there is no one-scent-fits-all effect here. Different fragrances suit different people. In a study with my Czech colleague [Ig Nobel Prize winner] Jan Havlíček, we found that some people get this spectacularly wrong. While overall artificial fragrances improve the smell of their natural body odour, for some people, their armpit odour smells worse when they use their chosen fragrance – they have selected one that clearly doesn’t blend well with their own odour. More recently, my excellent ex-student Caroline Allen has shown that the right fragrance choice can emphasise the distinctiveness of our underlying body odour.
Now, Caroline has found something really very interesting about the effects of fragrances. Whereas the smell of unperfumed armpits (relatively masculine or feminine) predicts how our faces look (relatively masculine or feminine), this relationship disappears when men use fragrance. The relationship is maintained in the case of women’s smell and faces. And it disappears, in men, in an interesting way
In a recent Improbable Research podcast, Jean Berko Gleason explores the Roberts/Havlíček team’s garlic/armpit-smell study, with glee and more than a soupçon of disgust.