How Perfume Works


Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker

Vo: This episode is brought to you by Squarespace. Squarespace recently launched the latest version of their platform, Squarespace 7, which has a completely redesigned interface. Integrations with Getty Images and Google Apps, new templates, and an incredible feature called Cover Pages. Try the new Squarespace at squarespace.com and enter the offer code STUFF at checkout to get 10% off. Squarespace: "Start here. Go anywhere."

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Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

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Josh: Hey and welcome to the Podcast. I'm Josh Clark with Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant and Jeri-"Jers."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] That'd be great if that was her name.

Josh: Jeri-Jeri-Jers.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Like Tony! Toni! Toné!

Chuck: My friend used to call them "Tony, Tone-I, Tone-Y." Because of the spelling.

Josh: Oh, no. I know.

Chuck: Oh, okay.

Josh: But I thought the last one was an E with a little accent.

Chuck: Well, that was Toné, but he didn't say "Toné accent."

Josh: I would say that's "Tone-eh." "Tune-ih."

Chuck: Well, the point is, it's "E, I, Y," of the three letters.

Josh: When Jeri pressed record, did you think we were going to be talking about Tony! Toni! Toné!?

Chuck: I never know what the heck we're going to talk about for the first 30 seconds.

Josh: I would not have predicted that one.

Chuck: I was going to tell a little story, but I'm not going to now.

Josh: What's that scent you're wearing?

Chuck: It is Eau de Chuck Musk. It's called "Chusk."

Josh: In French, that means "water of Chuck Musk."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Gross.

Josh: Yeah. I'm wearing Drakkar Noir.

Chuck: Oh, gross-are you really?

Josh: No. [LAUGHTER]

Chuck: No.

Josh: Don't you think you'd be able to smell it?

Chuck: Well, yeah. Sure. I never know. I don't want to like-I'm very sensitive to making fun of people and what they choose to do. You know?

Josh: Oh, I'm not making fun of anybody.

Chuck: No, but I didn't want to say, "You're wearing cologne? You're wearing Drakkar Noir? Gross."

Josh: I used to love Drakkar Noir, back when I was in like seventh, eighth grade.

Chuck: I believe it.

Josh: Man alive.

Chuck: Those were the cologne days.

Josh: I looked it up and I was like, "What is Drakkar Noir mean?" Noir, black, right?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: What is Drakkar? Apparently, Drakkar, or Drakkar, is a name for a Viking ship.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: So Drakkar has kind of come into French, colloquially, as like a big ship or yacht. So I think Drakkar Noir-here's the fact of the podcast sadly-means black yacht.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: Yep.

Chuck: That means you are very refined, because all you see is white yachts. You ever seen a black yacht?

Josh: Nope. That would be pretty slick.

Chuck: Yeah, it'd be very hot. That's why they don't paint yachts black, I would imagine.

Josh: Well, yeah, I guess so.

Chuck: Because they sit out in the sun all day. So I wore Benetton Colors.

Josh: I never wore that one.

Chuck: And that smell today is still very evocative because I have the bottle-I don't know if I still had it-I had it-

Josh: In your keister?

Chuck: I had it-[LAUGHS]-yeah. What? Yeah, I keistered it in 1989.

Josh: Every once in a while, when you feeling nostalgic, you just shed it?

Chuck: Yeah. No, I can't find it. I just-

Josh: Oh, where is it? I thought you were saying you still had the bottle?

Chuck: I keistered it and I can't find it.

Josh: Oh, I see.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] It's somewhere over there.

Josh: It's somewhere in your abdomen.

Chuck: No, I had it for a long-the longest time. I don't think I still have it, though. And as we'll see, cologne can go bad. But this was in a dark drawer and it seemed to smell the same to me.

Josh: Yeah, that sounded like perfume industry propaganda.

Chuck: Oh, to keep you like-?

Josh: That it, no matter what you do to protect it, it's still going to go bad in two years.

Chuck: That's like these Vicodin are no good anymore.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: Don't believe that for a second.

Josh: No. But definitely don't just assume that they've downgraded in potency and take like four.

Chuck: Right. Although I do think [LAUGHS]-I do think cologne and perfume could definitely go bad if not cared for correctly.

Josh: Right. But if you care for it correctly, we should just go ahead and say, if you keep it out of the sunlight, keep the artificial light to a minimum, keep it in its original bottle.

Chuck: Capped.

Josh: Yeah. Supposedly, it stays good for two years.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: Whatevs.

Chuck: That's the part that I think is BS.

Josh: As long as you don't expose it to the outside air, right? Keeping it in its original bottle. And the sunlight is not sitting there breaking its molecular chains, it's going to be fine and stable.

Chuck: Yeah, I mean, I had literally had proof on cologne and Vicodin, that I'm happy to come out on the record about.

Josh: That's great, man.

Chuck: All right. This is a good article, I thought.

Josh: Oh, I-

Chuck: A nice choice.

Josh: Yeah. I agree. I think perfume is surprisingly interesting. It's one of those things where you just take for granted or you think like, "Oh, that's just for the fashionista, glitterati types or, you know, Madison Avenue folks kind of thing."

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: And then you dig into it, and you're like, "No, this is pretty cool."

Chuck: Perfume is for everyone.

Josh: Even if you don't wear it, it's still interesting to know about. Like, for example, the history. Did you read much of the history?

Chuck: Yeah. I saw-you sent me some pretty cool stuff that-and this isn't necessarily really perfume, but I guess perfume is really anything that smells.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: You know, it doesn't have to smell great.

Josh: Yeah. We're generally talking about perfume meaning like a product that you go buy to change or enhance your scent. Right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: That-but if you look around, like everything is perfumed unless it's specifically marketed as unscented, or non-perfumed.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But just about everything else has some sort of perfuming to it.

Chuck: Yeah, but it's got-it has to be a substance. That's what is the distinction between like a perfume and an odor.

Josh: Yeah. Yeah, like I guess the odor actually comes off, let's say, the plant.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: The perfume is when you go to that plant and squeeze the odor out of it, put it in a bottle, put it on your skin.

Chuck: Yeah. Well, you know, you don't need to put it in a bottle.

Josh: Yeah? I guess not.

Chuck: Just rub those leaves all over you. But, like I said, back in the day, ancient priests-you sent me this thing, said they burned incense, initially to cover up stinky, dead animal carcasses they were sacrificing, which makes sense that the Latin translation is "through the smoke."

Josh: That's what perfume means?

Chuck: Yeah. Like you can smell it through the smoke of, I guess, these burning, dead animals.

