The actor Steve McQueen was known for wearing Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage, which contains the stimulating chemical Hedione.
With his ice cool demeanour and smouldering good looks it is no surprise that the actor Steve McQueen was attractive to women.
But new research suggests he may have a little help from his aftershave.
McQueen was known for wearing Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage, and scientists have discovered that a chemical in the cologne stimulates an area of the brain which is responsible for releasing sex hormones in women. Based on the evidence, it appears that the aftershave can, literally, turn women on.
Dior was the first perfume house to use Hedione
Although it has long been debated whether humans can actually communicate via pheromones – the chemical signals secreted by animals to help find a mate – researchers have found that scent of Hedione generates ‘sex-specific activation patterns’ in the nasal tissue which links to the brain.
It is the first time that a scent has been known to activate the pheromone receptor VN1R in humans.
“These results constitute compelling evidence that a pheromone effect different from normal olfactory perception indeed exists in humans,” says scent researcher Prof Hanns Hatt fro, Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany.
Hedione (chemical name methyl dihydro-jasmonate) – derived from the Greek word “hedone”, for fun, pleasure, lust – has a pleasant fresh jasmine-magnolia scent and is used in many perfumes.
It is synthesised from the organic compound methyl jasmonate which was discovered in 1957 and which is important in plants for seed germination, root growth, flowering, fruit ripening, and senescence.
Dior was the first perfume house to use the chemical in its men’s fragrance Eau Savage in 1966 and it was so successful that many women adopted it as their own perfume, leading to the introduction of a similar female version, Diorella in 1972.
Since then Hedione has cropped up in First, by Van Cleef & Arpels; Chamade by Guerlain; Chanel no. 19; L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake, Angel by Thierry Mugler, Blush by Marc Jocobs, Paco by Paco Rabane and CKOne.
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To find out if scent could have an impact on the brain, the scientists analysed brain activity when a person smells Hedione.
They compared the results with the effects triggered by phenylethyl alcohol, a traditional floral fragrance.
Hedione activated brain areas in the limbic system significantly more strongly than phenylethyl alcohol. The limbic system is associated with emotions, memory and motivation.
But more significantly, Hedione also activated a specific area of the hypothalamus in women which is known to promote sexual responsiveness by flooding the body with sex hormones.
In animals, pheromones are known to trigger the same response. Mice have around 300 different genes for pheromone receptors but scientists believe that there are only five which still function in humans.
Most mammals also have a special organ located at the base of the nasal septum which picks up pheromones. According to current research this organ fulfils no function in humans anymore. Yet the new research suggests that the area still works and can be stimulated by Hedione.
“In the next stage, we want to find out which physiological and psychological parameters are affected when Hedione activates the pheromone receptor,” added Prof Hatt.
“We have already launched the relevant studies. But we also have to search for scent molecules in bodily secretions, which resemble Hedione and activate the receptor. With its help, humans could actually communicate with each other.”
The research was published in the journal NeuroImage.