Dr Craig Roberts from Stirling University explains that odour is critical in co-ordinating a variety of behaviours in animals and whilst we tend to think that information in human odour doesn't really affect human behavior, it actually does.
Speaking at the IFRA UK Fragrance Forum on ‘Body odor in biological perspective', Roberts says: "Human body odour contains information which enables us to recognize other individuals and may be used in choosing our sexual partners.”
Recognizing body odour in this biological perspective has direct implications for the use of fragrances, he adds.
The doctor presented the way in which humans pick partners with different MHC genes, exploring why we wear perfumes if odour carries such strong preference messages.
Roberts explains that it was actually the introduction of clothing and cooking that meant that our odour became unpleasant, initiating the trend of wearing perfumes, according to previous research.
"We found that when someone's body odour is combined with their preferred fragrance, the resulting blend is more pleasant to other people than the same odour combined with an arbitrarily chosen fragrance,” he states.
“This suggests that choice of a fragrance is influenced not only by the properties of the fragrance itself, but also by how it will interact with that person's underlying odor.”
This logic would suggest that we are good at selecting perfumes for ourselves but not for our partners, as we choose fragrances that match our body odour, says Dr Roberts.
Research shows that our natural smell interacts with the perfume we wear and that these mingled scents affect potential sexual partners.
"One implication is that fragrances might not simply mask body odour, but rather complement it, or even enhance the information contained within it. Another is that this interaction could be important in understanding how consumers choose perfumes," concludes the Stirling man, who was first to take the stage it the IFRA event.
The Fragrance Forum organised by the International Fragrance Association UK was the third annual edition and was held at The Royal Society in London.
The purpose of the Forum is to develop a better understanding of the important role fragrance plays each year bringing together around 100 perfumers, scientists from academia and industry, marketers, trade body representatives and others for whom fragrance is important.