Updated 17 January 2020

Women more sensitive to sweat

It is more difficult to mask underarm odour when women are doing the smelling, researchers report.

It may be wise to trust the female nose when it comes to body odour. According to new research, it is more difficult to mask underarm odour when women are doing the smelling.

"It is quite difficult to block a woman's awareness of body odour. In contrast, it seems rather easy to do so in men," said study lead author Charles J. Wysocki, PhD, a behavioural neuroscientist at the Monell Centre.

Females more attuned
The researchers speculate that females are more attuned to biologically relevant information in sweat that may guide women when choosing a mate.

In the study, women and men rated the strength of underarm odours, both alone and in conjunction with various fragrances.

The fragrances were selected to test their ability to block underarm odour through a method known as cross-adaptation. Olfactory adaptation refers to the loss of sensitivity to an odour when one is constantly exposed to that odour. Olfactory cross-adaptation occurs when the nose adapts to one odour and then also becomes less sensitive to a second odour.

Sniffed alone, the underarm odours smelled equally strong to men and women. When fragrance was introduced, only two of 32 scents successfully blocked underarm odour when women were doing the smelling; in contrast, 19 fragrances significantly reduced the strength of underarm odour for men.

Wysocki noted that in earlier studies, men and women did not differ in their ability to cross-adapt to odours not from the body.

"Taken together, our studies indicate that human sweat conveys information that is of particular importance to females. This may explain why it is so difficult to block women's perception of sweat odours," he said.

Not only were women better smellers the men, but male odours were harder to block than female odours.

Women sniff out sexy men




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