Your skin smells. No, it doesn’t stink. It actually has olfactory receptors, the very things that make your nose capable of detecting the molecules that make up odors.
In this latest bit of “weird science,” a new report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology explains that researchers from Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum have discovered a variety of olfactory receptors in the outermost layer of the skin. (You're picturing your arm covered in tiny noses now, aren't you?) One particular receptor they’ve begun investigating specifically picked up on the scent of sandalwood. The scientists found that this receptor was activated when exposed to a synthetic-sandalwood scent called sandal pentanol — trademarked name Sandalore — which is found in a variety of perfumes with prominent notes of the fragrant wood.
As if that’s not strange enough, what happens with that detection and consequent activation is especially bizarre (yet awesome): It triggers the cell processes that help skin heal. In other words, when you’re chilling out, burning that sandalwood incense like you do every night (just go with it...), your shaving nicks and picked-at zits could be reaping therapeutic benefits.
There’s a lot more research to be done on this and other olfactory receptors in the skin, but the scientists behind the tests say their discovery has exciting cosmetic potential. Though, we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves.
“We mustn’t forget that concentrated fragrances should be handled with care until we have ascertained which functions the different types of olfactory receptors in skin cells have,” study leader Professor Hanns Hatt said in the official university statement.
So, while you may want to wait for further research before you start pouring straight Sandalore all over your body, there’s certainly no harm in adding a sandalwood fragrance to your perfume wardrobe. Best-case scenario: Your cuts, bruises, and sunburns will heal more efficiently. Worst-case scenario: You'll simply smell great. You really can’t lose.