General Question

delirium's avatar

What causes a persons unique natural smell?

Asked by delirium (13691points) July 3rd, 2008 from iPhone

I know it has nothing to do with any products. My SO’s scent is always the same and has this incredible ability to make me content and safe and happy. Is it pheramonal? I’ve noticed this with other people as well. They all elicit different reactions from me.

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19 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

I always thought it was what you put in your body that causes that unique smell. But since that changes, I’m not sure. Pheremones is a good answer. You’re the scientist, you tell me. :) I LOVE the way my honey smells as well.

delirium's avatar

it is the smell of contentment. I wish I could just bury my nose in him and breath him in. (more than I already do, of course)

shrubbery's avatar

I was just thinking about this today! Is someone’s smell a contributing factor in your attraction for them, or do you grow to like their smell after being attracted to them?

brownlemur's avatar

It also has to do with you and the way your olfactory receptors work in combination with different arrays of odorants. What smells wonderful and comfortable to you might smell offensive to someone else.

sndfreQ's avatar

Yes, and to add to these insights, I also believe scent and memory are linked in a profound way, unlike other senses and memory; my mom always used to tell me this story about how when she was 3 years old, her mom was hospitalized for a month (a difficult labor with their second child), and the nanny kept my mom swathed in her mom’s clothes at night to get her to fall asleep.

Maybe the olfactory receptors in your case may also be linked to positive memories of your beau, and this plays out when you are in close contact.

Whenever I smell Polo cologne in the air, it always triggers negative emotions and memories of my step dad from my childhood, for example (besides that scent being repugnant in its own right).

Just my two ‘scents’...

brownlemur's avatar

Yes, there is a pathway from the olfactory bulb to the rest of the brain, and essentially there is a direct pathway to the hippocampus (responsible for much of the brain’s memory). Very very cool stuff indeed.

Tennis5tar's avatar

If someone smells good to you it means their immune system is highly compatible with yours. If you like the smell of eachother it’s a sign that your children will have a strong immune system. Natural scent is supposed to attract you to the best person for you to pro-create with.

I don’t have a source but I saw it on a TV program.

tinyfaery's avatar

What about those of the LGBT persuasion? I don’t think that answer fits.

andrew's avatar

@del: Check out Molecule 01 for a special treat for your SO. It’s a single molecule fragrance that reacts uniquely with your body chemistry… it hardly smells on me, but on my SO it definitely smells differently.

It might drive you crazy!

Tennis5tar's avatar

The answer still fits. Regardless of gender, if two immune systems are compatable you will smell fantastic to eachother. Whether you pro-create or not is irrelevant, it’s just kind of a sign to say you’d have healthy children if you did.

brownlemur's avatar

@Tennis5tar – Yes, the immune system may play a role – there is much research being done right now on MHC, or the Major Histocompatability Complex. This particular research is beyond my ken, so I’ll leave it up to you to find out more.

marinelife's avatar

This interesting article reports results from a Swedish study showing differences in attraction to scents by straights and gays. Here is the excerpt relevant to this discussion:

” In May researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm announced that gay men and straight women respond similarly to hormonal sex scents, and differently than straight men do. As for lesbians-well, it’s complicated and inconclusive.

Using brain imaging, the scientists studied responses to a testosterone derivative in men’s sweat, called AND, and an estrogen-related compound in women’s urine, called EST. They found that sniffs of EST activated the ordinary olfactory region in straight women and gay men but fired up the hypothalamus, a region of the brain connected to sexual behavior, in straight men. Meanwhile, AND activated straight men’s olfactory while firing up the hypothalamus in straight women and gay men.”

It seems then, del, that guys scents are “flavored” by their hormones as are women’s. I sos totally agree experientially. I love my honey’s smell!

tinyfaery's avatar

I just don’t see how anything having to do with reproduction would have anything to do with gay men and lesbians loving the scent of each others pheromones. If it had to do with reproduction, shouldn’t those of the same sex not react toward each other? They have no possibilities of reproducing. Is this an argument for the biology of homosexuality?

marinelife's avatar

@tinyfaery I quoted the part of the study that was on topic. Leaving out the gay aspect, what the study says is that when women are given a female scent to smell, it triggers the olfactory portion of their brain just like any other scent. When they are given a man scent to smell, it triggers a section of the hypothalamus, an area of the brain dealing with sexual behavior. The same is true for men regarding male and female scents.

The key things to not in relation to the question are as follows:

1. Our scents have male or female hormones in them that we give off.

2. Our scents are perceived by members of the opposite sex in the region of the brain dealing with sex and attraction. So scents do seem to play a role in who we are attracted to.

generalspecific's avatar

that’s so interesting. i have this specific scent that i’ve smelled on boys before and it just makes me feel really safe and at home.. like, it brings back memories or something and i never could explain it but i wondered if it had anything to do with that sort of thing. so basically what i’m trying to say it, greaaaat question! something i’ve always wondered.

emilyrose's avatar

A friend of mine shared with me a story a few years ago which I recently saw published in Psychology magazine. They asked a bunch of women to smell dirty tee shirts from various men and pick their favorite. The women who were pregnant or on the pill had a hard time picking a fave, but the other women picked men with whom they would create strong offspring with. This doesn’t account for LGBT folks though. Anyway, since reading the study I always try to pick up on a man’s scent to decide if I like it or not. One of the women interviewed for this study said she knew she was going to marry the man she eventually did marry the second she smelled him!

ninjaxmarc's avatar

my girlfriends would just bury themselves in my chest and they would feel so right at home and fall asleep like babies.

They say its a specific smell that I emit probably mixture of the bodywash and my natural oils. Its a smell they could not describe but they would just love to smell all day. When I would be gone for a few days they would ask for a sweater I have worn for sleeping purposes.

hearkat's avatar

My ex-bf was the first with whom I experienced this… he smoked, which normally nauseates me, but he could come in from having a cigarette and I couldn’t smell it.

My current beau also smells good all the time… even after getting grimy working in the yard, he just smells like comfort to me.

I have always assumed this is what was referred to as pheromones, which I had previously thought of as nonsense… but the first time I caught myself pressing my face into one of my ex’s shirts after he had gone somewhere, I knew it must be real.

Shegrin's avatar

My mother says my stepfather smells like cookies right out of the oven to her. I think he smells like a greasy mechanic. Because he is one. A mechanic, not a cookie. Anyway, I think that a person’s scent has a lot to do with how attracted you are to them, regardless of sexual orientation.
Has anyone come across scent studies in bisexual humans? How is it explained that we can feel just as safe and at home with a particular man as we can with a particular woman? I’m not saying every man or every woman I come across. It’s only once in a while that I am drawn like vampires to a fairy (thank you, Charlaine Harris!).
The whole topic is fascinating to me. Can anyone recommend some scientific journals with articles/papers about this topic?

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