Scents & Sensitivity
SCENTS & SENSITIVITY
Hormones, the body’s chemical messengers, affect everything from our energy levels, to our moods, our emotions, appetites and the way we smell and perceive scents throughout our cycle.
Pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy are just a few other things that specifically affect womens’ olfactory function throughout their lives.
This post will examine the relationships between hormones and scent during a fertile woman's monthly cycle, and how these may effect everything from mood to mate selection.
SCENT OF A MEMORY
Scent is processed in the same part of the brain where emotions and memory are processed* (source). Smelling certain scents, can trigger emotions and memories, change how we feel, behave and directly affect our moods. Certain scents can seem more appealing than others over the course of the monthly cycle (source) and while scent perception and preferences may seem insignificant, they are anything but! *(source)
SCENT OF SURVIVAL
Scent is also intimately tied to our reproduction and survival as a species. Studies show the body odour is linked with a set of genes involved in controlling the immune system- called 'the major histocompatibility complex'- and that heterosexual men and women prefer the odour of those with a different set of these genes to their own. One theory is that this could be an evolutionary adaptation or mechanism to avoid inbreeding. (Source) (Source)
WOMEN SMELL BETTER!
Other studies* also show that fertile women have a more sensitive sense of smell than men (*source). This may also be an evolutionary development that helps with mate selection- sniffing out the best DNA profile in the sweat of potential mates, for breeding purposes. In addition, a woman’s acute sense of smell may improve her infants’ chances of survival.*(source) Women can distinguish their babies’ unique odors within an hour of birth, and two-day-old babies can identify their own mothers by smell— strategies that may help keep babies safely in their mothers’ arms. (Source)
SCENT & SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Findings from a 2011 study at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, a non-profit research institute, have also shown the importance that natural scent preference plays in sexual partner selection for non-heterosexual couples. (source). The findings support the contention that gender preference has a biological component to it, reflected both in the perception and response to body odours. (source) (source)
SCENT & CYCLE
The hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone fluctuate significantly during women’s monthly cycle. (source) At a glance, this is how they affect energy and sensitivity to scents.
MENSTRUATION PHASE: (~days 1-5) ‘Smellow
Hormone profile: LOW
Estrogen and our scent perception are at their lowest at the start of this week. As estrogen rises throughout this week, our sense of smell starts to sharpen. (source)
Energy profile: LOW
A marked dip in estrogen accompanies the start of a woman’s period. Cramps, fatigue, lethargy and outright exhaustion can all set in as the body sheds the uterine lining. Feeling mellow and low energy is common during this phase. (source)
Scent profile: CITRUS: GRAPEFRUIT PERFUME POEM
The sense of smell starts off at the least sensitive end of the spectrum when estrogen is at it’s lowest level this week. (Source) Heavy, spicy fragrances can always be overwhelming, but especially at this time of the month.
Lighter scents with more volatile molecules that evaporate more quickly on your skin, like citrus scents of grapefruit and sweet orange (Source), can keep senses engaged and energized as estrogen rises throughout this week.
Kavana’s Grapefruit Perfume Poem and Rose Perfume Poem are excellent options in this category, both contain uplifting grapefruit essential oil and orange oil in the Rose Perfume is a cheerful addition to a soothing floral.
FOLLICULAR PHASE: (~days 6-14) Peak Smell
Hormone profile: RISING
Estrogen and testosterone slowly rise at the end of menstruation, as the body prepares to release an egg in time for ovulation. (source) (source). These two hormones peak around ovulation, sometimes around day 14, in a 28 day cycle.
Energy profile: HIGH
Several studies* show that rising estrogen gives us peak energy and may sharpen olfaction (our sense of smell) allowing for detection of subtler scents. (source)
SCENT PROFILE: FLORAL: ROSE PERFUME POEM
Our sense of smell can be so sharp closer to ovulation (source), that certain fragrances may be too overpowering and unpleasant. Subtle scents that do not overpower or mask our natural ‘skin’ scents or body odour, our ‘mating signals’ from being sent out, are favored at this time. Seductive scents often include “rose oil, which has a similar constituent to human sweat” (source).
Kavana’s Rose Perfume Poem is simple, subtle and seductive, a perfect scent selection for this phase.
OVULATION (days 14-18)
Hormone profile: PROGESTERONE RISES, ESTROGEN PEAKS
Progesterone, a hormone that thickens the lining of the uterus for pregnancy, begins to rise. (source)
Estrogen and testosterone begin to drop a bit and then estrogen rises again during the second half of this phase, peaking at ovulation (Source)
Progesterone lowers energy levels drastically and increases cravings for sweet, calorie-dense foods. Progesterone signals the body to prepare for possible pregnancy (source) which might explain the desire to eat All. The. Carbs!
Scent profile: GOURMAND / SWEET. LEV: AN ODE TO LOVE PERFUME
Studies show that the body odours of an ovulating woman, increase her attractiveness to men.* This ‘scent of ovulation’ could increase a man’s probability to fertilize a woman and might therefore be an adaptation of men! (Source)
Scents that contain the aphrodisiac note of vanilla, have been shown to be universally loved.(source) Kavana’s LEV: An Ode to Love all natural, non-toxic perfume is a perfect choice for this phase. With it’s vanilla-like tonka bean and benzoin base notes, and a sweet blend of aphrodisiac ylang ylang and lemon top notes, this fragrance will have partners coming in close to get a whiff of this subtly sweet, yet refreshing scent.
LUTEAL PHASE / PMS (~days 19- 28)
Hormone profile: Coming in HOT!
In anticipation of pregnancy, progesterone peaks after ovulation and then plunges if one is not achieved. Progesterone affects basal body temperature (BBT), raising core temperature by a whole degree more than the BBT during the follicular phase, which is why many women can feel feverish before their period. (source)
Other flu-like symptoms that most women experience during this phase include: sinus pain, dizziness, chills, headaches migraines, body aches like abdominal cramping, back pain, bloating, cramps, nausea and stuffy noses, feverishness.
Severity of PMS symptoms can vary during this phase, and if they persist after your period and / significantly impact your life, it’s always advisable to speak to your Doctor/ OBGYN and a good therapist to find the support you need.
Energy profile: LOW
In addition to plummeting progesterone, estrogen reserves also take a nose-dive, affecting sleep-regulating serotonin and mood. (source) Sleepless nights and many mood shifts like sudden irritability, anger, uncontrollable sadness and weepiness, can be characteristic of this low-energy phase. A mellow mood can turn into anxiety quickly. Best to protect your energy and support your body with soothing baths, restorative self-care practices like yoga and meditation and cup of herbal tea.
Scent profile: COOLING/ DE-STRESSING: PEPPERMINT PERFUME POEM
In addition to being useful to stave off headaches and make one feel a bit more stimulated and cheerful, peppermint can also have a cooling effect, which is especially helpful during this phase. When PMS headaches strike and basal temperature tends to rise, apply Kavana's Peppermint Perfume Poem to inner wrists and inhale, to the back of the neck and shoulder blades and temples for a cooling sensation.
BONUS: Kavana’s cooling Plai (Thai Ginger) Perfume Poem (cramps blend), may be part of the ginger family, but unlike warming ginger, it feels cooling and can be beneficial for cramping or painful PMS and period cramps. Simply roll over belly or base of feet at the onset of cramps.
Want to learn about the effects of hormone on your skin? Stay tuned for the next Kavana blog post/ newsletter!