Josh: Or through the smoke, you feel a lot better about sacrificing animals because you can't smell the death.

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: The ancient Egyptians, very quickly-so like originally, these were priests using perfume to cover up animal sacrifices. Ancient Egyptians said, "We've got a better idea. Let's use the glands from those animals to scent ourselves for loving."

Chuck: Yeah. Let's put it on our stinky parts.

Josh: Yeah, originally it was animal sacrifice and it went very quickly into sexuality. And ever since then, the purpose of perfume has remained virtually unchanged. It is to stimulate sexuality in some form or fashion. Especially men wearing cologne.

Chuck: Yeah, and we'll get to some of those reasons in a bit. But that's a good primer. I never really thought about that, but I guess you're right. You're wearing it to smell more attractive, even in a-on the friendship tip. Doesn't necessarily have to be sexual, I don't think.

Josh: Well, it depends. Because some of the early ingredients that stick around until, in some cases, the 1990s, and are still being used in other cases, are from basically the sex glands-the scent glands of animals.

Chuck: Yeah, and this article points out, it's like-it's funny to think about the first person who saw a skunk and said, "You know what, I'm going to get all up in that anal gland and rub some of that on me."

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: Or the musk deer.

Josh: The musk deer?

Chuck: I want to get some of that.

Josh: The beaver produces castoreum. The civet cat, which is a Himalayan cat-

Chuck: Well, that's the skunk, too.

Josh: -the anal glands-that's the skunk one?

Chuck: Yeah, there's like a dozen animals they classify as "civet cats."

Josh: And then ambergris, or ambergris. I don't-I can't remember which way to pronounce it. Let's just say, it's-both are acceptable. Okay?

Chuck: We'll agree to disagree.

Josh: Ambergris-I can remember. Anyway, that's-

Chuck: It's the whale stuff.

Josh: Yes, so supposedly, everybody said, well, it's whale vomit. When a whale eats a squid, and its beak gets kind of in its stomach and it needs to dislodge it, it puke-

Chuck: Beak?

Josh: Yeah, squid beak.

Chuck: Oh, okay. I thought-I didn't know they were called beaks.

Josh: I think that it's-yeah, oh, it's a beak. It's probably the most disturbing part on any animal on the planet. The fact that a squid has a hard beak just like a bird, is-

Chuck: Yeah. Quite disturbing.

Josh: It just keeps me up at night. Because a squid is like gelatinous and flimsy. It's not supposed to have a hard beak that can break bone.

Chuck: Well, I think it is supposed to.

Josh: That's wrong to me.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: So if a whale has that beak in its stomach after eating a squid, it needs to get rid of it. So the common wisdom was that it puked up this stuff and that's what ambergris is.

Chuck: Yeah. This is the sperm whale specifically.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But-and this ambergris is like this-well, it's just like bile and puke and that kind of thing, but it floats on the surface of the ocean, and photodegrades and hardens, and turns into this waxy substance that's actually flammable, that can have its own scent. That has long been and still, in some cases, used as a major ingredient in perfume. Right?

Chuck: Yeah. I think it's supposed to make perfume stick to your body more.

Josh: Right. It's a fixative is what it's called. The weird thing is, is they're recently finding out that it's possible that ambergris-it comes out of the bottom end of the whale.

Chuck: Yeah, they don't puke it up.

Josh: Not the mouth.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: They poop it out. That it's basically whale diarrhea that you're using in your perfume. So consider this: depending on the perfume and the fixatives it uses, you could be using anal glands from a beaver and diarrhea from a whale-

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: -in order to make yourself smell sexy. What's insane, Chuck, is that it actually works.

Chuck: Uh, well, sure. That's debatable, depending on who you are, I guess.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: I hate the smell of perfume.

Josh: All perfumes? There's not a single perfume scent-even a component of a perfume-that you find pleasant?

Chuck: I don't like perf-scented perfume for women, specifically, is what I'm talking about. As far as working sexually. And I-

Josh: And it-no, it doesn't-I don't even mean like sexually necessarily, that it-like you're worked up, getting a little hot under the collar. Even just relaxing-

Chuck: Yeah. Not pleasing to me at all.

Josh: Really?

Chuck: Nope. Don't like it.

Josh: Are you-do you like scents of anything? I mean, like Emily makes all sorts of soaps and stuff. Do you like any of those scents?

Chuck: Those are all natural. That's the difference. Most every perfumed product is synthetic, that's on the market.

Josh: Uh, it depends. For sure, the cheaper ones definitely are. But not all of them are.

Chuck: Eh, most of them.

Josh: I mean, there's still plenty of that use like ambergris. What's more natural than whale diarrhea?

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Well, that's true.

Josh: You know?

Chuck: Not here in the U.S., though; we should point out it is illegal to use that in perfumes in the U.S. of A.-

Josh: But the European-

Chuck: -because they're endangered.

Josh: Yes, but the European perfume houses still do.

Chuck: But no, I'm very specifically averse to most scents because we don't use chemical products as much as possible. So like, I don't use scented sprays, scented deodorants. Like Febreze, to me, is like the most disgusting thing you can do to your home.

Josh: Oh yeah?

Chuck: Fabric softener sheets, laundry detergent-like nothing-nothing with scents. I hate it.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: There's nothing to me worse than like going to a hotel and smelling scented sheets that have clearly been washed with some kind of perfumey detergent.

Josh: What if it smells like something pleasant, though? I mean, like there's nothing? Like I understand what-

Chuck: No, they're all supposed to be pleasant. Like, this smells like lavender.

Josh: And none of it does. To you, it's just like this is synthetic so it feels bad to me.

Chuck: And smells bad, yeah.

Josh: I gotcha. But the idea, you just rattled off a bunch of, like, uses for perfume beyond actual perfume.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: And that's actually kind of an old concept. What's long been considered the seat of Europe's perfume industry is a Grasse, I think, G-R-A-S-S-E, in the South of France. And it's got this unusual microclimate, to where all of these wonderful plants, like jasmine and orange blossoms and lavender, and all this stuff, can grow. And the locals figured out-number one, that they needed to grow this stuff, but also to extract it in different ways. You can extract the essential oils, you can extract absolutes, you can extract concretes, but what you're doing is extracting these odorant molecules from plants and using it to perfume. Well, what they were originally using it to perfume, in I think like the 14th or 13th century, were leather gloves. So remember Catherine de' Medici?

Chuck: Oh yeah. She's been coming up a lot lately.

