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Scent of a Woman: Four Fragrances That Turn Men Off

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Sophia Loren attributed her success with men to pasta. Well, everything I have I owe to patchouli. One boyfriend described the scent as “that dark, peppery smell that gets me so hot.” Scent and sexual attraction go hand in hand, so it’s important to know what fragrances will turn your guy on—and, more importantly, what will turn him off. Though every man is different, if any of these five scents is sitting on your dresser right now, chuck it!

1. Sweet
Chocolate is a known aphrodisiac, but smelling like a chocolate bar—believe it or not—won’t make you more enticing to a man. In fact, it may be a big turnoff for him. Glamour’s Susan Cernek and Lindsey Unterberger polled a group of men on their favorite and least favorite scents on women; they found that most of the respondents thought that food smells should stay in the kitchen. (Not the women, that is, just their perfumes.) “I don’t think women should smell like food—nor should men, for that matter,” said one guy in the group. “Desserty smells make me hungry, not turned on,” said another.

The singular exception to this rule is vanilla. The men thought Laura Mercier’s French Vanilla Soufflé Body Crème was “lickably good.”

2. Fruity
Men’s aversion to food smells extends to that citrusy body wash or shampoo you use every day. We think it’s yummy and invigorating, but men just don’t find it sexy. Nix anything with citrus, berry, apple, or any other fruit notes. “It smells like Jolly Ranchers,” said one respondent in the Glamour poll, “and I like Jolly Ranchers, but I’m not sure I’d want a girl to smell like one.”

Choose fragrances that make you smell like a grown-up, not a kid in a candy store.

3. Floral
Ever wonder why your boyfriend never buys you flowers? It’s because he, like most men, probably isn’t that fond of their scent. Any fragrance that is overpoweringly floral will make a guy keep his distance.

Also, according to the Glamour men, roses, lilacs, and lavender remind them of their grandmothers. “If it’s too flowery, it makes me think of an old lady,” said one.

Spritz yourself up to smell like a bouquet of gardenias and you won’t get the chance to leave lipstick on his cheek. (Or anywhere else, for that matter.)

4. Powdery
You should generally avoid any scent that brings out a man’s Oedipal reflex. This includes anything that smells “powdery fresh” or that has a rubbing alcohol after-scent. If he wanted you to smell like his mother, well, you probably wouldn’t want to date him anyway.

5. Smells Like a Broken Heart
Scent is one of the strongest ties to memory. The same former boyfriend who commented on the patchouli I wear can still knock me to my knees with his aftershave. Every once in a while, some other guy on the street will be wearing the same scent as him, and all I’ll be able to think about is my ex. Men are no different.

This is a tricky one. You’ll usually have no idea what kind of perfume a man’s ex-girlfriend used to wear, but if he makes a comment, swallow your pride and find another scent. It probably bothers him more than he’s willing to admit to you. “That’s crazy,” said one of the men in the Glamour poll about a certain fragrance. “It reminds me of the way my girlfriend smelled junior year of high school. It would freak me out if a new girlfriend wore it.” Would he break up with her? “Well, I might ask her not to wear it.”

Don’t Sweat It
Women who spend hours every day washing and shaving and perfuming themselves may be surprised that normal body odor can be a real turn-on for the right man. Research shows that we seek out partners based on their scent, and use our senses of smell to find mates that are genetically different from us. Deodorants, perfumes, and scented body washes interrupt this natural process of attraction. So don’t sweat it if you don’t have time to shower three times a day in the summer. Let those pheromones hang out; the right guy just might come sniffing around.

It All Makes Scents
Based on Glamour’s poll, men don’t seem to appreciate perfume. They don’t want us to smell foody, fruity, floral-like, or powdery; they just want us to smell like the individual women we are. A dab here and there of a musky, earthy scent like patchouli, sandalwood, or amber can bring out natural pheromones without overpowering them, but heading out for date night au naturel is perfectly acceptable, too, and preferable to smelling like a bakery or flower shop.

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