Could the real reason you’re single lie in your daily spritz?…
‘I love it’, said the lady I was helping many moons ago at the fancy cosmetics store where I worked while at university. But before I could finish my sales spiel she interrupted and said, ‘I have to see if my husband likes it before I buy it’. Say what now!? Who cares if he likes it or not, you like it I thought as I begrudgingly subtracted the sale from my newly tallied takings. Fast forward 10 years and single me wonders if she was on to something…
As a feminist I hate the fact that I would even consider what the opposite sex thinks about what I do, let alone what perfume I wear. But times are hard, and I’m willing to give anything a go to up my dating odds. Perhaps I too should tap into the plethora of sexy scents with campaigns that allude to the ability to raise the attraction stakes of the wearer. But do any of these actually have any scientific backing?
‘They do and they don’t,’ reveals perfumer John Stephen. ‘Our own natural scent has a major impact on our love lives, and it’s all down to our MHC,’ he adds. ‘These are the group of genes essential to our immune system; the way we naturally smell is influenced by them. Through smell we are able to subconsciously determine if someone is a genetic match. The ideal mate would be someone who is immune to the diseases that you are not and who is as genetically different to us as possible,’ says Stephen. This means that if your Netflix and chill resulted in offspring, it would have the best chance of survival due to its diverse immune system. I wondered then if it was worth ditching fragrances (scented shower gels and moisturisers too) and going au natural. Day one began with a fragrance free face and body cleanser. I skipped my usual skincare – it’s scented too, and used a crystal deodorant – something I’d never been keen on as it’s not an antiperspirant. However, in this case a little sweat might actually work in my favour. The goal after all is for my MHC to catch the nose of a potential date and see if eau d’Amerley really works. Hmm – no double takes on the tube or knowing looks at the office, no takers on the way home either – this wasn’t going well. As I wondered whether I should persevere with my experiment I received an alert from happn – I’d been sent a charm. Then ‘happn boy’ messaged and before I knew it, I had told him I was researching scent for work – which is when he revealed he had a really strong sense of smell – bingo, I’d found my test subject!
If like me you’re signed up to a few dating apps but have found the chemistry that you had over text isn’t there in the flesh, chances are it’s your MHC. ‘That’s why the T-shirt sniffing dating services aren’t as barmy as you may think,’ says evolutionary anthropologist Dr Anna Machin. Companies like Smell Dating get singletons to wear the same t-shirt for three days and then they send them out for other singles to sniff. The person you end up meeting for a date will be the owner of the scent you find yourself most drawn to. Bearing this in mind, I went for drinks with ‘happy boy’ in a top I’d worn the day before and as we chatted, I noticed him getting closer. As the date came to an end it was clear he was into me, he even said I smelt nice – so perhaps there was something to this MHC thing. But what do you do if you actually enjoy wearing perfume? Thankfully, Professor Barry Smith from the Centre for the Study of the Senses, points out that, ‘we tend to choose perfumes that are very similar to our own scent, and some fragrance notes are proven to have an impact on how attractive we are to others.’
It’s apt then that patchouli is the unofficial scent of the free loving hippie, as it can majorly increase your levels of attractiveness due to its immune boosting prowess. Now, although a stronger immune system won’t change your genes and therefore can’t change your MHC it can help you avoid getting ill and looking sickly. Studies* show that people deem those with pale sallow skin less attractive than those with a healthier complexion. Then there’s natural jasmine, which contains a small percentage of indole, secreted by the flower to deter insects; needless to say it doesn’t smell particularly nice. When participants in a study** were asked if they preferred scent A (natural jasmine) or scent B (synthetic jasmine with no indole) the majority chose the natural jasmine even though it has an element of unpleasantness to it. It’s the ‘contrast effect’, explains Smith. ‘The test proved that more areas of the brain are activated when encountering a complex scent and this is part of the secret of why some fragrances grab our attention more than others’, he adds. So if you don’t want your crush to walk right past you, choose complex notes with that element of nasty and nice to keep him intrigued. Yet for every man that’s drawn to a fiery, intriguing jasmine wearing woman, there’s another who is looking for safety, reliability and comfort. That’s where rose comes in. If you are drawn to rose notes you may well become the queen of his heart as rose is scientifically proven to be one of the most amiable scents around. The trigeminal nerve found in the face, serves the eyes, the nose and mouth and reacts to smells and tastes translating them into tingling, stinging, burning or cooling sensations. Rose is one of the very few non-trigeminal stimulants and has no such effect, which is why so many of us consider it to be a pleasing and calming scent. Plus, in 2014 research*** revealed that women’s faces are rated more attractive in the presence of a rose scent.
Armed with all my findings I whittled down the latest fragrances to a handful that included these all important seductive notes, and chose my favorite to ensure I complimented my MHC. And if happn boy’s reaction on date two is anything to go by, I’m clearly on to a winner.
Love at first Whiff
The Cotswold Perfumery Rosa Flower Water, from £13.95/25ml
Less grandma and more seductress, this is packed with a variety of roses but smells incredibly fresh and true to life.
Charlotte Tilbury Scent of a Dream, from £49/30ml
A triple whammy of erotic notes, you’ll find rose oil and patchouli present as well as pheromone-esque ambroxin that’s activated by your own body heat.
Burberry My Burberry Black, from £65/50ml
An intense and sensual scent bursting with fruits and florals anchored by immune boosting patchouli.
Liz Earle Botanical Essence No9 EDP, £49/50ML
The natural jasmine present in this botanical blend results in an alluring and complex olfactory experience.