Josh: A lot.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: She was given some scented gloves by the tanners of Grasse, France, which was originally their-that was their gig, was making leather goods. But they stunk like death. So just like those ancient priests, the people of Grasse said, "We need to perfume these." They came up and started this whole trend of perfumed leather gloves, by sending a complementary pair to Catherine de' Medici, who loved them. And then all of a sudden, bam-Grasse is not only making these awesome leather goods, it becomes the perfume capital of the world, and stays that way for a very long time.

Chuck: Because she essentially was the first celebrity sponsor of a product.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And she was in the copies of the local rag, saying, "I love the smell of my lavender leathers."

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] That's a pretty, cool story.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And so that was the heart of it all, then.

Josh: Yeah, and Grasse still makes-not nearly as much as they used to, but they still produce tons of essential oils every year, of all these wonderful plants.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: See? I'm down with the essential oils. That's different.

Josh: Right. But that stuff is frequently used in perfumes. I mean, they might not be using it in like your, you know, Tide or anything like that. That's probably a synthetic scent-

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Not probably, it's absolutely a synthetic scent.

Josh: But there are still plenty of perfumes that do use essential oils in there as smell molecules.

Chuck: Sure. Well, the reason people don't is because it's expensive.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: All right. So let's talk a little bit about what perfume as the stinky stuff that you use in atomizer, if you're fancy, to spray on your body, to smell sexy.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: And a little bit about smell, in general, I guess. The liquid perfume that we're talking about is basically just a concoction of alcohol and water, and these smell molecules that basically what you're smelling is evaporation into the air, and they do point out in the article, not everything-that, you know, it's light enough to float, but not everything that's light enough to float has a smell.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And what do they point out-carbon monoxide is the common danger. That you can't smell it, you might be dying. That's why you have the detectors in your home.

Josh: Yeah. All of a sudden, you can't think right, and there's no other reason why, it's probably carbon monoxide leak in your house.

Chuck: That's right. There's no old Vicodin around, you should check the battery on your carbon monoxide detector.

Josh: So not only do some molecules not have a scent, they're just not odorants. Some odorants aren't smelled by all people. Like apparently, sandalwood-natural sandalwood is the most commonly unscented odorant.

Chuck: Yeah, the natural, original, the OG?

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So even if you are making a perfume or something like that, you may be making something that can't be smelled by a significant portion of the population. Which is the challenge in making perfume.

Chuck: Yeah, and the whole cilantro thing-posted a link to a story about that. I know we've talked about it before. It's like 10% of the population has a genetic marker that thinks it taste-or taste and smelled soapy.

Josh: Yeah, and this article points out that what's going on is not that there's some alteration of the smell or taste of cilantro, but that there's a note to it missing. So that it is incomplete, what people are sensing. And therefore, they find it gross. But I saw another study that showed that 30% of odorant receptors are different from person to person. Take any two people, 30% of their odorant receptors are going to be just wildly different. So it is a real challenge to make a perfume that is pleasing to enough people. And as a result, some people have gone the opposite way, and they're just making exactly what they think is super cool. And if you like it, awesome. If it smells good, great. If not, whatever. But that's kind of counter to the main mode of thinking in the perfume industry, which is-

Chuck: Widest audience is the best.

Josh: Exactly. Because more people are going to buy it and you're going to make more money. And if it's a really good one, it'll be a classic that people develop like a brand loyalty to.

Chuck: Yeah, sure.

Josh: And buy again and again and again, year after year.

Chuck: Chanel No. 5.

Josh: Yeah. Which-

Chuck: Classic perfume.

Josh: -it is. And it was the first perfume to use synthetic ingredients. Did you know that?

Chuck: I did not.

Josh: And apparently, it was not a hit right out of the gate. It was created in the '20s for Chanel, but it wasn't until Marilyn Monroe in an interview in the mid-'50s said that all she wears to bed are two drops of Chanel No. 5, that all of a sudden it was like-

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Forever. The forever perfume.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] So every guy bought it for his wife.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Because it would make him think of Marilyn Monroe.

Josh: But it's just stayed that way ever since. Even though the Marilyn Monroe story has been kind of lost mostly to popular culture.

Chuck: There's a documentary on Coco Chanel. I haven't seen it yet. It's supposed to be good.

Josh: Oh yeah?

Chuck: Yeah. I'll have to check it out. So perfume oil, specifically, is a super-you know, this is what we're talking about being like steamed or pressed out of like a fruit or a plant or something. It's super concentrated, so it's only-it's going to be a 98% alcohol and 2% water.

Josh: So that's the solvent.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And then you take the solvent, and the amount of solvent that's combined with perfume oil, you have different types of perfume.

Chuck: Yeah, exactly. So parfum and, you know, it'll say this on the bottle, if you go to-if you've ever read the back of a perfume bottle. Which I haven't. But parfum, P-A-R-F-U-M, is at least 25% perfume oil. Eau de parfum, 15 to 18%, Eau de Toilette, or toilet water, is 10%, and Eau de Cologne is-

Josh: Like 2 to 5%.

Chuck: That's Axe body spray. [LAUGHTER]

Josh: It's light. It's very light.

Chuck: Yeah. Like body sprays.

Josh: Unless you're talking about like just a straight-up cologne, can also mean a man's scent.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Which is sometimes way more than 5%.

Chuck: Yeah, I think I've said this before when I lived in Yuma, Arizona, post-college, there was a lot of dudes wearing cologne. And I was like, "You guys are still wearing cologne, huh?" Like, "Yeah, man. You don't wear cologne?" I was like, "Nope."

Josh: Where's your Curve?

Chuck: Yeah. And yeah, it was a very strange thing to me, because I'm just-I don't know, I don't see a lot of guys that wear cologne anymore.

Josh: Oh, it's definitely falling away again.

Chuck: Maybe I'm in the-traveling in the wrong circles.

Josh: Well, in America, it was cool at first, and then it kind of fell away. And then, thanks to Marilyn Monroe and Chanel, it kind of came back big-time. And then, it kind of peaked I think in the '90s for men, especially. But it's still going strong. Like one Armani, Geo de Armani, I think-I can't remember what it's called-it made like several hundred million dollars in, you know, 2006.

Chuck: Is that one of the unisex ones?

Josh: No, but it is for men.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Yeah, I've always thought that whole new-well, it seems new-the unisex cologne. I always thought it was interesting.

Josh: Well, originally-

Chuck: They're trying to design something for both men and women?

Josh: Right. But that's a throwback, actually. Originally, there were no gender differences among any perfumes.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Especially in France. And the French court-

Chuck: Because men like to smell like lilac, as well. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Right. And that, you know, nothing wrong with that.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: The idea that lilac is a feminine scent is a new and social construct. You know?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Or the idea that cedar is a manly scent. That's a new and social construct, too. And very American, as well.

