Roadtest: Can Pheromone-Laced Beauty Products Get You Laid?

Have you ever dated someone who smelled really hot? Not good, mind you—but hot, like sex in a sniffable form. There’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon—it’s caused by pheromones, hormones we all secrete that shout to the opposite sex, “Hey you! I want to get naked now!”

Last week, the New York Times ran a story about how synthetic pheromones are making their way into beauty products. Evidently, products with pheromones have been on shelves for forevs (you’re late to the party once again, Times), but the article claims that more are coming down the pipeline containing the stuff. Paris Hilton’s perfume has ‘em, as does Urban Decay’s Pocket Rocket lip glosses. Dial is even coming out with Men Magnetic Attraction Enhancing Body Wash for dudes, though please lord, don’t let their commercials veer the way of Axe. [New York Times]

Companies want people to believe these products are akin to love potions. (“We don’t claim using our product you’re going to hit a home run,” said Ryan Gaspar, Men Magnetic Attraction’s brand manager. “We say, ‘We’ll get you to first base.’”) Meanwhile, scientists are hugely skeptical because no one’s sure how, exactly, pheromones play into this whole attraction game.

So there was only one thing left to do: try them for myself.I decided to road test Booty Parlor’s line of pheromone-boosted concoctions because (a) the name is punny and (b) we happened to already have a bunch of their stuff in the office. I rubbed their Sex Bomb Solid Perfume With Phermones ($45 in three-piece kit) on my wrists and neck and headed out the door. The mix of plums, jasmine, cedar, and sandalwood smelled good. Like a vaguely vanilla-y perfume I would have picked up in high school, before I became addicted to any scent containing basil.

I hopped on the subway and opened up a book. And not two minutes later, the guy next to me—cute, though slightly suit-ish—leaned over. “That’s a really good book,” he said. Now, if you watch a lot of movies that take place in New York City, you probably think this happens all the time. Don’t believe it. The train is a place where people concentrate really hard on their magazines, their iPods, their fingernails—anything that lets them willfully ignore the fact that they are in the vicinity of other human beings. I’ve lived in New York City for almost 11 years now, and can count on one hand (fine, on three fingers) the number of times anyone reasonably attractive has said a word to me on the train. Coincidence?

We both got off the train a few stops, and he asked for my number. I gave him my business card, which I realize is a little lame for a woman wearing a perfume called “Sex Bomb.” He hasn’t called. Obviously, he can’t smell me from across the city.

Later that night, I decided to up the ante by slathering on Flirty Little Secret Body Butter With Pheromones ($26) in addition to the perfume. I gotta admit—this is my new favorite lotion. It smells like ripe blackberries with honey and is the perfect consistency—ultra rich, but not in the slightest bit greasy, even in 80 degree weather. But that’s beside the point. You want to hear about the menfolk.

That night, I headed out to see one of my favorite bands play—none of my friends were interested in a loud, sweaty rock ‘n’ roll show, so I rolled solo. When I got there, the audience was approximately 70% guys, so I was happy to be on my own and maximize my pheromonal powers. Except that, two hours later, I was still standing on my own, waiting for someone to flirt with me, buy me a drink, or give me any kind of overture. Finally, a struck up a conversation with a square glasses-wearing cutie. Who turned out to be 23. Luckily, his adorable older brother showed up a few minutes later, who happened to be exactly my age and also work in publishing. We all had a fun night chatting and dancing.

The next night I tried a different lotion—Flirty Little Secret Firming Cream With Pheromones ($32). This stuff wasn’t nearly as delightful, and smelled a little too medicinal. But I proceeded full-steam ahead to one of my regular bars in Brooklyn. Close to 1am, I was sitting on a couch with one of the bartenders who’s been a friend for years. While I think he’s super good-looking and funny and all of that good stuff, I’d never really noticed any attraction between us. Until we were making out. Probably not the best decision I ever made, but hey, fun for a little while.

So in the end, did the pheromone products work? I don’t know. I think there’s a placebo effect at work here. I don’t know if how I smelled had anything to do with anything. It’s more akin to the effect of wearing a dress I know I look amazing in, or getting a haircut I really love. Basically, when you feel like you’re smokin’, others do too.