Stinky or sexy?
Don’t laugh! Sweat is seriously underrated.
By now, you must have heard the studies that show a compound in male sweat, androstanol, is like sexual catnip.
Pheromone sprays have flown off the shelf, while men across the world have flung their deodorants out the window in hopes of luring women with their natural body odor.
Except there’s one tiny problem…
We know what male body odor smells like.
There’s no polite way of saying it. A guy with sweat dripping off his face and running down his back might be attractive, as long as you’re not close enough to smell him.
So did science get it wrong?
Nope. The error was in the interpretation.
Androstanol is only produced by fresh male sweat and dissipates quickly.
Once exposed to oxygen, stale sweat emits the highly unpleasant odor of androstenone, a completely different chemical. Androstenone repels women—especially the poor soul who has to do the laundry.
But what about female sweat? Does it have the same sexual allure?
If you’re ovulating, yes.
Men can sniff out where you are in your cycle, as long as you’re not taking oral contraception. 
That doesn’t mean a man can lean in, take a whiff, and say, “You’re about to start your period, aren’t you?” Rather, it means that your natural scent is more attractive to men when you’re at your most fertile.
But most women don’t ever get the chance to hook a man in by the nose. Instead, they cover up any whiff of pheromones with Chanel No. 5.
It’s a shame we’re so scared of stinking.
We’re desperately afraid of what a man will smell when he leans in close. So we slather ourselves with scented beauty products, never dreaming we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
By the time we’ve showered with scented body soap, washed our hair with scented shampoo, applied scented deodorant, and spritzed on perfume, our natural body odor is unrecognizable.
Do all those scents make us smell better than au naturel?
Even musk, a component of the most erotic perfumes, arouses women more than men. There’s a lot to be said for spritzing on something that makes you feel sexy, but don’t count on it luring in the opposite sex.
Not giving him the chance to smell the real you also denies him important information about compatibility.
Mother Nature is clever. She wants us to sniff each other out.
So we’ve been designed to prefer the scent of the guy who’ll make the best father, genetically, for our children.
Here’s how it works:
A person’s natural odor is partially determined by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, which are linked to the immune system. We gravitate towards partners with a different MHC makeup to our own.
Researchers believe this preference helps us choose partners with whom we’ll have more disease-resistant offspring.
So should we all switch to unscented beauty products and throw out our deodorant?
If you want to use scent to your advantage, then there’s a much easier way to do it:
Go on more active dates.
Instead of sitting across a table and gabbing, go hiking, bike-riding, or mini-golf at a pinch.
Do something that gets your heart pumping a little faster. Something that gives you that gorgeous glow of exertion. A light sweat can give him the olfactory hit he’s craving.
Not only is fresh sweat alluring, but anything that gets his blood pumping increases his interest in you, thanks to a neat phenomenon called misattribution of arousal.
A man can’t tell if he’s hyped up because he’s scared, worked up, or romantically attracted. The state of physiological arousal feels the same, regardless of the cause.
So don’t worry so much about breaking a sweat. The sky won’t fall in if he catches a whiff of body odor. (After all, he’s used to his own!)