Chuck: Sure. So when it comes to categorizing like we were just talking about, there are terms that are used in the biz, but it's not like there's any rule about it. It's just basically how people have grown to talk about perfume that are in the business of perfume.

But generally, there are these categorizations: floral, that's a no-brainer; fruity, that's a no-brainer; green, that might be grassy or leafy. I like stuff like that.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Like the olive oils that taste like grass, you ever had those?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Man, those are good. Or a wheatgrass shot?

Josh: That is not good.

Chuck: Ooh, I love it.

Josh: Do you?

Chuck: You don't like it?

Josh: No.

Chuck: Oh man, I love it. It's like drinking down some grass clippings. [LAUGHS]

Josh: I think I would rather drink grass clippings than wheatgrass.

Chuck: Really?

Josh: Yeah. I don't like it.

Chuck: Well, it is grass clippings, actually. Literally.

Josh: They're like fescue or something.

Chuck: Sure. Well, take a fescue shot then.

Josh: I will.

Chuck: Herbaceous, like herbs. Woody, like wood. Amber, tree resin. I thought that was interesting. Every time I want to say animalic, I want to say "animaniac" for some reason. Bodily smells, that's gross.

Josh: Well, that's like from-that's musk.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's a bodily smell.

Chuck: Well, but then there's musk is its own category, too, because it's just so singular.

Josh: Right, but I mean like there's also supposedly, also I guess either-I don't know if it's a subtype of musk or animalic, or whatever. But fecal is another thing, too. Calvin Klein's Obsession is, among the perfume industry, well known as a very famous "fecaly" perfume.

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Which one?

Josh: Obsession.

Chuck: Obsession?

Josh: Yeah. Like a hugely selling, very popular perfume being worn by people. If you walk past someone in the perfume industry, they're going to be like, "There's some real fecal notes to that one."

Chuck: Well, they said in this-the top notes they say sometimes can be something really nasty just to attract you. I don't know what "attract" means, but I guess get your attention maybe, but that'll wear off the quickest. So it's not what lasts on your body. Which we'll get into that in a sec. Let me just finish this little list here.

Josh: Okay, sorry.

Chuck: You have the oriental, in its proper usage here, amber and spice. And then a few other ones are categorized by the actual molecules, like phenolic might smell like tar. Or a lactonic-creamy, lactose, obviously. Or aldehydic, which is fatty. So those are the main categories, and we will get a little bit more into that chemistry that we teased you with, right after this.

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[MUSIC]

Josh: So, Chuck, we talked about perfume being diluted-like heavily diluted. What a rip-off. It's almost all alcohol. Right?

Chuck: Yeah. What a rip.

Josh: The reason why, though-it's not a rip.

Chuck: I know.

Josh: You would not want the perfume oil, which, again, is just essential oils or synthetic versions of those oils, and fixatives or synthetic versions of the fixative. So it might be essential oil of lavender, some muskrat anal gland-

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: -and then solvent is most of the other stuff.

Chuck: It's-I'm laughing, but it's true.

Josh: And then, bam, you've got a perfume right there.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But the reason why it's so dissolved, and why so much of it is alcohol, is because the way that perfumes are designed is so that the different types of molecules, when they interact with the alcohol and the alcohol evaporates, will evaporate in a certain progression of time.

Chuck: Yeah, I thought this was the most interesting part of this whole thing. The alcohol actually makes it possible to separate those notes.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And they likened this article to hearing all the parts of a symphony at once. Like a lot of pleasing things all at one time is not necessarily a good thing.

Josh: No, and that's what you would get if you stuck your face in a one ton barrel of perfume oil.

Chuck: Yeah, you might say, "Man this is sweet," but you wouldn't pick up on the subtleties of those odors.

Josh: Right. Yeah, exactly. But what alcohol does is it takes that concentrated form, it not only dilutes it, but it, again, spreads it out temporally. So when you first put it on, you put on a little perfume, right?

Chuck: Mm-hmm. Sure.

Josh: The immediate notes-the top notes-are what you smell immediately.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: And they go from anywhere like immediate to maybe a few minutes usually.

Chuck: Yeah, the first ones you'll smell and the first one to leave your body.

Josh: Exactly. That's the top notes. And a perfume is designed so that as each set of notes-and there are three; there's top, heart and base notes-as each one is leaving, the next one is starting up. So you have this basically flowing transition. And comparing it to a symphony is so apt. Because it's just like this kind of flowing melody of scents, that work together by, I guess, dissolving, evaporating, at a certain time-at a certain rate.

Chuck: Yeah, and like we said before the break there, a lot of times they will put something unpleasant in that first top note. And I guess it will just get your attention in the store.

Josh: Yeah, you're just like, "Oh, that's so fecal."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah, exactly.

Josh: Or like, what was it in Anchorman?

Chuck: Oh, the musk?

Josh: Yeah, it was like puma musk?

Chuck: Oh, oh. That one. The-

Josh: Puma urine or something?

Chuck: Paul Rudd's cologne?

Josh: Yeah, yeah.

Chuck: Yeah, well, I can't remember the exact line, but like, "Seventy percent of the time, it works all the time."

Josh: [LAUGHS] Yeah.

Chuck: What was it? Panther something?

Josh: Yeah, it was panther something.

Chuck: Man, that was a funny movie. And then you've got your heart notes next, right?

Josh: Yeah, and-

Chuck: And how long do they last?

Josh: They kick in anywhere and last for-starting at two minutes to about an hour, from what I saw. Those are going to be-it can be entirely different. It depends, as we'll see, what you're trying to get across. But you could do woody top notes with a vanilla base-or heart note.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: So it'll go from wood to vanilla to lemon citrus base note. Right?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Or you could do it completely opposite; you can just mix and match.

Chuck: It's like the Oakridge Boys.

Josh: It depends-[LAUGHTER]-right-it depends on the type of molecule you use. And as you're making synthetic odorants, you can make a synthetic odorant that's going to stick around as a base note, even though if you had an essential oil of that lemon, it would be just a top note because it's going to go away so quick.

Chuck: Yeah, and as we'll see later when you're making these perfumes, it's a real science and a balancing act of getting exactly what they want. Because these smells, as you said, are coming and going, and it is sort of like composing a symphony.

Josh: Again.

Chuck: Again. Man. So the base note, that's the one that's going to stick around the longest, though. Right?

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And come out latest.

Josh: Yeah, it can come out starting usually about 30 minutes after you put it on and can stick around for a day, if you're not careful.

Chuck: And didn't you find something where the no perfume is going to smell the same on any two people, exactly?

