The Real Reason It's Harder To Smell Yourself

Have you ever wondered why everyone's house seems to have a unique smell to it and why you might not be able to notice the scent of your own home? Science says it's more than just the air fresheners and cleaning products being used, as every person has their own individual scent, much like a fingerprint says Johan Lundström, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Lundström states, "There is a large genetic component to body odor," and this can contribute to how a family home might smell (per Discover Magazine).

A study published in the Journal of Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience has found that, as humans, the longer we are exposed to certain smells, the less we tend to notice them. This theory also stands for your own body odors, good or bad. As your nose becomes used to your many scents, it eventually becomes nose-blind to them and this is what scientists call, olfactory fatigue. In severe cases, you might really stink with BO and your nose still wouldn't be able to alert you like you wish it would, you know — Danger! Danger! Grab a shower! 

Your favorite pastimes can lead to olfactory fatigue

Olfactory fatigue is not the same as anosmia, which is a complete loss of smell due to injury, nasal polyps, or medical conditions (via WebMD). Rather, olfactory fatigue occurs when our sense of smell is bombarded by familiar odors so often that the brain simply stops noticing them. It is a sensory adaptation in which the nose desensitizes itself to the most common smells, like your own body odor, to make room for newer smells, of which might be more important (via Reader's Digest). 

Interestingly, The Michigan Daily reports that you might be even more prone to olfactory fatigue if you frequently eat spicy foods, or are a wine connoisseur or a professional perfume smeller, as the more you are exposed to pungent scents, the more the brain may deem it as useless information and dismiss it. Some may try to take large whiffs of coffee beans, lemon slices, or just plain air to help temporarily reset their nose palate, but that doesn't work for everyone (via First Nerve).

Vancouver Candle Company's founder and creative director, Nick Rabuchin, tells Southern Living another way to attempt an olfactory fatigue reset, stating, "Perfumers will sniff the crook of their elbow to reset the system." He goes on to say, "You are always performing olfactory habituation to your own smell, so it is a perfect baseline."