Valentines Day and the Cosmetic Chemist

If you ever wanted to create a Valentine’s Day themed cosmetic product, here is an ingredient you might consider adding.  Synthetic pheromones.

In a study from San Francisco State University researchers  men were found to be more attracted to women wearing pheromones in their perfume which resulted in more dates, kisses, cuddles and even sex.


Pheromones are a type of compound that allows animals to chemically communicate with each other. They are versatile chemicals that help ants figure out how to get home, that let dogs mark their territory and that let mammals know when to mate. The word pheromone comes from the Greek words pherin, to transfer, and hormone, to excite.  Pheromones are similar to hormones but instead of working within the body, they work between bodies.

How do they work?

The chemical communication of pheromones is simple. One animal (or human) releases the pheromone and another senses it. In essence, the behavior of the sensing animal is controlled by the pheromone releaser. In mammals, pheromones are detected by an organ called vomeronasal organ (VMO) which is located somewhere in the head between the nose and mouth. Pheromones are a bit like odor molecules but they have a much different effect.

So do pheromones really work?

Well, if pheromones really worked it would mean that controlling the behavior of people would be simple. If you wanted someone to fall in love with you, you could simply spray some pheromones whenever they’re around. Fortunately, human behavior is a bit more complicated than that.

It is still debated among scientists whether pheromones have an effect or not. These researchers demonstrated that women actually saw an increase in sociosexual activity when wearing perfume that contained pheromones. The impressive part of this research was that it was compared to a placebo control. But one study (of 36 women) isn’t enough to substantiate these incredible claims.

Other researchers have looked at all the human pheromone data and the results are inconclusive. Yes, pheromones are real. Yes, they may have some physiological effect. But how much pheromones change behavior is still unclear.

On a different day I’d be more skeptical on this one, but what the hell, Happy Valentines Day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *