From Ergo Log
The hormone levels of men and women react to the fragrances that cosmetics manufacturers put into their products. Japanese researchers at Nara University of Education discovered this after doing experiments on 8 male and 8 female students. Believe it or not, there’s scientific evidence to back up those ads where herds of women throw themselves at male Axe users.
The researchers were doing fundamental research on the effect of smells on sexual behaviour. They got the students to smell 3 fragrances frequently used in cosmetics, and measured the concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol and libido enhancing testosterone in the students’ saliva before and after exposing them to the fragrances.
The fragrances used were rose, floral [used in Chanel 22] and musk [used in Axe]. In a control experiment the students had to smell samples that had no fragrances added.
All fragrances lowered the cortisol levels of the male and female subjects. The figure below shows the effects on the men. The figure for the women is pretty similar.
Smelling musk doubled the concentration of testosterone in the saliva of the women.
Musk is similar to the testosterone metabolite and pheromone androstenol [structural formula shown here]. Cosmetics manufacturers used to extract the steroid from the anal glands of animals, but fortunately the chemicals industry has developed alternatives. Axe products, which are made by Unilever, no longer contain animal-origin steroid compounds. The Japanese used muscone, a mixture of compounds including muscone 3-methyl-cyclopentadecalacton.
In men it’s the other way around: Axe seems to lower the testosterone level. But exposure to the floral fragrance caused a little rise in their testosterone level.
Floral fragrances are common in products aimed at women. Chanel No 22 is an example, and the floral component is a mix of beta-phenyl-ethyl-alcohol, linalol and methyl-dihydro-jasmonate.
The researchers conclude from their results that smelling fragrances can raise and lower human hormone levels. The effect is so strong, that it’s quite possible that they influence human sexual behaviour. The Axe-effect is for real.
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2007 Aug;28(4):433-7.