We’ve all heard the cliché; when you are attracted to someone, you just know it, without any logic or reason. However, what feels like random attraction to you is actually a series of chemical reactions that take place primarily in your nose. Your sense of smell is a powerful sense that can not only determine who you are most attracted to, but can also be a strong trigger for memories and have a significant effect on your mood. When it comes to attraction, your nose knows what’s best, since all people subconsciously sniff out others who are more compatible as mates. That’s why the musky scent of your significant other may not bother you much, but the stench of a coworker who forgot to wear deodorant is a completely different story.
The Major Histocompatibility Complex
The reason we are attracted to some natural scents more than others is the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which is tied to your immune system. This intuitive scent detection system has evolved to let us choose the best partners for a genetic advantage in reproduction, since we tend to be most attracted to partners with an MHC composition much different than our own. When someone has an MHC with a composition unlike yours, they have stronger immunity toward different diseases and medical conditions than you do, so they naturally smell better to you. Interestingly, the body odor of other people also affects attractiveness on another level. A recent study revealed that political ideology can weigh into scent perception. Participants in the study were not able to identify the political beliefs of others by smell, but they did find that those with beliefs similar to their own simply smelled more attractive.
Can you change your natural body odor?
While you might mask your natural scent with deodorant, perfume, or scented lotion, your natural chemical odor can still be detected by those around you. Still, you can change this scent if you find that your natural aroma is not exactly pleasing. Here’s a look at some of the controllable factors that influence how you smell.
• How you bathe – Hygiene plays an important role in body odor, because odors are produced by bacteria naturally present on the skin. Sweat itself is odorless, but when it evaporates on the skin, there may be unpleasant odors caused by bacteria. While you won’t want to eliminate bacteria completely with antibacterial soap, you might switch to a more gentle cleanser and use products like tea tree oil to shrink the pores and minimize sweat.
• What you eat – Have you ever noticed that eating too much garlic can actually make you smell garlicky the next day? That’s because your diet has a strong effect on your body odor—particularly when you eat foods high in sulfurous compounds like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.
• How your body metabolizes food – Hard-to-digest foods like wheat, red meat, and dairy might also cause you to stink. If your body is unable to metabolize certain foods properly, toxins may build up in your digestive tract and seep through the skin.
If you do have a case of chronic body odor, the easiest way to resolve it is by speaking to a doctor to explore the source of the problem.