And Pheromones

As people age, the number of pheromones they produce begins to decline. The drop in both pheromones and hormones that happens around 40-50 years of age can leave people feeling sexually unattractive, lonely, detached, irritable, depressed, and have low self-esteem.

Dr. Winnifred Cutler with the Athena Institute published many studies that showed post-menopausal women over 40 were found to be less attractive by men because of the decline in their hormone and pheromone production. Dr. Cutler, along with psychiatrists and researchers from Harvard completed a study on post-menopausal women who wore pheromones with perfume or topical treatment was found more attractive by men afterward.

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Other Importance Of Pheromones

Pheromones are not just produced for sexual attraction. Numerous research studies have been done on breastfed newborns and their mother's. When two breast pads were placed on either side of a newborn, one the mother's and the other a stranger's, the newborn would always root towards the pad that belonged to its mother. These studies prove that we can detect each other through unique smell produced by pheromones.

Pheromones have also been known to be able to alter human moods. A pheromone secreted by the areolar glands in breastfeeding mothers can make childless women feel happy and the scent secreted by fear hormones through perspiration can raise another person's anxiety levels when detected by smell. Studies also show that women are more relaxed around men who produce androstadiene, a hormone that comes from testosterone. Men also were more relaxed, and their sexual arousal levels lowered when they smelled tears collected from women while crying during a sad movie.

Pheromones also have a link to human sexuality. A 2005 study 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

Because pheromones can increase your attractiveness and lead to a better sex life, 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 saw improvement in getting compliments, noticeable flirting from the opposite sex and a 40% increase in female sexual responsiveness.

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In the same study, females who used topical pheromones found themselves asked on dates more often and an increase in foreplay during sexual activity. 74% of the females 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, these chemicals don't have an odor that we can consciously detect with our noses. Specific areas of our nasal tissues process pheromones and send messages to the brain about the scent even though we don't smell it. Pheromones are present in sweat, but the chemicals are not what makes sweat have an odor.

Winnifred Cutler, one of the co-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 chemist to have the same effect as natural pheromones. This means that a man that does not produce must androsterone could potentially wear a synthetic version of the pheromone that would have the same sex appeal affect as the natural chemical.

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

  • Exercise regularly- Pheromones are produced by sweat. You don't want to walk about sweaty all day, but chances are if you are sweating more often those pheromones might be hanging around on your skin and in your hair. Exercising also rids your body of toxins, and when your pores are clearer, the pheromones you produce are stronger. For men, regular exercise also increases testosterone levels.
  • 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 can boost sexual pheromone production. Most of the products have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration nor are their claims always clinically proven.

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The Future Of Pheromones

Researchers are still studying and beginning to uncover more information about human pheromones. The most compelling uses for pheromones include using them for therapy and medication. Pheromones can be used to help regulate or improve mood, relax, or reduce anxiety, lift mood, or decrease depression, and other psychiatric benefits. Pheromones are also showing to be useful in sex counseling for couples that have lost intimacy or are struggling with intimacy, especially older adults.

As pheromones become more popular and funding becomes more available for research, mental health will take a forefront to research. A healthy sex life can have tremendous mental health and emotional benefits. Pheromones are also instrumental in improving self-esteem and confidence because of the increased attention and attraction that they have a hand in.

If you are struggling with depression, sexual health, intimacy, self-esteem, or confidence, you can start your healing journey with Betterhelp. This site will connect you to online counselors that can be the first step to increasing your attractiveness, confidence, and self-esteem, even without pheromone therapy or treatment.

pheromones attraction

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What role do pheromones play in attraction?

These chemical messengers called pheromones are capable of making us attracted to one another because of its roles. When they are released, they can stimulate our arousal, sexual desire and increase our hormone levels and fertility. Apart from the sexual roles that pheromones play, they also alter moods by elevating them. In the same vein, an infant can connect with the mother by detecting the smell of the mother's pheromones.

Primarily, the two main types of pheromones that strongly contribute to the sexual attraction are the signal and primer. For the signal pheromones, they basically serve as repellants and attractants. The signal pheromones are the impermanent types of pheromones. On the other hand, the primer pheromones cause a more extensive change in hormone production and human behavior.

2. Do pheromones play a role in human attraction?

When it comes to human attraction, pheromones have been shown to affect our levels of attraction to the opposite sex actively. Our sexual arousal is stimulated, and we may begin to desire sexual relations with other people. Also, because of the elevation of moods caused by pheromones, we can become happier people, and social engagement becomes easier. Away from the sexuality front, it is also involved in the mother and child bonding.

Pheromones are well known to strongly stimulate sexual arousal, hormone levels, or desire. Typically, pheromones are sensed by smell produced by the saliva, sweat, or urine. Scientists have attributed the vomeronasal organ to be capable of detecting pheromones. However, study also shows that the nose may not be the organ for human attraction.

3. Do pheromones make you more attractive?

A number of studies have revealed that pheromones make you more attractive. You will become more sexually appealing to others. This, in turn, will make a person get more attention and social engagement. You will go on more date nights, get more kisses, smooching, and many other intense sexual activities. Nowadays, some perfumes include what they call an unsuspecting pheromone.

Generally, this plays a strong role in calling for sexual attraction. However, the degree to which you are attractive is very dependent on the people you are attracted to; hence, the process is selective. However, please note that there’s more to pheromones. They have more roles to play other than just attraction. Some of the other functions are reproductive synchrony or territorial marking.

