One of the givens of the heterosexual male condition is a desire to be considered attractive to women. As such, the idea that human pheromones can be distilled into a cologne that will act as an effective aphrodisiac, a love scent that will send the opposite sex wild, has an almost atavistic power, seemingly promising a simple solution and a scientific shortcut to increasing female interest in any man wearing such a scent.
The reality, however, is more complicated. The effect pheromones have on humans is a debated point in scientific circles, regardless of the claims of perfumers who produce pheromone colognes. Brenda Patoine, writing for The Dana Foundation, makes the observation that: “for all the recent attention focused on these ‘love chemicals’ by researchers and the media, what’s often lost on the public (and in the hype of marketing claims from some fragrance makers) is that no one has yet proven that pheromones exist in humans”.
No Proof That Human Pheromone Love Scents Work
Patoine raises a good point. To date, over 50 years after the discovery of pheromones, there are no peer-reviewed studies that prove conclusively that pheromones such as those found in men’s colognes that are marketed as having an aphrodisiac effect actually do make a man more appealing to the opposite sex.
On the contrary, what science there is suggests that a significant percentage of the female population may be repelled by some of the ingredients used in pheromone colognes, such as Androstenone. The compound Androstenone, derived from the male steroid Testosterone, is excreted in male sweat, saliva and urine, and is alleged to reinforce masculine characteristics.
Therefore, men who produce the greatest quantities of this pheromone should be innately more attractive to women. And this would perhaps be so if it were not for a mechanism of the human immune system called the Major Histocompatibility Complex.
Aphrodisiac Pheromone Versus Genetic Difference
The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) has a significant olfactory role to play in sexual selection. Biologist Claus Wedekind demonstrated in his 1995 study “MHC-Dependent Mate Preferences in Human” that women are most attracted to males who are the most genetically different. This genetic difference provides more opportunity for offspring to have more resilient immune systems, who will inherit the resistances to diseases innate to both parents.
The delivery system for expressing male genetic makeup is through scent, excreted in the male sweat, saliva and urine, just like Androstenone. The preference, then, in choice of partner, is not based on the quantity of Androstenone exuded by a man, but the quality of his genetic difference as determined by excreted MHC proteins and the discretion of the female nose.
Human Pheromones May Have a Positive Effect
So, do pheromone colognes act as a natural love scent for attracting women? According to the current scientific literature, unfortunately for men, no, they do not.
This is not to say that the pheromone scents currently available are without worth. The majority of men purchasing such a product are likely unaware that conventional wisdom suggests that the ingredients of their new cologne will not make them magnets for the opposite sex. Their faith in the efficacy of pheromones may not have a noticeable effect of the women around them, but it may have a positive effect on the wearer of the scent.
While pheromones scents might not make the wearer more attractive, the boost in self-esteem and confidence generated by wearing the scent might well garner welcome attention from the opposite sex. As such, while a genuine love scent may yet remain elusive, pheromone colognes are not necessarily useless as a means to increase male attractiveness.