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Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012 Apr;34(2):161-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2011.00696.x. Epub 2011 Dec 6.

Population genetic segmentation of MHC-correlated perfume preferences.

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  • 1Institute for Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


It has become difficult to find a matching perfume. An overwhelming number of 300 new perfumes launch each year, and marketing campaigns target pre-defined groups based on gender, age or income rather than on individual preferences. Recent evidence for a genetic basis of perfume preferences, however, could be the starting point for a novel population genetic approach to better match perfumes with people's preferences. With a total of 116 participants genotyped for alleles of three loci of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), the aim of this study was to test whether common MHC alleles could be used as genetic markers to segment a given population into preference types. Significant deviations from random expectations for a set of 10 common perfume ingredients indicate how such segmentation could be achieved. In addition, preference patterns of participants confronted with images that contained a sexual communication context significantly differed in their ratings for some of the scents compared with participants confronted with images of perfume bottles. This strongly supports the assumption that genetically correlated perfume preferences evolved in the context of sexual communication. The results are discussed in the light of perfume customization.

© 2011 The Authors. ICS © 2011 Society of Cosmetic Scientists and the Société Française de Cosmétologie.

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