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Shaving of axillary hair has only a transient effect on perceived body odor pleasantness

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Abstract

In contrast to other apes, humans have relatively greater amounts of armpit hair, which is thought to retain signaling molecules. Although armpit shaving is widespread cross-culturally, its effect on body odor has been little investigated. In four experiments, we tested the effect of shaving and the subsequent regrowth of axillary hair. Armpit odors were collected from men who regularly shaved (group S) or who had never shaved (group N) their armpits before. The samples were subsequently rated by women for intensity, pleasantness, and attractiveness. In Experiments I, II (group N) and III, subjects firstly shaved one armpit and then let the hair regrow over 6 or 10 weeks. In Experiments I, II (group S) and IV, subjects shaved both armpits before the sampling and subsequently shaved one armpit during the same period, leaving the second armpit unshaved. Odors of the shaved armpits were rated more pleasant, attractive, and less intense compared to the unshaved armpits (Experiment I (group N)). However, no significant differences found in Experiments II and III (group N) suggest the effect of shaving is relatively minor. Moreover, there were no significant differences in odor comparing unshaved armpits with armpits after 1 week of regrowth (Experiments I, II (group N) and III) or comparing regularly shaved armpits with armpits after 1 or 3 weeks of regrowth (Experiments I, II (group S) and IV). The odor of shaved armpits was rated significantly more attractive compared to the armpits where hair had been regrowing for 6 or 10 weeks.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank all volunteers for their participation in the study, Jindra Havlickova, Robert Martin, Tamsin K. Saxton and Jarka Valentova for the valuable advice and language corrections, Pavlina Lenochova for helping with data collection and Aroma Corp. Decin for providing samples of essences. The study was supported by Grant Agency of Charles University (GAUK 57010), Grant Agency of Czech Republic (GACR 406/09/0647) and Czech Ministry of Education grant 0021620843.

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This study complied with the current laws of the Czech Republic.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Jan Havlíček.

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Communicated by T. Bakker

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Kohoutová, D., Rubešová, A. & Havlíček, J. Shaving of axillary hair has only a transient effect on perceived body odor pleasantness. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 66, 569–581 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-011-1305-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-011-1305-0

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