Josh: Right. Not only is it not going to smell the same on any two people, it's going to smell different to any two people. Right?

Chuck: Sure. Right.

Josh: Because again, 30% of our odor receptors are different in every single person. Plus also, an odorant can activate different kinds of receptors, depending on the person. And then lastly, that person is going to encode it differently. Because scent is definitely its own thing, as far as our senses go. And it's the only sense that's directly hardwired to the brain, so the odorant receptors go straight to the brain.

Chuck: Yeah, it doesn't send it to a nerve cell that's nearby first, right?

Josh: Exactly. So it's like-it's our sense of smell is hardwired to our brain. So it evokes some serious reaction in the brain.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: And there's also a hypothesis that our brain, the lobes of our brain, evolved from the olfactory buds-that that's what they started out as.

Chuck: Oh, that would make sense.

Josh: And that it just grew and grew and grew. And then we were all like brainstem and olfactory buds, and then we-the brain grew from that. Which would be like hats off to the sense of smell because that's what started it all.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: But there's-the point is, is that our sense of smell is-it's a big deal. But it's different in each of us, and when you factor in our body chemistry, our skin, that's when it's-it genuinely does smell differently on different people.

Chuck: Well, I would think it has to because everyone has a natural scent, I think, just a person, that's different from one another.

Josh: Exactly. So when you put these-

Chuck: So you combine it, it's got to make a different thing, you know?

Josh: Right.

Chuck: So like if I smell like cherry pie-

Josh: Which you do.

Chuck: -throw some Cool Whip on me-

Josh: Which I would.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Gross.

Josh: I wouldn't do anything, I'd just throw Cool Whip on you.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Okay.

Josh: You know?

Chuck: In the form of a pie to the face.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Why not?

Chuck: That old gag.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: But when you're putting on the perfume-this is all coming around to this point-there are ways to do it, supposedly, that will get the proper-get the most out of your perfume. Like you shouldn't put it and rub into your skin real hard. You don't want to heat it up right away or anything like that.

Josh: No, because then you break the chains of the top notes, and you wear them out before your finger even comes away from your skin.

Chuck: Yeah. Just-

Josh: Like kind of dab it on lightly.

Chuck: Yeah, sure. You did just like the old lady move, dab it behind the ear maybe? Or I've seen the other lady move to do it on the wrists, and maybe rub that together a little bit. And then, my big trick was to-because I never-I liked the Benetton Colors, but even back then, didn't want to be super cologney. So you know, I did the deal where I spray it in the air then like walk through it. You know?

Josh: That's even, I think, mentioned in this article.

Chuck: Oh is it? Is it a method?

Josh: Yeah, that's a method.

Chuck: Okay. I was really onto something at 16.

Josh: I think even rubbing your wrists together, though, would probably-

Chuck: No good?

Josh: No. Because you don't want to generate heat. And one of the reasons why people put it behind their ears or on their wrists-

Chuck: It's stinky behind your ears, for one.

Josh: That's one. You can also smell it yourself right there.

Chuck: Oh, yeah.

Josh: But if you put your fingers behind your ears and then put them like, I don't know, on your head or something, you'll see that behind your ears is warm.

Chuck: Yeah, sure.

Josh: On your wrists is warm; these are pulse points. Right? So your hot blood is close to the surface of your skin. So then that heat will start to break up the alcohol, will make it evaporate, and will hence make those different notes come out.

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: That's all the heat you'll need. Any friction is too much heat.

Chuck: Right. So you say no on the wrist rub.

Josh: No wrist rub.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: I mean, if you want to waste your money and just get heart and base notes and no top notes, go for it.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] All right, Josh, so let's say-I thought this was all pretty interesting, too, actually.

Josh: Yeah?

Chuck: Let's say you want to launch Joshness. You work for Polo and you just-you want to do Joshness. You're in their perfume department and you say, "Guys, this is going to be a-trust me on this one-it's going to be a top-seller." So you go to Polo, your bosses, and they say, "All right, Josh, what we need here is a brief." And the brief is going to outline-because, you know, again, you can't say this is a perfume everyone's going to love. Because they're like, "There is no such thing." So write up a brief, tell me who is going to love it, who it's going to appeal to-

Josh: What do you want it to smell like?

Chuck: Yeah. What do you want this to say, even?

Josh: So Tom Ford launched one that became very successful, called Black Orchid. And he said, "I want this to smell like a man's crotch." That was one. Can I give you another brief?

Chuck: Please.

Josh: For Pure Poison from Dior, the brief included, "What is it like to have something soft and hard at the same time?"

Chuck: Oh, I think we all know that. [LAUGHS]

Josh: All right, and then here's another one. I don't know what this one was for-

Chuck: That's a Viagra ad, as well.

Josh: [LAUGHS] So yeah, I don't know which one this is, but one brief described what they were after as, "Give us the scent of a warm cloud floating in a fresh spring sky over Sicily, raining titanium raindrops on a woman with emerald eyes."

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: That's what somebody wrote down when they were trying to describe what scent they wanted.

Chuck: Yeah, I mean, that's-those are legit briefs. That's how you're supposed to do it. Describe not just the specific scents that you want, but what do you want it to say. Generally, it's probably more something like, you know, "classy." Or you know, "prosperous" or something like that.

Josh: "Fecal."

Chuck: Fecal [LAUGHS]. Then you want to write out what-how you're going to sell it; like, what form it's going to take. You also want to have a marketing plan like, "I think we could sell this in South America for the next, like, five years."

Josh: They're going to go crazy for.

Chuck: Yeah, exactly. So then after that, it's going to go to a chemist and it's going to get mailed to what are called fragrance houses, because Polo doesn't make it themselves-they don't come up with it themselves, that is.

Josh: No. And the chemist is employed by the fragrance houses. And they send this brief out to a bunch of different fragrance houses, and basically start a competition. Like, who's going to land this account?

Chuck: Yeah, exactly.

Josh: This is what we want, see what you can do.

Chuck: So this fragrance house, they do a couple of things. They have the perfumers who-they actually are the chemists who come up with the formula.

Josh: Yeah, they've got all these scents in their head and they know, like, I know exactly what smells like a woman with emerald eyes.

Chuck: Sure. Super smellers, I would imagine.

Josh: Yeah. Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: There's an odor tester job out there that's supposed to be great.

Chuck: I don't know if I'd do so hot on that.

Josh: Oh, yeah. You have to have like just a naturally wonderful nose.

Chuck: Yeah. My nose is not naturally wonderful.

