Myth vs Fact

Fact Check: Can Spraying Yourself With Oxytocin Help You Get Laid?

April 16, 2014 by Justin Lehmiller

The hormone oxytocin is often referred to in the popular media as the “love hormone” or “cuddle drug” because research has shown that it plays an important role in human bonding. For instance, experimental studies have demonstrated that participants are more trusting of other people during social interactions after being given a nasal spray with oxytocin compared to a placebo [1]. In an attempt to capitalize on this and other such discoveries, several companies have started selling oxytocin-based products that are advertised to have a wide range of applications, from giving you an edge in the world of business to having more or better sex. The basic premise is that if you can enhance oxytocin levels in the people around you, they will develop more trust in you, thereby allowing you to get what you want sexually or otherwise. But do these products really work as promised?

The answer is probably not. For one thing, in order for oxytocin to have any effect, it has to reach the brain, because that’s where oxytocin does its thing. However, we have something called the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and any oxytocin administered would have to pass through the BBB in order to work. The most effective ways of getting past the BBB would be to administer oxytocin intranasally or intravenously (i.e., to spray it directly up someone’s nose or inject it into their bloodstream) [1]. But it’s not really cool to go up to someone at the bar or at a business meeting and say, “Hey! Can I spray this up your nose?” or “Would you mind if I stuck this needle in your arm?” I mean, that might tip the other person off that you don’t have the best intentions, right?

In light of this, you probably can’t put much faith in some of the most popular oxytocin products out there, like Liquid Trust. That’s a product that you spray on yourself like a cologne or perfume. While it’s true that spraying oxytocin directly up the nose can make it past the BBB, catching a whiff of an oxytocin spray someone has placed on their body just isn’t going to be potent enough to do the same thing.

Also, while you may hear a lot of testimonials in support of this and other oxytocin-based products, please keep in mind that any success stories can likely be attributed to placebo effects and self-fulfilling prophecies. When people are highly motivated to expect a certain outcome, they often subtly and unintentionally change their behaviors in order to make that outcome more likely. So, for example, if you applied Liquid Trust before heading out to the club and this made you feel more confident that other people would be attracted to you, then you might very well find that to be the case—but not because the drug changed other people’s perceptions of you, but because you projected a different image of yourself that made you more attractive to other people.

One other thing to keep in mind is that if these oxytocin products actually worked as advertised and did indeed have an effect on other people, wouldn’t they also affect you the same way (and perhaps even more strongly, given that you would receive the highest dose)? For some reason, the advertisers have neglected to mention this side effect.

In short, if you were hoping that dousing yourself in an oxytocin spray before going out in public would be the key to getting more sex or finding the love of your life, think again. And here’s a novel idea—instead of trying to manipulate other people by essentially drugging them without their knowledge, perhaps try working on your social skills or pick-up lines instead.

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[1] Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435, 673-676.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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