Pheromones 101

Presented by BetterHelp.

What are pheromones? You may have heard about pheromones when it comes to the science of attraction. For example, you may have hard that pheromones can play an important role in why we find ourselves attracted to a person. You may have even heard that you can buy pheromones in order to make people find you irresistible.

But what’s the science behind pheromones? Are these things we’ve heard about them legitimate? Read on to find out! 

The Science of Pheromones 

It’s clear that scent and odor plays a big role in our lives. Just look at the success of the aromatherapy industry, for example! And have you ever been stopped in your tracks because an odor wafting into your nostrils gives you the strongest flashback to a certain memory in your life? If so, you’re not alone. But pheromones are not the same as any given odor or scent. 

The word “pheromone” was coined in 1959, and it comes from the Greek word pheroo, for “I carry,” and hormon, or “stimulating.” Pheromones are fascinating because they are chemicals that we secrete without even realizing it. And we aren’t alone in this; many animals secrete hormones, and they play an important role in their social lives.

For example, cats and dogs release pheromones when they mark their territory. Many animals release pheromones as part of their mating ritual. Honeybees release a variety of pheromones to communicate a number of different things to other bees, and they even have fifteen glands for this purpose!

But what about us? Can pheromones make us irresistibly attractive? Can we buy pheromones to up our sex appeal? Let’s tackle some of these common stereotypes about pheromones, which you can read more about online if you’re interested:

Do pheromones make us attractive to others?

What we do know is that pheromones play a big role in the animal kingdom. So, it’s natural to assume that they do for us as well. Ultimately, however, more substantial research needs to be done.

For the moment, however, we do know that women are more likely to pick up on pheromone signals than men are. Interestingly, we don’t even necessarily need a sense of smell to still pick up on subconsciously on pheromones. 

While there’s surely some relationship between smell and attraction—we all know what it’s like to find someone’s scent agreeable or repulsive—pheromones work on a different level and more research needs to be done before fully establishing that they play a role in attraction. 

Can I buy pheromones to make myself more attractive? 

If you read the section above, then you already know that more research needs to be done into the science of pheromones and attraction. 

So, while an agreeable odor—like a certain cologne or perfume—might make you more desirable, this isn’t the work of pheromones. You see, people often mix up the idea of pheromones with odor or scent. Pheromones, on the other hand, work on a subconscious level, meaning that we don’t actively realize that the pheromones are there.

So, when companies promise you that their perfume or cologne has added pheromones that are guaranteed to make you more desirable, you should proceed with caution. Ultimately, the science just isn’t there yet to back up these kinds of claims. 

In other words, you’re likely getting ripped off if you pay a lot of money for a perfume or cologne with “pheromones” added. If it makes you more confident, that’s great, but don’t expect miracles.

Ultimately, you should focus most on your personal hygiene and natural, healthy scents like the kind you might get from bath and body products that use natural essential oils for fragrance (rather than synthetic mystery substances). 


Pheromones are a tricky topic. While there’s certainly a connection between scent and attraction, pheromones are themselves processed on a subconscious level. Ultimately, more research needs to be done before we can definitively answer common questions about pheromones and their ability to make us more attractive. 

By Caitlyn

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