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Scientists discover that this Victoria's Secret perfume repels mosquitoes

Is that the secret?

FIONA MACDONALD
10 JUN 2016
 

If your summer evenings are always ruined by mosquitoes, you might want to rethink your choice of fragrance. Scientists have shown that popular Victoria's Secret perfume, Bombshell, can actually repel mosquitoes effectively for up to 2 hours.

While it isn't anywhere near as effective as products containing DEET - one of the most common active ingredients in insect repellents - in high doses, the perfume was better than a range of 'organic' mosquito repellents on the market.

 

The result was unexpected, seeing as researchers originally decided to test the perfume in addition to their repellents because they thought it would actually attract mosquitoes.

"There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those," said one of the researchers, Stacy Rodriguez, from New Mexico State University. "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." 

In the study, published in the Journal of Insect Science last year, the team tested the Victoria's Secret fragrance up against 10 commercially available mosquito repellents, as well as Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil.

To figure out which ones mosquitoes were or weren't into, they took a volunteer and doused her hand in either perfume, bath oil, a repellent, or left it clean, and then placed it under a Y-shaped tube, which fanned the fragrance up to a group of around 20 mosquitoes.

If the mosquitoes were attracted to the hand, they'd move into one part of the tube, if they weren't, they'd stay where they are or move into the other part.

They repeated these experiments several times per fragrance and over 4 hours each time to try and get a fair understanding of what was going on.

 

The team used two different mosquitoes species - the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which is known to carry Zika virus in some parts of the world, and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) which can transmit dengue fever and chikungunya. All things you want to avoid.

Overall, the most effective repellents were those that contained DEET, which is an effective insect deterrent, but is also a known irritant.

The good news for those with sensitive skin, is that one product without DEET was also equally as good at getting rid of bugs: Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, which contained 65 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus.

But for up to 2 hours, the Victoria's Secret fragrance Bombshell also kept mosquitoes away, as did the Avon bath oil - although the bath oil only repelled one out of the two species of mosquitoes tested, while Bombshell repelled both.

Interestingly, both the non-repellents performed better than many of the organic mosquito deterrents tested, and way better than a commercially available skin patch which deliver vitamin B1 into the skin and promises to protect against mosquitoes for up to 36 hours.

To be clear, in the experiment, a whole lot of Bombshell perfume was doused onto the volunteer's hand - around 0.5 mL - and the researchers explain that in normal concentrations, the fragrance probably wouldn't have the same effect. 

So the bottom line is, don't go and replace your mosquito repellent for perfume any time soon. But the team did also gleaned some useful information out of the research, which aimed to provide consumers better advice when buying repellents.

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

That's especially important with the rise of diseases such as zika virus and yellow fever spreading in tropical regions.

So why would a Victoria's Secret perfume repel insects? More research needs to be done before we have an answer to that question, but the scientists hypothesise that it's less to do with the ingredients in the perfume and more to do with the fact that it masked the natural smell of the volunteer - which is what attracts the insects in the first place.

Oh, and in case you were wondering why the researchers selected a Victoria's Secret perfume out of all the perfumes available? It turns out it was a happy accident.

"We tested VS Bombshell because one of our test subjects had gotten it as a birthday present, so it was a completely random pick," one of the researchers, Immo Hansen, told Today.

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