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Men Can Smell This Hidden Thing on Women, Study Finds

Men can detect this surprisingly intimate thing from the smell of a woman's sweat.

The best way to find out if a woman is attracted to you is by, well, asking her. But if you're dead set on sexual super-sleuthing, one study from the U.K.'s University of Kent offers a new insight that could tip you off to how a woman is feeling—and whether she might want to take things further physically. As it turns out, humans communicate all sorts of personal data through olfactory cues—particularly the smell of their sweat. This particular study found that women can subconsciously send one very surprising signal via scent: that they are sexually aroused.

The team, led by Arnaud Wisman, PhD, a psychology lecturer at the University of Kent, expanded on previous research which indicates that men may actually be surprisingly adept at determining whether a woman is sexually aroused, based on the smell of her sweat.

As a news release for the study explains, "Findings were established through three different experiments where men processed the scents of axillary sweat samples from anonymous sexually aroused and non-aroused women. Men evaluated the scent of sexually aroused women as relatively more attractive and this increased their sexual motivation. This suggests that the chemical signals of scent alone can elicit a sexual response in recipients." Wisman also notes that the study may indicate that men are more sensitive to olfactory signals from women than the other way around.

Of course, even if a woman is physically aroused, it doesn't necessarily mean she intends to have sex with you—meaning your hunch is hardly a green light. In fact, other research shows that men are overall more likely to perceive behaviors as sexual than women, so the last thing you want to do is assume sexual interest based on your own highly subjective sweat analysis.

Yet it is interesting to think of the ways that we may be inadvertently communicating our interests to one another, and driving each other's sexual motivations. Without so much as a word, we're saying much more than we realize. Read on for more surprising things you signal via your sweat, and for more on decoding signs of attraction, find out How To Tell If a Man Wants Love or Sex.

Your depression is serious.


Shot of a mature man lying on his bed feeling exhausted

One Swedish study discovered that a shocking 97 percent of people who later went on to commit suicide had signs of electrodermal hyporeactivity—a lessened ability to react to stimuli—in their sweat samples. This particular trait marker is also commonly found in those with antisocial personality disorder and bipolar disorder. And for more on mental health, check out The No. 1 Mental Health Mistake You're Making.

You're compatible with someone.


Couple sitting together on a bench in the park

While sexual arousal might indicate one kind of compatibility with a potential partner, other studies have shown that sweat might reveal other types of couple compatibility as well. The famous "T-shirt study" from the mid-'90s revealed that people are able to literally sniff out potential mates with compatible genes using only the smell of their sweat to guide them.

You're stressed.


Distressed man head in hands

When you sweat from stress, people can tell! That's because stress and physical activity release sweat from completely separate glands, causing the sweat to react differently with the bacteria on your skin and produce their own distinct odor. And for more on the effects of stress, check out Stress Takes This Many Years Off Of Your Life.

You're a carnivore.


woman eating a bacon cheeseburger ways we're healthier

Your diet can distinctly affect your signature scent. One study shows that while women say they prefer men that eat meat, they are more drawn to the natural fragrance of those who don't. Researchers put a group of male subjects on a two-week, meat heavy diet, then switched to a vegetarian diet for the following two weeks. Women rated the scent of men on a vegetarian diet as more attractive than those who ate more meat.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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