Josh: It has to make like a curly Q.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] These fragrance houses also have-they don't just write the formulas, they also have the stuff in stock, all these different ingredients and warehouses, or they will work with another company who has it if they're like, "We don't have, you know, papaya-Eau de Papaya-we need to work with a company who does." They will sub that out and they have these chemists that actually work with gas chromatography / mass spectrometry, which we talked about on something. I can't remember what it was. This can be used for other things.

Josh: Well, it basically analyzes odorant molecules.

Chuck: Yeah. To say here's what it's made of and here's how you can make a synthetic version of it.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: For cheaper.

Josh: Right. Exactly. So then you have those people, those chemist analysts. And then you also have synthetic chemists, who say-who take the readouts from the gas chromatography and say, "Oh, I can build this." And then they build the synthetic molecules. And all these-

Chuck: Exactly. Which is just mind-blowing.

Josh: It is mind-blowing. All of these people are employed by the fragrance houses.

Chuck: That's right. One thing that they do, we did talk earlier about, you know, how they have this stuff in stock. A lot of times, it can be the actual oils from pressing it and steaming it. But there's another-

Josh: Putting it in a headlock?

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Exactly. There's another cool thing they have, though, called headspace. And that is when, if they want an odor or a fragrance, they will put like an avocado in a jar and suck out the air every hour or constantly, for hours.

Josh: Right. And then they use gas chromatography to analyze that.

Chuck: And analyze that. There you go.

Josh: And then somebody goes and builds that, right?

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: And that's what's called the headspace. The headspace is basically a synthetic version of an existing natural scent that somebody trademarks. And then all of a sudden, it becomes part of the perfume industry's repertoire.

Chuck: Yeah, I mean that's the space in the jar that's the literal headspace that has got the odor.

Josh: There's a dude named Christopher Brosius, and he started a company called, Demeter, and they're known for making like really weird perfumes, like birthday cake, baseball mitt, baby aspirin.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Just weird stuff like that.

Chuck: Ooh, baby aspirin.

Josh: But what's neat is they nail it. And one of the ways they nail it is by using-by making headspaces. One of the first ones they did was called Soaked Earth. He took some dirt from his parents' farm, put it in a bag, and took it to New York and threw it on the table and said, "I want this."

Chuck: Nice.

Josh: And they analyzed it, and by god, they came up with dirt-the smell of dirt.

Chuck: Specific to his region, though, I would imagine.

Josh: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: I think Pennsylvania.

Chuck: Interesting. I guess here we can briefly mention that knockoff colognes and perfumes is a very common thing because your copyright, I mean, you can tweak your formula slightly, and it's totally legal. You know? To sell that-essentially, the same thing, that's just oh-so-slightly different, under a different name.

Josh: Right. It's like the same thing as designer drugs, except with perfumes.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Remember that? At like the gas station, if you like Giorgio, you'll love whatever we're calling this.

Chuck: Oh, yeah. Sure.

Josh: What was the knock-off name for Giorgio?

Chuck: Georgie or something?

Josh: But there was a whole generic rip-off line called, "If you like blank, you'll love blank."

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: It's hilarious. So Chuck, you take all this stuff, you take your headspace, you take your existing headspace, you take your essential oils, and then you put them all together to create that emerald eye woman who has titanium raindrops raining on her in Sicily on a spring day.

Chuck: Yeah, well, you do anywhere from 10 to 100 of them.

Josh: Each fragrance house does.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Then they send them to their odor testers. And the odor tester goes, "No, no, no, this one's a maybe, no, no, I like this one, no, no, maybe again, yes, and then no."

Chuck: And then Polo, at this point, has not smelled any Joshness yet.

Josh: No.

Chuck: This is all-they're trying to weed out the gunk because they don't want to waste Polo's time.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: They don't want to send them 400 Joshnesses.

Josh: Exactly. No, they want to send them one, maybe two, and they do.

Chuck: Sure. So Polo will then get it, say, "Eh, I like this second one, but it's a little too strong on this one scent." So it'll go back again, and it's just a process basically. Maybe they nail it on the first time.

Josh: Probably not.

Chuck: But probably not. It's a back and forth, basically. It's like working with an editor. And they'll swap in ingredients, and they'll-you know, like we said earlier, it's a science basically, of the right combination in the right order of evaporation. I think it's just super interesting. They put it through product testing, of course, to see what people think of it. Because they're not just going to launch it out of the blue. They want it to-like you said-appeal to either the right demographic or the most people possible.

Josh: Right. And so the one that Polo decides that is Joshness-

Chuck: Yeah. They win.

Josh: -that perfume house wins. And so they get a contract to produce X number of tons or gallons of this particular perfume.

Chuck: Well, of the-

Josh: Perfume oil.

Chuck: Yeah, exactly.

Josh: The undiluted stuff.

Chuck: Yeah. Polo actually produces-they take that, and produce the perfume.

Josh: Right. They add the solvent to produce the perfume, the Eau de Toilette, the Eau de Cologne, all that stuff, and the different concentrations. They will probably also use it in maybe a deodorant, a body lotion, all that stuff. But they deliver them in like one ton drums of the perfume oil that you don't want to smell until it's been diluted.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: And then all of a sudden, the Joshness is released into the world.

Chuck: Literally.

Josh: And becomes the number one selling cologne of all time.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Well, and Polo never knows the exact concoction that makes Joshness, either. Which I thought was super interesting. It's literally the perfumer knows its little secret.

Josh: Yep. That's exactly right.

Chuck: It's kind of neat. So after this, we're going to talk a little bit about the science of scent and whether or not it's something that we're born with or that we learn.

[MUSIC]

Josh: Chuck.

Chuck: Yo.

Josh: We used to have a terrible phone system.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Now we have a good phone system. Do you know why?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Because How Stuff Works got Ring Central.

Chuck: That's right. And it's really awesome. It's cloud-based and it costs a fraction of what the old system costs. And right now, dude, they have seamlessly integrated with Google.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You can make calls through Ring Central from your Gmail account. You can listen to your voicemails directly within Gmail. You can invite as many as 1,000 audio participants to any Google Hangout.

Josh: Yeah, you can view your complete communication's history-calls, texts, faxes, voicemails, everything. All without leaving your Google Apps. It's pretty cool.

Chuck: Yeah, that's right. You can even schedule Ring Central meetings within your Google Calendar.

Josh: Right. Chuck, what's even more awesome is that Ring Central has zero start-up costs, no PBX hardware to install, and really, really good prices. Prices are as low as $24.99 per month, per user, and that includes everything.

