There’s no denying the power of scent. Need an energy boost? Take a whiff of something citrus-y and you can skip the coffee. Freaking out about a presentation? Forget Xanax—reach for the lavender oil. And if you want to get a little frisky, well, there’s an aroma for that, too.
That’s right—if certain fragrances reach your olfactory nerves, they can put you in the mood faster than you can say “fair-trade condoms.” (Why do you think the perfume industry is such a big business?)
“Scent plays a huge role in romance,” says Jo Lu, founder of Esym portable aromatherapy pods and oils. “Our sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain associated with emotions and memories.”
“Our sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain associated with emotions and memories.”
Of course, some fragrances will get your motor running more effectively than others. “Aphrodisiac scents are magical elixirs that can help to soothe the body, relax the mind, boost self-confidence, improve circulation, and invigorate the senses to bring one to the right state of mind for experiencing love,” says Lu. Pretty magical, no?
Just like picking the right date-night outfit, choosing an aromatic wingman totally depends on the activity. I asked Lu to break down the best essential oils for all different kinds of romantic encounters—so whether you’re planning dinner and drinks or something a little more R-rated, you’ll be well prepared.
Keep reading to find out which essential oils are perfect for every type of date.
If you’re going out for a romantic dinner, try: Rose
If candles and white tablecloths are on the agenda, opt for the classic scent of rose—the flower that basically epitomizes traditional romance. “Rose has a deep, floral, and romantic aroma that makes it extra seductive and perfect for anyone looking to release their sexy side,” says Lu. “It’s known as the essential oil of love, helping to uplift the spirit, improve circulation, and stir desire.” Looking to bring the excitement back into a long-term relationship? This one’s for you.
If you’re giving each other massages, try: Jasmine
You can never go wrong with the gift of massage—you give a little, and your partner returns the favor. (Win-win!) To make the experience even sexier, Lu recommends using jasmine essential oil on the body. “Known for its warming, seductive, and sweet aroma, jasmine is mildly euphoric and has a balancing effect on the nervous system,” she says. “It’ll alleviate any exhaustion in the nerves while uplifting the mood to get the passion flowing.” Think of it as the adaptogen of the fragrance world.
If you’re suffering from first date jitters, try: Sandalwood
Since you’ll probably be taking a few deep breaths in the cab anyway, you may as well add some aromatherapy to the mix. “Sandalwood is grounding, but it also sends out subtle erotic signals,” says Lu. “This supportive scent is a potent tension reliever that calms the mind and instills positive feelings of confidence and self-esteem—perfect for a first date.” Another bonus: When you’re at dinner and feel the pangs of a lull in conversation, you can whip out your vial of oil to break the ice.
If you’re planning a bath for two, try: Ylang ylang
One of the best ways to get intimate—without, you know, getting intimate—is to take a bath with your partner. To elevate that experience, Lu recommends adding some drops of ylang ylang essential oil to heat things up. “Ylang ylang will fill your bathroom with a sweet, euphoric, romantic scent that calms yet stimulates the senses to make the experience more profound,” says Lu. “Pour some champagne, pass the loofa, and dim the lights.” Sounds like a plan.
If you’re staying cozy at home, try: Vanilla
Sometimes, the ideal date means hanging in for the proverbial Netflix and chill. Vanilla’s the perfect essential oil to accompany some hygge action—just picture how blissed-out you feel when you’ve got cookies baking in the oven. “It’s the most universally loved scent that produces feelings of happiness and relaxation,” says Lu. “Use as a room diffuser to create a comforting environment for a night that’s just about the two of you.” Trust, what’ll go down later on will be anything but vanilla.
Speaking of sparks, here’s how to have great sex according to your horoscope. Or try these 10 partner yoga poses for a strong (and flexible) coupling—clothes optional.