Do women smell bad during menstruation?

Women smell better

Little difference

Women smell better

By Ulrike Abel-Wanek


As early as 1899, scientists claimed that the sense of smell differs between women and men. New studies on olfactory perception show conflicting results. However, women seem to be better at remembering smells. In addition, they can still smell very well even at the age of 80.


The effects of age on the nose's ability to detect and distinguish smells are well known. The general decline in performance of aging women and men is partly due to structural changes in the olfactory system, but also shows gender differences. Women smell good longer; they only start to deteriorate 20 years later than in men. Its odor identification skills already decrease at the age of


55 years decreased significantly. Recent studies have shown that, compared to younger women, there was little change in sensory functions in healthy women up to the age of 80. Humans have a pronounced ability to perceive smells. However, many find it difficult to say what exactly they smell. According to studies, women have the edge here. They perform better than men in naming individual smells. Two factors can be considered for female superiority: On the one hand, verbal abilities in which women are superior play a role in odor identification. On the other hand, women are generally more likely to come into contact with olfactory stimuli than men when doing housework and cooking. In short, the inequality in the distribution of tasks at home means that women may simply have more experience with odorous substances. It is known that repeated exposure can improve sensitivity to certain odors in adults. The assumption that the female differentiated olfactory perception was acquired in the course of life contrasts with a study on newborns and small children: Here, gender differences were found already in the first days after birth and in kindergarten age.


The memory for smells has also been examined in numerous studies, but with different research results. Most found that gender has no influence on the short-term and long-term recognition performance of smells. More recent studies, however, come to different results: in terms of recognizing and retaining various fragrances, women were in the lead.


Although the reasons for the "small difference" between female and male noses have not yet been finally clarified, there are various hypotheses. It is assumed that there are anatomical differences in the structure of the noses, especially in the volume of the nasal cavities. But genetic reasons are also possible for the sensory sex differences. In humans there are many mechanisms by which genes influence the sense of smell. For example, there are differences in the genetic program of men and women related to the release of estrogens and androgens during the fetal stage and after sexual maturity. A third possible cause is hormonal influences. Sex hormones significantly modulate olfactory sensitivity. The olfactory sense of women is very pronounced during the ovulation phase and only decreases again during menstruation. But there are also environmental gender differences. Research has shown that men are more exposed than women to pollutants and chemicals, mainly in the work environment, which in turn can affect the sense of smell. In addition, smokers smell worse than non-smokers.


The sense of smell is localized in a part of the brain that developed early in the history of the origin. Evolutionary biologists assume that the division of labor between the sexes developed very early and that women were probably responsible for the offspring and the food supply. They mainly collected plants and had to distinguish and select poisonous from non-poisonous - with the help of all sensory organs, including the nose. According to the scientists, the major changes in the younger phase of evolution would then no longer have an effect on the sense of smell.