If you feel prettier after a spritz of perfume, it might not be all in your head. Women’s facial attractiveness is rated higher in the presence of pleasant odors, according to a small study published online in PLOS One.
Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia had 18 participants look at pictures of 55 women ranging in age from 35 to 50. While the subjects were looking at the images, the researchers exposed them to one of five odors that ranged from fish oil (the most unpleasant odor) to rose oil (the most pleasant odor)—the other three scents were mixtures of the two. When the study participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the faces in front of them, researchers found that the more pleasant the odor, the higher the attractiveness rating.
Though the study (funded in part by Unilever, which owns personal care brands including Dove and Axe) looked specifically at rose oil, the researchers believe their results would apply to any scent perceived as pleasant. “Our findings demonstrate that odor pleasantness and facial attractiveness integrate into one joint emotional evaluation,” says Janina Seubert, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist who was a postdoctoral fellow at Monell when the research was conducted. That means it’s possible that these two traits are processed by the same area of the brain.
Interestingly, even when the images were manipulated by adding more wrinkles or blemishes, pleasant odors still resulted in higher attractiveness ratings—meaning you shouldn’t worry so much about visible “imperfections.” “The broader emotional context plays a much bigger role for how attractive a person is perceived,” says Seubert.