How Do Pheromones Work?

Updated January 2024. Pheromones are chemicals released from our bodies in an effort to elicit a response from our same species. Pheromones are released by every living species from animals, insects, plants and even bacteria. In other species, pheromones are used as a means of communication. Pheromone messages can be territorial, cooperative, or even sexual in nature.


The Effects Of Pheromones

sensual couple

The effects of sex pheromones can be witnessed in animals and their mating behaviors. When a female is in heat, the male of her species is drawn to her with an uncontrollable urge to mate. This intense desire elicits responses designed to draw the attention of the female.

This pheromone-induced attraction may even lead to fighting between males of the species to determine who will have the privilege of being the female’s mating partner.

How Pheromones Are Sensed

In humans, sex pheromones are invisible and odorless, yet they are still sensed through the nasal passages. Historically, a small organ located inside the front of the nose called the vomeronasal organ was responsible for detecting pheromones.

However, recent studies showed an absence of the vomeronasal organ in many humans, or a blockage in those receptors. Even so, pheromones are still somehow sensed through the nasal passages. Their signal is then carried to parts of the brain where emotion and desire are controlled.

women sitting on carpet

Production Of Pheromones

In humans, pheromones are produced by the body and released in the sweat and other body fluids. The armpit is one of the areas where large amounts of pheromones are released. These chemicals then drift through the air to be inhaled by a nearby receptor.

Although these chemicals are not consciously detectable, they are registered  subconsciously leading to an almost instinctual response. Unfortunately, the use of antiperspirant and deodorant products decreases the amount of pheromones released.

Female Pheromones

lady dressed in red

Sex pheromones are also released in body fluids created by the sex organs. Copulins are produced in the vagina, mainly around the vaginal opening. These chemicals are strongest when a female is at the height of her fertility in her menstrual cycle.

When a woman moves or breathes, small amounts of these pheromones are released into the air. A man senses these and his testosterone levels begin to raise, causing an increase in sexual desire.

Pheromones In Males

In males, sex pheromones are called androstenones and androsterones. These pheromones cause a female to sense a male’s dominance and ability to protect, eliciting a female sexual response. Male sex hormones stimulate the production of luteinizing hormone in women. Increase in leutinizing hormone is associated with an increase in the female sex drive.


handsome couple

Pheromones do not cause an instant, uncontrollable reaction. Rather, the results are more subtle. The opposite sex seems to irresistibly gravitate toward a potential mate who is releasing pheromones. There are, however, some considerations.

Due to evolutionary processes, pheromones can attract or repel a potential mate. That is because humans are subconsciously more attracted to those with different immune systems to strengthen the species. In those with similar immune systems, there is more likely to be a decrease in sexual desire.