'Nosing Around' the human skin: What information is concealed in skin odour?


Correspondence: Stefan Kippenberger, Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergy, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, D-60590 Frankfurt/Main, Germany, Tel.: +49 69 6301 7734, Fax: +49 69 6301 6466, e-mail: kippenberger@em.uni-frankfurt.de


In today′s world, natural body odour is mostly considered as being unpleasant and combated by intensive cleansing, deodorants and perfumes. However, there is evidence that volatile body compounds provide the recipient with important information. Here, we present the chemical identity of odorous compounds derived from odourless precursors within sweat and sebum. Moreover, distinct volatile markers may be relevant for the clinical diagnosis of disease. Interestingly, ageing seems to correlate with the appearance of specific compounds that convey the so-called old man smell. Finally, it is discussed if human skin odour has the quality to act as pheromone transmitting information between individuals in terms of major histocompatibility complex type or reproductive status.