4. Can you smell someone's pheromones?

The nose or the olfactory system as a whole has been said to be involved in smelling pheromones. The pheromones are present in body secretions such as sweat, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and certain other body fluids. The odor of the chemicals can be smelled through clothes, sweat from underarm movements, nose contact, etc.

In most cases, pheromones can be detected by the nose or the entire olfactory system. Sometimes, perfume makers or producers include some pheromones to help with sexual attraction. Usually, pheromones come from sweat glands, saliva, or even urine.

5. Can you be attracted to someone's pheromones?

Our pheromones could give us away without our knowledge. Some scents smell way nicer to you than some others. It is because certain body scents are directly connected to the human attraction. The ability to smell pheromones help us to subconsciously recognize a potential compatible mate for reproduction. This is possible because you are attracted to some pheromones than the other.

Depending on the stage of a person’s pheromones, it greatly affects a person's sexual activity. You can be greatly attracted to someone’s pheromone. Usually, staying next to that person may make you feel intoxicated. However, debates are still on for whether or not the trade is long term. Typically, those who get attracted at first sight may be expressing some symptoms of the natural pheromones.

6. What smell turns a man on?

Certain smells could turn a man on. These smells are aphrodisiac in nature. They include the scents given off by lavender, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, bergamot, pumpkin pie, vanilla, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, and many others. These scents are capable of arousing both men and women. Pheromones in scents may also be strong agents of attraction. Normally, most people have a little of pheromones in their scents or aftershaves.

7. Do pheromones attract guys?

Guys are attracted to scents given off by actual or potential partners. The bodies give off a scent, and the best smells are perceived by guys who are genetically compatible with us for sexual pleasure and procreation. Generally, guys are attracted to good scents. However, guys are proven to be more attracted to pheromones. For guys, pheromones are detectable in the olfactory system. Most people don't recognize this, however, because humans underrate their smell to a large extent. Pheromones are most concentrated in the auxiliary sweat glands.

8. What is a woman's natural scent called?

A woman's natural scent may be determined by the pheromone produced. Women produce both Androsterone and copulin. The natural scent varies with the menstrual cycle. Some studies revealed that women's scent smells most pleasantly during ovulation. Typically, a woman’s natural scent is called androstadienone. The smell of a woman has a big part to play in how she relates. Usually, women with good smells have very good hygiene. On the other hand, those with low levels of hygiene may not smell so good. Although, sometimes, a woman's natural scent goes beyond average hygiene practice. Pheromones always have a big part to play.

9. What hormone attracts males to females?

The hormone called Androsterone given off by a man can make the woman's heart race faster and elevate her mood as well. Hence, she may find that man attractive. There’s a hormone that usually attracts a man to a woman naturally. It may be testosterone in some cases in men. On the other hand, estrogen also has a big part to play in attracting males and females. Typically, testosterone in males and estrogen in females drive sexual drive or lust. On the other hand, hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine create attraction. Vasopressin and oxytocin are more responsible for controlling attachment.

10. Do pheromones really affect human behavior?

Pheromone levels of a person affect sexuality, attractiveness, social engagement, confidence level, mother-infant bonding, and other human behaviors. They can modify moods by increasing happiness and confidence levels. The modification of moods plays a big role in involvement in social activities. In humans, there are low levels of pheromones. Study shows that the common pheromones AND and EST may not be present in humans. However, there might be tiny levels of pheromones in humans that play a role in human behavior.

11. Can a man sense when a woman is ovulating?

A man can sense when a woman is ovulating because of the pheromone released at such times. It has been said that the attractiveness of a woman's smell is at the maximum around ovulation. Study shows that the olfactory cues in women that show a lady’s ovulation can attract men to have sexual intercourse with them. Generally, a man can sense when a woman is sometimes ovulating by smell. During this period of ovulation, men can sense that a woman is more attractive. Study also shows that during the period of ovulation, guys become more attentive and generally more jealous of their partners.

12. Can you smell a woman's pheromones?

A woman's pheromones may be smelled by the human olfactory system. These chemical compounds are released in sweat, urine, vagina secretions, etc. Some studies have gone further to show that breath can also emit pheromones. There’s a very high tendency that you’re able to sense a woman’s pheromones usually when she’s ovulating. However, this smell can be traced to the function of the olfactory system, i.e., the nose. In a woman, pheromones may also be present in their auxiliary sweat. In this sweat, you can find a hormone called 16-androstenes, which is normally odorous.

13. Can a man smell pheromones?

Some studies show that a man with a functional olfactory system should be able to smell pheromones. This will help to determine how attracted he is as he is subconsciously in search of a mate. However, some studies also show that there’s a tendency that pheromones are odorless and may be undetectable. Overall, this usually depends on the level of pheromones and the sensitivity of the olfactory system.

14. Can a man be attracted to a woman's scent?

Studies have shown that men can be attracted to the scent of women around them. It is also a recognized fact that a woman's scent is more pleasant at some times of the month. Hence, the attraction of a man may also vary with these times. Men tend to be attracted to a woman’s scent mostly if it’s one of the aphrodisiac scents. For instance, they get attracted to black pepper, bergamot, grapefruit, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, and ginger. More of the scents that not only attract a man to a woman but also arouse the man are lavender, doughnuts, and pumpkin.


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