How Certain Scents Can Make You Seem Sexier

Wendy Rodewald
Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabbana Desire

Does this fragrance make Scarlett seem more desirable?

Whether it’s a significant other’s fragrance or the wafting smell of a bakery, scent is a powerful force for desire. But can you shape the message you send to others by changing your perfume? We spoke with Dr. Stephen Snyder, a psychiatrist specializing in relationship issues, who’s working with Dolce & Gabbana for the release of their new Desire fragrance, to find out how the right scent can make you seem sexy and intriguing.

What Are The Sexiest Scents?
Ever wonder why certain notes appear in so many scents? It’s because they send a distinct message. A floral note, like the tuberose in Dolce & Gabbana Desire, “has that hypnotic quality that makes a person want to stop — as one says, ‘stop and smell the roses,’” Dr. Snyder explains. “A potential partner may have other distractions, whether it’s something else or someone else they may be thinking about.” By wearing a floral fragrance, “You want the other person to stop and pay attention” to you.

The scent of musk gets at another aspect of desire. “Musk is an enveloping, warm scent, which is one kind of pole of the desire experience,” says Dr. Snyder. “Desire is on this spectrum, on the one hand ‘hot’ and on the other hand, just relaxing together. And the best desire experiences contain both — they have this paradoxical quality where it’s exciting and relaxing at the same time.”

How To Smell Desirable
So, can you send a message to a potential partner with scent? Yes, but Dr. Snyder strongly suggests you don’t use fragrance to masquerade as a different person.

“There’s a important part of desire that has to do with who I really am — this is me, and this is me without my clothes,” says Dr. Snyder. “When one uses a scent, it’s to invite one’s partner to explore some aspect of one’s real self.” In other words, if you’ve been a Clinique Happy girl your entire life, don’t douse yourself in Opium to seem more attractive. Like using a fake online dating profile picture, disguising your true self with scent is bound to end badly.

Something Smells…Familiar
We’ve always wondered how things would play out if your signature scent happened to be the same as, say, your date’s mom’s. What if you and your potential future mother-in-law are both lifelong Chanel No. 5 wearers? Dr. Snyder says it could be a good thing or a bad thing. “As we’ve known for a long time since Freud, [a maternal reminder like scent] has the potential to attract as well as repel.” Smelling like someone’s mother can “recreate some of the most captivating and enveloping experiences of early childhood,” says Dr. Snyder, such as “that sense of full body contact, full eye gaze contact, where there’s only room for two people in the universe and no one else matters.” At the same time, the reminder might be a little too familiar, Dr. Snyder warns: “Something that kicks off the incest taboo is pretty powerful.” Luckily, the best scents tend to smell a little bit different on each person’s skin.