Applying and smelling of deodorant can make men seem more masculine, a new study by researchers from the University of Stirling reveals. However, the researchers assert that the effect only works on men with lower levels of perceived masculinity but not on men who are already perceived to be very masculine.

The results, published on May 11 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, involved studying the applying of deodorant and its effects on masculinity and femininity on both male and female participants. About 130 men and women judged the masculinity or femininity of a face on a photograph while another 239 men and women rated the odor of samples taken from 40 opposite sex participants.

The research team found that women are more sensitive or attentive to an individual’s odor compared to men. Men claimed that those women who wore deodorant smelled more feminine than those women who did not apply it.


Man applying deodorant. Credit: InnerUnit

Women rated the men with high and low facial masculinity differently when these men did not use deodorant. However, when the men wore deodorant, the women rated the men with high and low facial masculinity with the same levels of masculinity. Those men who were rated with low facial masculinity enjoyed the greater increase in masculinity levels but those men who were already rated as highly masculine did not experience any perceived masculinity level increase.

“This means that men are able to use deodorant to artificially raise their game so to speak, leveling the playing field by making themselves comparable, at least as far as odour is concerned, to more masculine men,” points out the study’s lead researcher Caroline Allen, a psychology researcher at the University of Stirling. “Our evolutionary preferences have likely shaped this difference in fragrance design: research findings show that we actually don’t like high levels of masculinity which are often associated with aggressiveness and hostility, but we show no upper limit on our femininity preferences.”