Women Better at Sniffing Out Body Odor

Perfume May Trick a Man, but Women Still Sniff Out BO

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 07, 2009

April 7, 2009 -- If you are slapping on perfume to cover body odor, you may be able to fool men but probably not women. New research shows that women are more sensitive than men to the smell of underarm sweat.

The reason, according to researchers, could be that women are biologically more sensitive to body smells.

The research, conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute that focuses on the scientific functions of taste and smell, was published online in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal.

Study participants sniffed vials of underarm sweat collected from male and female volunteers. Men and women sniffers were equally good at detecting body odor by itself. However, when presented with fragrance chemicals including some used in many deodorants, the women’s ability to sniff out the body odor was much better.

"It is quite difficult to block a woman's awareness of body odor,” study lead author Charles J. Wysocki, a behavioral neuroscientist at Monell, says in a written statement. “In contrast, it seems rather easy to do so in men.”

Another finding of the research: Men’s body odor is harder to block than women’s body odor. Though the vials of body odor from men and women were equally strong, nine of the fragrance chemicals blocked the smell of male underarm sweat, while 25 of fragrance chemicals blocked the smell of female underarm odor.

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Wysocki, C., Flavour and Fragrance Journal, published online April 7, 2009.

News release, Monell Chemical Senses Center.

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