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Valentine's Day: Can a perfume make you fall in love?

A fragrance expert explains the science behind scent and seduction this Valentine's Day…

Orin Carlin
Content Writer
Updated: February 14, 2023
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The power of the sense of smell cannot be overstated. Intimately linked with the 'emotional brain', the dizzying waft of a scent possesses the ability to knock you for six.

The comforting creaminess of a soap that takes you back to the bath times of your childhood, the heady sweetness of an almond croissant that evokes the patisserie where you spent the majority of a Parisian sojourn, or perhaps the head-spinning citrus note that echoes the splashy cologne worn by your partner when they kissed you for the first time.

Scent has the power to transport and trigger a deluge of memories because our sense of smell is closely connected to our limbic system, the part of our brain that deals with emotions and memory.

"Whereas most senses send nerve impulses to the region of the brain known as the thalamus to be processed as physical sensations, odour molecules flow to the limbic system and the hypothalamus instead," fragrance expert and author Karen Gilbert tells Hello! Fashion.

MORE: The history of Chanel perfume: everything you need to know about the maison's most famous fragrances

READ: You can now have a house that smells like Celine (seriously)

The type of emotional response elicited by a particular smell is largely determined by our past experiences and cultural identities. "As we learn most odours during childhood, our memories are very likely to influence the smells we like and those we don’t like and how they make us feel. Familiarity plays a big part in how we react to specific scents," Karen explains. As such, many major fragrance manufacturers are currently plugging lots of research into finding out more about the link between smell and neuroscience.

The connection between perfume and attraction 

Scent can play a major part in attraction, and despite there having been lots of research into the subject of human pheromones, exactly how they operate currently remains a realm of the relative unknown. "There is no denying though that there is a connection between the way someone smells and our attraction to them," Karen says. "It is possible that we are still using our primitive senses to sniff out a mate more than we realise."

READ: Prince Harry reveals Princess Diana's favourite £33 scent - and it's still available today

Perfume also has a role to play on account of how its presence in the beauty routine can stir up anticipation before meeting someone. "How scent makes us feel personally can definitely add to the pleasure of the 'getting ready to go on a date' ritual and can create an anchor to that sense of excitement in the future," Karen says.  

But beyond the early stages of dating, the familiarity associated with someone's signature scent, perhaps one worn by a long-term partner, can be hugely comforting. "We all know what we love about the scent of our partner too, so further down the line that smell will create a sense of connection (providing it’s a happy union of course)," Karen says.

"When we connect a certain scent to a time with a particular partner it can be difficult to continue wearing that scent if the relationship ends."

Which are the most seductive perfume notes?

Just a whiff of a sultry fragrance can instantly get you in the mood, or perhaps even render you irresistible to those within the vicinity. Which smells each of us individually perceive as 'sexy' can vary widely, though according to Karen, seductive fragrances often feature "rich exotic florals such as jasmine, ylang ylang and tuberose", along with "sensual creamy woods", sandalwood for instance, "skin-like musks" and "animalic ambers".

Karen's ultra-irresistible perfume recommendations: 

The gorgeous gourmand one


chloe nomade naturelle

Chloé Nomade Naturelle Eau de Parfum, £48.45 for 30ml (was £57), Escentual


The delicious whisky-inspired one


Givenchy Gentleman Reserve Privée Z

Givenchy Gentleman Reserve Privée Eau de Parfum, £63.75 for 60ml, John Lewis


The dangerously sexy one

papillon salome perfume Z

Papillon Salome Eau de Parfum, £145 for 50ml, Les Senteurs


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