TikTok swears these scents will make people fall in love with you

TikTok perfume has earned a reputation for propelling perfumes to viral fame – just look at Amyris Femme from Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Delina from Parfums de Marly and, more recently, the missing person from Phlur. Popular TikTokkers like Mikayla Nogueira and Rachel Rigler endorsed Missing Person not for the smell, but for what the scent feels like when you wear it: “It smells like being in love,” said Rigler, who has also demonstrated its effectiveness on her boyfriend.

The virality of Missing Person, which helped it sell out just as Phlur was relaunched under new owner and creative director Chriselle Lim, builds on an existing interest in PerfumeTok for scents that promise sexual benefits or romantics. IntiMD’s Pure Instinct Crave and Heaux Cosmetics fragrances like Habitué Provocateur sold on “pheromones” – chemicals that have evolved to elicit a certain behavior within a species – which were said to be included in the formula to attract a particular sex. The lure of dabbing on a magical elixir and becoming the most bewitching person in the room makes it hard to resist those kinds of scents, even though some of these claims are more or less based on science.

Meet the experts:

Pure Instinct Crave claims to contain “pheromones imported from Italy” while Habitué Provocateur by Heaux Cosmetics lists copulin (chemicals secreted into the vagina during menstruation) and androstenol (a neurosteroid found in the testicles) among the ingredients, but they’re not the first to use the promise of pheromones to sell perfume – Erox released similarly marketed perfumes in the 1990s. But regardless of their ingredients, no perfume can reasonably claim to contain these human pheromones. guaranteed to inspire sexual attraction. Researchers have yet to definitively identify them as such, let alone confirm the existence of human pheromones.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Woman

“The challenge is that humans are very smelly. And the research or anything on attraction, especially sexual attraction, is really poor,” says Dr. Tristam Wyatt, senior researcher in the zoology department of the Oxford University and author of Pheromones and animal behavior. “Outside of ethics committees, humans are difficult animals to work with. We think too much, we learn too quickly,” Wyatt continues. “Because we are mammals, we may well have pheromones, but none have yet been found.”

Pheromones were first identified in 1959 as chemicals that induce certain behaviors in members of the same species, including but not limited to sexual behavior. Both copulins and androstenol could be human pheromones, but the research isn’t definitive, says Dr. Wyatt. “It’s actually a posting bias issue. People only post when they find something positive,” he explains. “It ties into the larger story of the whole problem of psychology: things that are really good ideas can, in small experiments, show an effect. But when you try to repeat it, you find that there was actually nothing in there.” But such studies, including one funded by Erox in the early 1990s, nonetheless helped propel the myth of products containing “pheromones” to induce sexual attraction for decades.

The TikTok Effect

TikTok is just a new platform to sell these products on. “It’s just about finding new audiences and getting the marketing to keep up,” Wyatt says. And TikTok is particularly adept at marketing an ephemeral product like perfume. The category has a foothold in social media as a whole, but unlike Instagram or YouTube, TikTok’s algorithm is able to attract audiences that weren’t previously immersed in the world of fragrances, explains Eden Campbell, head of fragrance. of strategy for creative agency Movers + Shakers in New York City. “The difference with TikTok is that the ‘For You’ page starts offering things you never thought you’d be interested in.”

Sarah C. Figueiredo