What does your scent say about you?

The way you smell after you mow the lawn is more complicated than one might think.
The way you smell after you mow the lawn is more complicated than one might think.
Hemera/Thinkstock

It's a scorching summer day, but your lawn is starting to look like it could house a rainforest, and there's no end of this heat wave in sight. Your husband is out of town on business and your kids aren't yet old enough to be tasked with the chore, so with a sigh, you go gas up the lawnmower and get to work.

Fast forward and three grueling hours later, sweat is flowing off you like it's in a race to reach the mighty Amazon. As you go to wipe your forehead on your sleeve, something decidedly unpleasant happens: You smell yourself. It's OK: It happens to the best of us. Summer is a beast of a season. But what helps determine this particular aroma wafting off of you?

Many things affect how you smell at any given time: These can include what you eat, your overall health, your microbial passengers, your emotional state and even the time of year. All of it factors in to create the glorious cocktail emanating from you -- whether you want it to or not.

In fact, researchers at Longborough University are developing applications that take advantage of the different elements affecting your scent, and they're even looking for ways to detect them. In one project, the scientists simulate a search-and-rescue scenario. Study participants are "trapped" in a box for many hours, while dust and debris is filtered through. The researchers then study the air as it cycles out, trying to find markers of changes in the person's chemical profile. This taps into at least two of those factors we mentioned before: As the test gets more and more stressful, a participant's emotional state changes. As the subject gets hungrier and thirstier, his or her metabolic state is also altered, affecting personal scent.

While scientists are hoping they can develop detectors that help rescuers find trapped people, it also gives us a peek at the day-to-day factors affecting our smell. But what if we don't like that smell to start with?

Fragrance

Pick your perfume, or pick your poison.
Pick your perfume, or pick your poison.
Creatas/Thinkstock

People have been chasing uniquely scented items across the planet for thousands of years. Cinnamon, ginger, saffron and cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, jasmine and orange blossom. Generally tending to be ubiquitous today, these sweet and spicy scents were all prized and extremely rare during certain times, as traders journeyed to the far reaches of the globe to secure a shipment. Wealthy citizens paid large sums of money to secure a satisfying scent.

And while today's perfumes and other aromatic products can have you smelling sweet in no time, there are natural smells to consider, too. For example, next time your husband is there to mow the lawn, breathe deep when he comes in the house for a water break. Trust us. That's because male pheromones may, to some extent, affect women's hormonal levels. A University of Berkeley study, for example, found that male sweat could help to perk up women's moods, reduce tension and stress, enhance their sexual arousal, and perhaps even help stimulate ovulation.

Perfume additives (likely included with the same intent) may also be able to change women's hormonal levels. Just like the work of those early chemists producing perfumes from rare spices, there's a lot of chemistry going on behind the scenes in the perfume industry -- it's one of the reasons perfume is plentiful and affordable. By mixing and matching different chemicals, they can imitate natural smells.

Perfumes are often designed to change in scent throughout the day, starting with the 15 minutes where top notes dominate, followed by about 3 to 4 hours of heart notes, and wrapped up with about 5 to 8 hours of base notes. That doesn't mean everyone who applies a scent will smell the same, however, because other factors affect your scent. Body temperature and skin moisture levels can also alter how a perfume smells when applied.

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Sources

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