Chuck: Yeah, and if that wasn't good enough, my friend, they're offering a 30-day risk-free trial that is actually risk-free. All you got to do is go to RingCentral.com, to learn more. That is, RingCentral.com. Or you can call them up because they're a phone company.

Josh: Yep. Give them a call at 800-574-5290. That's Ring Central.

[MUSIC]

Josh: All right, so Chuck, why do people wear perfume?

Chuck: Depends on who you ask.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: There's a lady, named Rachel Herz, from Brown University. She wrote a book called The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell. And she postulates that, depending on how old you are and what gender you are, you have your different reasons. That young men do it to attract women; that's why I did it.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Older men do it out of gratitude to the women who gave it him: "Honey, you'd smell nice with this on." So, "Sure. I'll wear it, dear."

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Women, depending on how old you are-in the 20s, you're more effected by-or I guess inspired by your friends and the media.

Josh: Beyoncé?

Chuck: Sure. She has her own perfume, doesn't she?

Josh: Yeah. You know who has like a surprise runaway, smash hit right now? Is Sarah Jessica Parker.

Chuck: Uh, that doesn't surprise me.

Josh: It does me, a little bit.

Chuck: She's like-

Josh: It wouldn't have surprised me in like 2002-

Chuck: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Josh: But like it is a top-seller right now.

Chuck: She's like a goddess to a certain age group of women, though. Like still.

Josh: Yeah. I guess you're right. But even still, you'd think like, I don't know, maybe they're right in the perfume wheelhouse. It could be an awesome-smelling perfume. I've never smelled it. I was just surprised-

Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: -because, you know, you're like, Beyoncé, Derek Jeter-like these are the celebrities-

Chuck: He has a cologne.

Josh: -yeah, it's top-selling-that have these top-selling, like, colognes, and then Sarah Jessica Parker, it just-I just don't think of her like that. I don't-I like her, she's great.

Chuck: Yeah, I get it.

Josh: But I just don't think of her as that, and I'm happy for her success.

Chuck: Yeah, she's iconic, to a certain demographic.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Not to me.

Josh: Like she's not an icon to you?

Chuck: No, she's an icon to Emily, I think.

Josh: Oh, yeah?

Chuck: She was a big fan of that show. Women in their 30s, they say, follow no particular pattern. There is-I don't know what they're doing. They don't know what's going on yet.

Josh: They just like what they like, I think, is what that means.

Chuck: Well, by the time they're 40, they say that's simply because they like it. Like I just like the way this smells, and I'm 40, so I'm going to just wear it.

Josh: I see.

Chuck: I don't care what my husband thinks at this point, or what my friends think at this point.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: In their 60s, they say women think of other people's wishes, like their friends, their loved ones say they like the way it smells, which is a really nice thing.

Josh: And then, a lot of people choose perfumes apparently that their mother wore or in the same scent family, either knowingly or not. But probably knowingly, because there's an associative learning theory of smell.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: You were saying before the break, we were going to talk about whether, you know, smell is learned or if we're born with it. The idea that smell is learned is called the associative learning hypothesis.

Chuck: That it's learned?

Josh: Yeah. That like we come to like smells based on social constructs, based on experience. There's supposedly evidence that smell learning begins in the womb, even. That odor and molecules can be passed along from mother to child, and that the stuff you're exposed to in the womb, you can show a preference for later on down the road.

Chuck: Yeah, and Rachel Herz is a member of that camp.

Josh: Yeah, and by the way, I want to give a shout-out. Rachel Herz wrote a chapter for the book Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward, which is a gas, in general, right?

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah.

Josh: But she wrote chapter 17, "Perfume" is the title of it. And it's on the NIH website, the NCBI website. Just search for that and it will come up. The whole chapter is right there and it's really interesting and exhausting. But she is one of the one's who's like, "This is a learned behavior," and lays out some really great evidence for it.

Chuck: Yeah. One of her points is that babies basically don't think anything smells bad or good. I don't know how they know this. I guess wafting things under baby's face to see what face they make.

Josh: Yes, that's exactly right. Including poop.

Chuck: Well, yeah, you never see the baby like throwing up.

Josh: Not complaining.

Chuck: No.

Josh: Yeah. Like I'll wallow in poop, I don't care. I'm a baby. I don't mind the smell.

Chuck: Sure. You ever farted right in a baby's face? No reaction.

Josh: They just blink?

Chuck: Nothing

Josh: A couple of times?

Chuck: They're delighted.

Josh: Well, plus also, other studies of adults, not even babies, have shown that the same smell can be preferred or disliked in very similar groups. In the U.K., the smell of wintergreen, in a study after World War II, was found to be just generally disliked. In the U.S., like a decade later, the smell of wintergreen was found to be generally preferred. In the U.S., wintergreen is used for like candy and gum, and it's associated with positive stuff. In the U.K., wintergreen was used during World War II for medicines that were used in the field. So there's associations with battle, war, maiming, disease. So that's what wintergreen is to people in the U.K., whereas in the U.S., the exact same smell is pleasant.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: And you know, I mean, it's not like the Americans and the Brits are the exact same people-

Chuck: Right.

Josh: -but they're in the same cohort, you know?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: A very similar cohort. And they showed like opposite preferences, which is really great evidence for associative learning hypothesis.

Chuck: Yeah, and it's also a reason why, in the early 2000s, the U.S. Army was not able to come up with a stink bomb that was universally upsetting to people's noses, across cultures.

Josh: Yep. Yeah.

Chuck: They contracted out the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philly, and they tried to curate a universal stink bomb smell. And they said, you know, because of cultural, specific products and things, we had to avoid anything like food-related, even if we think it really stinks; some other culture might like it.

Josh: Right. Exactly.

Chuck: So they had to basically go to-they focused on stuff with biological origins, like vomit and human waste and burnt hair. And they made synthetic versions of all of these, and got some people in Philly and put them in a hood and introduced these-

Josh: Oh, those poor people.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] I know. I thought it was funny that it was Philly, though. They're probably like, "Hey, it's not so bad." [LAUGHTER] And introduced-they slowly infused it, and they said people thought it was the worst thing they'd ever smell. Their heads would jerk back, they would contort with revulsion, and then basically just try and hold their breath as long as possible or take little shallow breaths.

Josh: Sounds like a great stink bomb to unleash on people in Philadelphia, at least.

Chuck: Yeah, but they couldn't-basically, they couldn't up with anything that was universally hated, so-

Josh: Do you remember the Air Force also tried to come up with a gay bomb?

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Oh yeah. Yeah.

Josh: That used like some sort of perfume to turn like enemy combatants into like just gay lovers?

