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Human Skin Volatiles: A Review

Abstract

Odors emitted by human skin are of great interest to biologists in many fields; applications range from forensic studies to diagnostic tools, the design of perfumes and deodorants, and the ecology of blood-sucking insect vectors of human disease. Numerous studies have investigated the chemical composition of skin odors, and various sampling methods have been used for this purpose. The literature shows that the chemical profile of skin volatiles varies greatly among studies, and the use of different sampling procedures is probably responsible for some of these variations. To our knowledge, this is the first review focused on human skin volatile compounds. We detail the different sampling techniques, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which have been used for the collection of skin odors from different parts of the human body. We present the main skin volatile compounds found in these studies, with particular emphasis on the most frequently studied body regions, axillae, hands, and feet. We propose future directions for promising experimental studies on odors from human skin, particularly in relation to the chemical ecology of blood-sucking insects.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Doyle McKey, Université Montpellier II and CEFE-CNRS, for reviewing the manuscript and for useful discussions.

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Correspondence to Laurent Dormont.

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Dormont, L., Bessière, JM. & Cohuet, A. Human Skin Volatiles: A Review. J Chem Ecol 39, 569–578 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-013-0286-z

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Keywords

  • Blood-sucking insects
  • Human
  • Chemical ecology
  • Sampling method
  • Skin odor
  • Volatiles