Fragrance and grooming behaviour could improve self-image


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Fragrance and grooming behaviour could improve self-image

Related tags Psychology

It could be something as simple as a spray of deodorant or a splash of perfume on your way out of the door, but it could end up improving your body image, a new study finds.

Previously studies have shown that the application of deodorant can make individuals appear more confident to others, and now research carried out by Bangor University and manufacturer Unilever into grooming behaviours, including the application of fragranced products, has looked at how it can affect the wearer’s perception of themselves.

They found that the ability of simple real-world interventions such as using a deodorant as part of everyday grooming behaviour can modulate self-image.

Both male and female participants who, at the start, overestimated their body size, made significantly more accurate judgments about their body size, following application of a fragranced deodorant or antiperspirant than they did in the control condition.

Mood changer

And as previous studies have shown that fragrance can affect mood, which in-turn can affect self-esteem, the research team says that a personal grooming routine can be important in defining self-image.

“Given the known ability of odours to modulate perception, mood and behaviour, as well as the common neural substrates in the processing of olfactory and affective stimuli, it seems possible that fragrance containing personal care products may be particularly efficacious in mediating the psychological benefits of self-grooming behaviours, through acquired associations,”​ says the study.

“This hypothesis could be tested directly by comparing the effects of fragranced and unfragranced deodorants in a replication of the present study.”


For the research, in two separate experiments, male and female participants with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) indicated whether projected life-size images of their own body were bigger or smaller than their actual size.

In the experimental condition, participants applied a fragranced before performing the task, whereas in the control condition, no product was applied.

The results were then measured by the point of subjective equality (PSE), the size at which participants report their body is subjectively equal to their actual body size, and the difference limen (DL), the amount of change in body size distortion necessary for it to be reliably detected.

“Importantly, our results showed that both men and women who overestimated their size were most sensitive to these effects; given this groups’ larger BMI, we can speculate our findings may reflect individual differences in self-esteem,”​ says the research.

“The fact that we observed the same benefit of grooming in both men and women may be a consequence of the grooming behaviour we chose, which is equally typical of both genders.”



van Paasschen, J., Walker, S. C., Phillips, N., Downing, P. E. and Tipper, S. P. (2015), The effect of personal grooming on self-perceived body image. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 37: 108–115. doi: 10.1111/ics.12176

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