First, the bad news. Science is confirming what people have known for centuries: our bodies emit the smell of fear when we are stressed.

A recent article in the UK’s Daily Mail conducted a survey which revealed that “…stressed women smell incompetent and untrustworthy.”  This is because the chemical content of the sweat-aura which we produce when stressed differs from the cocktail of good old B.O. secretions created when we just bust an honest sweat during a work-out or a day’s normal functioning. The former has often been called a “cold sweat.”

High levels of cortisol, the stress-hormone, change the composition of our sweat. We’ve all heard the expression that “dogs can smell fear.”  Apparently, people can smell fear, too. This is a real bummer if you’re amped up for a job interview and blow it because you’re sending out olfactory waves of terror to HR.  We wonder: does anyone’s Personnel file contain a document which reads “She just didn’t smell right for the job?.”

So the challenge of successful social interaction may be as simple as learning how to relax.

Deodorants, fragrances and overlays are not necessarily effective in completely masking our natural scent and the responses of others to that scent. The sending and receiving may be entirely unconscious. One way to read the silent language of scent is to watch other people’s nostrils. We often flare (open) our nostrils when we encounter strong stimulii, such as aromas we like, or when we feel threatened. Why the latter? To collect as much olfactory data about a potential attacker. So, learning how to relax may allow us to control the messages we are sending through our personal aroma.

How to relax? Breathe in the skin of an tangerine or grapefruit (scratch it with your fingernail first). And, breathe more slowly and deeply. Draw in as much breath as possible with each inhale, hold a few seconds, then slowly press the breath out. Pause. Repeat.

As for your own stress-levels, aromatherapy with essential oils is consistently demonstrated to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Citrus oils, pressed from the aromatic rinds of acidic fruits including Mandarin Orange, Lemon, Lime and Bergamot, bring stress down. And, of course, showering with these refreshing essential oils may make you smell better to others.