Earlier this week, an anonymous man took to 4Chan to share a dating problem he’s been having lately: All of his dates only last a few minutes before the woman ends up leaving. This confused him — he goes to the gym, eats well, has a successful career, dresses nicely and generally sees himself as a friendly, charismatic guy. Oh, and he hasn’t showered in months, for the “pheromone gains.” What could he possibly be doing wrong?
There, and on Reddit, respondents crudely suggested that the problem is actually that he’s autistic, given that he’s struggling to understand that he smells terrible. Autistic or not, his scent is clearly the problem. But where did he get the idea that not showering would help his cause?
Describing what makes someone smell “good” is a lot like describing what makes someone attractive — much of it has to do with personal preference, cultural norms and little aesthetic quirks most of us don’t fully understand. But in some cases, there are pheromones at play. Pheromones are airborne chemicals the body secretes — sometimes through sweat — that may have the ability to affect other animals’ behavior. Many animals use them to communicate, demarcate territory or signal danger, but in humans, they have a weak association with facilitating arousal and mate selection. Thus, for many guys interested in looksmraxxing, or the incel-ish process of maximizing their appearance to attract more and better dates, so-called “pheromone gains” could theoretically play a role.
On Looksmax.org, a forum dedicated to the topic, one “scentmaxxing” post links out to several studies about how women think attractive men smell better, how some of women’s preference for guys’ scents comes down to certain genes and how men’s testosterone and cortisol levels affect how they smell. In terms of pheromones, the idea seems to be that they’re somewhat effective at increasing arousal, but the best way to improve their effect is to eat well and have higher testosterone levels (by working out, for example). Certain colognes like Comme des Garcons Odeur 53 and Dior Eau Sauvage are recommended in the forum because they contain a chemical thought to help signal pheromone responses in women (there are some studies to support this theory). Meanwhile, on Reddit, some suggest that women like the smell of men’s sweat, but only the fresh sweat of a guy who’s already attractive.
That said, the phenomenon of “pheromone gains” isn’t quite as big a deal in the looksmaxxing community as the 4Chan guy makes it seem. Instead, the general consensus seems to be that while scent can affect a person’s overall attractiveness, being clean is probably the most crucial component to that. Smelling good doesn’t turn you into a 10, but smelling seriously bad can turn a 10 into a 0, and not showering is the easiest way to do that. “For those in the back of the class, body odor is caused by bacteria,” one redditor wrote in response. “By not showering, you smell like disease and decay. Your pheromones will still be released after you shower.”
In other words, it may just be our 4Chan friend who’s scentmaxxing (and for all we know, he might just be a troll). If anything, most guys simply stay clean, eat a good diet and exercise — pretty normal, inoffensive stuff. Looksmaxxing groups don’t always get everything right, but at least they aren’t inflicting months’ worth of gym sweat upon the world.