Perfume smells nice to humans but could it be a mosquito repellent too?

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Perfume smells nice to humans but could it be a mosquito repellent too?
Latest research on the effectiveness of mosquito repellents produced some surprising results with a Victoria’s Secret perfume and Avon fragrance repelling the bugs for approximately two hours.

So is this could be good news for those of us that are not too big a fan of that citronella smell, considering these perfumes are much nicer to the human nose?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, the study by a team from New Mexico State University found that the two scents did act as a repellent on different types of mosquito for two hours; but the study also showed, unsurprisingly, that DEET products are still your best bet.

Stacy Rodriguez, research assistant in NMSU's Molecular Vector Physiology Lab, and other researchers tested the effectiveness of 10 commercially available products intended to repel mosquitoes, publishing results in the Journal of Insect Science​.

Three of the products tested were sprays containing DEET as the active ingredient, four were DEET-free, as well as the Avon Skin So Soft Bath Oil and Victoria's Secret Bombshell perfume. A vitamin B1-based Mosquito Skin Patch was also tested.

The products were tested against two common mosquito species: the yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquito.

Perfume surprise

With DEET being effective and DEET-free less so, there isn’t too much surprise; however the researchers were shocked to find that the perfume and the bath oil repelled the yellow fever mosquito for roughly two hours.

"There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those,"​ says Rodriguez.

"It was interesting to see that the mosquitoes weren't actually attracted to the person that was wearing the Victoria's Secret perfume -- they were repelled by it."

This is because the fragrance may provide a temporary masking effect, and also because a high concentration of perfume was applied to the volunteer's hand, say the researchers, stating that lower concentrations may produce different results.

When it came to the Asian tiger mosquitoes, these too were repelled by the perfume, although the bath oil had no effect.

DEET still most effective

In all, despite these surprising results, there was no surprise that the products containing DEET as the active ingredient still performed best.

"Not all repellents are created equal -- unfortunately they're advertised as such. It's important to let consumers know what is actually effective,”​ says Rodriguez.

"People need to protect themselves, especially if they travel to the tropics,"​ adds Immo Hansen, an NMSU associate professor of biology involved in the study. "Insect repellents can be highly efficient, but you need to find out which work."

In the experiment, a volunteer's bare hand served as the attractant and a fan was used to push the volunteer's scent through a Y-shaped tube toward a holding chamber containing roughly 20 mosquitoes.

Upon release, the mosquitoes flew toward the hand if they were attracted to the scent; if repelled, the mosquitoes either flew to the opposite tube or did not move.

The tests concluded that DEET products strongly repel both species of mosquito. The other products produced varied results.

The non-DEET repellents had little to no effect on the yellow fever mosquito, with one exception: Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent was found to have similar efficacy as the DEET repellents.

The skin patch, which claims to repel mosquitoes for up to 36 hours, did not repel either species, say the researchers.

The three DEET sprays tested were Repel 100 Insect Repellent, OFF Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII, and Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent. The four DEET-free products were Cutter Natural Insect Repellent, EcoSmart Organic Insect Repellent, Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, and Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard.

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Skin Care, Fragrance

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