Human Pheromones have been a long-debated topic in science. New perfumes come out every year claiming to have human pheromones that will make you more attractive to the opposite sex. The research doesn’t yet know if we can really sniff out human pheromones or if it’s just a smelly coincidence. Studies suggest that there are ways we make inferences on pheromone related smells, though and maybe someday it can become a form communication. To learn more, read ahead to learn more about human pheromones, our evolutionary perfume!
Animal vs. Human Pheromones
Our knowledge of human pheromones is based on evidence of pheromones in animals. Years of research has shown that there is an evolutionary purpose for pheromones’ existence. The pheromones that exist in animals help to chemically communicate, rely and detect the health status or fertility of other animals of the same species. These tiny sets of compounds transmit information as either “signalers”, that tell of a social status or health, or they have an instant behavioral response. Experiments with mice, dogs, and monkeys illustrate pheromones that exist within proteins and those molecules that elicit a response, making it easier for research to be done. A sense of smell, the olfactory system, in pheromones acts as the sensory system responsible for detecting changes in the environment and if compatibility remains in the other being.
When it comes to human pheromones, the research is divided. Studies have observed that ovulation in women and oil or sweat excretions may influence testosterone levels in men. Though, there is currently no sound evidence yet that an observable and behavioral based response is produced and cue by human pheromones. This being said, a working theory currently supports the idea that certain human pheromones can be sensed at birth and regress as newborns develop. Newborn babies have been shown to differentiate among matters like their mother’s smell and the milk of their mother that contains pheromone like substances from secretions of the areola gland.
Science suggests that humans may not contain the high olfactory senses that animals like moths or spiders have, or if we do they are regressed in infancy. Instead, the smells and senses we infer work as scent recognition and detection. Humans use scent recognition as a mechanism of interpreting others’ imprints of behaviors, hygiene, food intake, environment, and even sexual compatibility that may influence socio-sexual contexts, but may not be pheromone based.
Seduction and Pheromone Perfume
Human pheromones related to seduction and sexuality is still an area of little research. One study found that ovulating women may increase testosterone levels in men and another study pointed to oil and sweat secretion that could be responsible for inferences peoples’ attractiveness in the opposite sex. Human pheromones working as a “perfume” for seduction might give insight to certain chemical compounds, or smells, we sense that elicit responses in us.
The luxurious perfumes that do claim to have pheromones that make you sexier and more attractive to the opposite sex more than likely contain pig pheromones that do not have nearly any influence on humans’ anatomical structure or olfactory senses. Recently, studies and research are investigating three classes of putative human pheromones of male and female pheromones: axillary steroids, vaginal aliphatic acids, and Vomeronasal organ stimulators. These three classes of human pheromone classes could provide data to suggest they could be smelly enough for the nose to pick up.
Pheromones in Men
Axillary Steroids exist in both men and women. Axillary steroids as pheromones in men are secreted by the adrenal glands, apocrine glands, and testes and are not usually observed until biological puberty occurs.
- Androstenone is held as an attractant and positive mood effector and pheromone for women. Ovulating women seem to be the targeted population in regards to androstenone, as studies have shown that exposure of androstenone induces a skin conductance mechanism and mood enhancement to women during ovulation.
- Androstadienone is the other prominent male pheromone found in male semen and sweat and has effects on the limbic system and mood improvement for women. Researchers have found that exposure to androstadienone in women resulted in higher attentiveness to emotional words and facial expressions. These findings attribute that emotional arousal modulates how women process information that can potentially enhance focus.
Pheromones in Women
Axillary Steroids in women as pheromones are secreted by the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and apocrine glands and are like men are not observable until biological puberty occurs.
- Androstenol is the infamous female pheromone that put “menstrual syncing” into popular culture. Androstenol was used in a study that predicted unconscious odor cues by menstruating women could influence the menstrual cycles of other women. This has been debunked by recent studies that show there is too little evidence for the claim to be reliable. Now, this pheromone is regarded as a mood enhancer when study results show that women exposed to androstenol when asked to rate the attractiveness of objects and people stated the objects as “friendlier” and enhanced their behavioral and social responses.
- Estratetraenol is another highly regarded pheromone that is found in the urine of pregnant women. This pheromone is an endogenous steroid that is synthesized in the ovaries by aromatase found in androstadienone. This pheromone is related to estrogen sex hormones but has yet to show effects of estrogen. Estratetraenol pheromones exist on the market for women as attractant perfumes, yet consensus remains that it works as a human seduction pheromone.
Vaginal aliphatic acids are the other group of pheromones in women to differentiate from as they are different from the group of axillary steroids and are present in women’s vaginal fluids. Aliphatic acids are a kind of fatty acid that produces copulins and may attribute to human pheromone communication.
- Copulins are a class of aliphatic acids that secrete six different types of vaginal fluids. Copulins in pheromones are produced before ovulation to signal the ovulation process. Sexual communication is suggested as one of the evolutionary mechanisms of Copulins, though the research still varies if copulins are responsible or a different vaginal fluid can illicit human pheromone communication.
Potential human pheromone action in the vomeronasal organ is theorized to be conducted by the stimulators within it. The olfactory sensory structure lies in the nasal bones and are found in multiple animals. In humans, the vomeronasal organ contains a potential chemical sensory organ called epithelial, though the sensory neurons in the structure are present in the fetus but regress and disappear with age. Pheromone receptor genes found here show a response in “sex-specific manners”. No studies have been done to know if human pheromone communication exists in these receptors. Receptor sub-classes in the olfactory epithelium of mice have pheromone responses that scientists suggest could be a key mechanism in human pheromone research. The orthologous receptors that exist in human pheromone communication illustrate that research of trace proteins in mice pheromones could provide evidence to support human pheromone communication.
A Smelly Debate
Human pheromone in research explains a multitude of aspects we didn’t know before. For example, though we are not as equipped as animals in sniffing out compatible partners, it does tell us that human evolution has come this far that we use our smell recognition as a higher social mechanism. Seduction and human pheromones as a perfume of our biological data is still a wide concept that tells us little. The question remains if our human pheromones can give us animal instincts, but for now, we’ll let the scientists do the sniffing.
Watch a video of Tristram Wyatt, zoologist, explaining the fundamental flaws in current pheromone research and how for him there is no conclusive research regarding this matter.
Clara is a writer with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Intercultural Communications. She is interested in all types of psychology, particularly personality theory, cognitive, and organizational psychology. She would be more than happy to discuss or answer any questions that you may have.