Chuck: So silly. It's a shame, though, because a stink bomb is actually really like-it's a great idea. You know, it doesn't hurt anyone. There's no-it's not like a chemical-like, you know, what do you call it? The sprays?

Josh: An irritant.

Chuck: Yeah, it's not an irritant in any way, it just-it stinks. And it would keep people out of a sensitive area.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: If they didn't want them there.

Josh: Well, chemical irritation is a sensation that your nose experiences along with odors.

Chuck: Oh, just like-

Josh: So it is technically a stink bomb.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Like, pepper spray is a stink bomb.

Chuck: Oh, yeah, yeah. But it has like an actual physical effect on your skin.

Josh: Right. Yeah.

Chuck: Which a stink bomb wouldn't. But the other school of thought, though, is that, you know, it comes via evolution basically.

Josh: Yeah, that it's innate.

Chuck: Yeah, which this kind of makes sense-they both make sense to me-I think it might be a mixture of both-but what's his name, Gilbert?

Josh: Or Gilbert.

Chuck: Gilbert?

Josh: One of the two.

Chuck: So if you're in the Gilbert camp, though, you're going to go with the evolution, because he points out that when we were evolving, you know, apples smelled good because you're meant to eat them, and you're meant to spread the seed. So that smell is associated with living and living well by eating fruits.

Josh: Right. Conversely, the smell of poop and vomit and urine, which convey disease and bacteria and all of the stuff you're not supposed to be with, under innate hypothesis, it would be-that's why we avoid those, because we need to avoid the substances that carry those obnoxious smells.

Chuck: Makes sense.

Josh: Oh, it totally makes sense. I just think, to me, the evidence is more there for associative learning.

Chuck: Yeah, I think it can be both. I don't think it has to be mutually exclusive.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And I think it can be overwritten by the learning, as well.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Whatever innate things we have. And I remember we did a bit on a study years ago, about people looking for their mates according to having a different immune system, which would, in turn, make their children immune to more possible things.

Josh: Yeah, more robust immunity in the kids, because you take Immunity A and Immunity B, and put them together, you've got Immunity C, which is the best of A and B. Right?

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So this is like a whole idea of why or how people select mates is based on that.

Chuck: Right. Which is scent-based. Right?

Josh: That's what they think.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And apparently, it's-this is evidenced by study after study after study that finds, consistently, that women rate a man's scent as the number one factor in attractiveness. More than his appearance, more than wealth, more than anything else. Scent is perennially the number one most important thing. They think that it's possible that the reason why is because our senses are attuned-our scent is attuned-so that we can sniff out somebody with a different immune system, so we can reproduce more robust kids.

The problem is, if you factor in cologne, what you're doing is deceiving that natural drive, and all of a sudden you're going to have kids with like zero immune system because the guy was wearing cologne.

Chuck: That's right. Yeah. That makes total sense. You don't want to confuse your potential mating mate.

Josh: It's a pretty good argument against wearing cologne.

Chuck: Yeah. And then there is, of course, the whole does this stuff work anyway, as far as being a sexual attractant.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And there's zero scientific proof that there was any kind of aphrodisiac-

Josh: Ick?

Chuck: Ick-[LAUGHS] compound-

Josh: Right.

Chuck: -that you concoct that will literally draw someone to you sexually; as much as they've tried and tried to advertise that, subtly-or not so subtly-we are not pigs, who apparently do have mating pheromones that actually work that way.

They have something called an accessory olfactory system. And in pigs, they have something in their nose called the vomeronasal organ, which is specifically specialized to pick up on these molecules, and we don't have them as humans.

Josh: No. We don't have the curly tails, either.

Chuck: Or they say we may have them, but it just doesn't work. I don't know which is the case.

Josh: Who knows? Maybe we just use our normal olfactory senses and it's not pheromones, it's just smells.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: You know?

Chuck: Sure. Or you know, they say maybe it'll make you think that you're more sexually attracted, so that will make you more confident-

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: -and thus make you more sexually attractive.

Josh: Right. I got one more thing.

Chuck: What you got?

Josh: So I mentioned Giorgio.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Giorgio is a huge, hugely popular-maybe the number one scent of the 1980s, and it was famously banned from some restaurants.

Chuck: Oh because it was so stinky?

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: Wow.

Josh: Because some restaurateurs were like, "If you've got a couple of people wearing Giorgio in here, it's going to overpower the smell of the food and the taste of the food." So they banned Giorgio. Which all it did was accelerate sales.

Chuck: Well, there's some people in this building that I wish would be banned from our elevators. [LAUGHS]

Josh: I almost never run into that anymore.

Chuck: Oh, boy. I've smelled some stuff. They're not even in the elevator car.

Josh: Is it fecal?

Chuck: And I step in, I'm like, "Whoa."

Josh: Is it like Obsession?

Chuck: Nah, it's usually like super perfumey lady stuff.

Josh: Oh, I got you.

Chuck: Yeah. You got anything else?

Josh: No. I mean, there's plenty more.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: But-yeah.

Chuck: Only got so much time.

Josh: If you want to know more about perfume, you can type that word in the search bar at HowStuffWorks.com, and since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.

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Chuck: That's right. I'm going to call this a little Nostradamus bit from a Canadian. "Hey, guys. I'd like to say how great, first of all, that you make my hour-long commutes to work every morning. So thanks. It's a pleasure to listen to the show, especially on Nostradamus. I thought I'd give you another example of what he supposedly said: 'From the calm morning, the end will come when of the dancing horse, the number of circles will be nine.'" That was from Nostradamus 1503.

Josh: Okay-

Chuck: She says-

Josh: It's talking about a circus, obviously.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] She says, "It was said that Nostradamus predicted the end of the world and was explained as follows: Korea is the calm morning country, Psy dancing, as in doing-the dancing horse, is 'Gangnam Style.' On December 21st, that song reached one million views on YouTube, nine zeros. In summary, people were claiming Nostradamus's prediction was the end of the world would be on December 21st. So that's it, guys. Keep on doing what you do. You do a great job and you're always a pleasure. And oh-the sound effects are awesome. Kudos to Jeri."

Josh: Way to go, Jeri.

Chuck: That was from Julia K. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Josh: Hey, we love Toronto, a.k.a. "Torona." Right?

Chuck: That's right. We love it.

Josh: Well, let's see, we want to hear from you. Let us know about your perfume preference. You can tweet to us your favorite perfume of all time or your most hated perfume of all time @SYSKPodcast, you can let us know on Facebook.com/StuffYouShouldKnow, you can send us an email to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com, and as always, join us at our home on the web, StuffYouShouldKnow.com.

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Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com.

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