Could “Love at first whiff” be true?

Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, have just launched Smell Dating, a New York matchmaking service that is all about chemistry.

Translated: You smell people before you go on a date.

Yes, really. We had to know how this works:


1. Each client that registers with Smell Dating will start their journey by receiving a T-shirt for them to wear for 3 days straight without deodorant.
2. After the 3 days, the client mails the T-shirt back to what is known as Smell Dating’s “Sweat Shop”. The Smell Dating team at NYU will then cut the T-shirt into swatches.
3. Clients get 10 different swatches to sniff.
4. If a client smells something they like, they tell Smell Dating for a set-up.

“If ‘Client 55’ likes ‘Client 69’ and vice versa, put a heart around it,” explained Tegan Brain.


The idea is based on the science of pheromones: the chemical signals that creatures from gerbils to giraffes to humans send out to entice mates.

Olfactory communication, or communication by scent in humans, has far been underestimated in the past according to researchers at the University of Vienna. They argue that many recent studies have found that pheromones not only play a role in the behavioral and reproduction biology of humans, but also in human sexual behavior.

Here is a quick video on the smell of attraction:

Researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland tested their curiosity of humans’ ability to detect specific smells and pheromones by asking women to smell different sweaty T-shirts worn by men for 2 days straight without deodorant, cologne and other distracting scents. The women were asked to rate each man’s shirt for “sexiness,” “pleasantness,” and “intensity of smell.” They found that the ratings were all determined by MHC. MHC, major histocompatibility complex, is a segment of our DNA related to the immune system. It was discovered in this experiment that the women preferred the smell of the shirts from men with very different MHC profiles. Conversely, the women did not like the smell of the shirts from men with similar MHC profiles. This again confirms the idea that our sense of smell has something to do with attraction.


Tegan Brain mentions, “In most normal dating services, you rely on profile pictures, assumptions that come from visual information, you either really like the smell of someone or you don’t. It’s much more innate.”

In this video from Reuters website, 25-year-old NYU graduate student Jesse Donaldson was one client who excitedly opened the package of sample T-shirts and began sniffing for a match.

After trying out other matchmaking services, Jesse hoped that Smell Dating would help him where other services have fallen short. Donaldson said,

“I’m like so many other people in New York City, using Tinder, using OK Cupid, and my main issue with these things is you feel like you’re shopping for somebody as opposed to making a genuine connection with another human being.”

Brain and Lavigne consulted with “a lot of smell researchers” about their project, and wanted to explore whether a person’s body odor can trigger Cupid’s arrow. Lavigne said, “We wanted to see if people would be interested in meeting other people just based on this one bit of information rather than this avalanche of information that you usually get.” Keep in mind that these clients are only going off smell; they are not given the age or gender of the other participants.


In this video you can watch participants actually experience the smell of attraction…pretty amusing. The best part is trying to see if couples can pick out each other’s scent—and if that person is their favorite smell:


I find smell to be an incredibly important and overlooked part of dating. While we haven’t quite figured out how to harness the power of pheromones yet, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t go crazy with the perfume or cologne—sometimes your natural smell is more important for natural attraction.
  • When you greet someone for the first time and give them a hug or kiss on the cheek, take note of any smell indicators. Do they smell good? Bad? Familiar? Sour? Highlight your natural senses.
  • The best way to smell someone’s pheromones is right after a workout. So do an activity with a crush—go on a hike, do some rock climbing or walk on the beach.
  • Try a Pheromone Dating Party—supposedly this is a real thing where people get together and smell shirts.

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