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Genetic Testing Uncovers Traits Connected With Preferences for Certain Fragrances

Research in genetics has uncovered an astounding array of characteristics that genetic traits are at least partially responsible for. Testing through a company like Pathway Genomics, co-founded by Jim Plante, can explain why one person has never felt much pain relief when taking acetaminophen but does very well with ibuprofen, for example. Some of these characteristics are of more casual interest, but nevertheless fascinating to learn about. An example is the possibility that genetic testing can verify which scents a person likes and dislikes.


The main study that researched this topic was published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2011. The researchers found they could predict the types of scents people would prefer based on their genetic structure.

A Theory About the Purpose

Any purposeful reason for people liking certain scents because of genetic structure is still in the theoretical stage. Some scientists speculate, for instance, that men and women prefer fragrances that enhance natural body odor. This would be related to their sex drive and be part of the attraction to a certain person. The specific genes associated with fragrance preferences actually are connected with attraction to other people, so there appears to be merit for this theory. As someone tries to find the perfect cologne or perfume, this person may want to consider what his or her romantic partner would most like.

Other Factors

That theory can explain why people like musk cologne. However, it doesn’t explain why one man prefers powdery fragrances on women, and why one woman prefers a spicy cologne on men. Interestingly, some scents appear to have near-universal approval. A fragrance resembling vanilla ranked highest overall in this study.

Of course, genetics is not the reason for everything. A man might like certain types of perfume because they subconsciously remind him of his first girlfriend when he was a high school sophomore. A woman might associate woodsy cologne fragrances with happy memories of summer camp, especially if she’s always lived in an urban center and has spent little time in the forest since those youthful days. But genetic testing can shed light on the preferences that seem to make no sense.