NEW MEXICO, United States, Wednesday June 15, 2016 – American scientists have discovered that, far from being all about attraction, a popular fragrance in the Victoria’s Secret line can repel mosquitoes effectively for up to two hours.
The perfume, appropriately named Bombshell, not only blew the bugs away, but performed better than a range of so-called “organic” mosquito repellents on the market.
The result came as a complete surprise to researchers from New Mexico State University, who had originally decided to test the perfume in addition to known repellents because they thought that the fragrance would attract mosquitoes.
“There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those,” said researcher Stacy 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.”
What’s The Best Way To Keep Mosquitoes From Biting? Who knew Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume could do this? https://t.co/Za3B3UCbQT
— Kali Kamaria (@ZeKiwi) May 3, 2016
The choice of a Victoria’s Secret fragrance out of all the perfumes available happened purely by chance.
“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.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Insect Science, saw the team test Bombshell alongside 10 commercially available mosquito repellents, as well as Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil.
To determine the effect each one had on mosquitoes, the scientists doused a volunteer’s hand with 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 scent, they’d move into one part of the tube; if they weren’t, they’d stay put or move into the other part.
They repeated these experiments with both the Aedes aegypti and Asian Tiger species of mosquitoes several times per fragrance and over a four-hour period each.
Overall, the most effective repellents were those that contained DEET, which is one of the most common insect deterrents, but is also a known skin irritant.
One product without DEET was nevertheless just as good at repelling the bugs: Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, which contained 65 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus.
But for up to two hours, Victoria’s Secret’s Bombshell also kept the bugs at bay, as did the Avon bath oil to a lesser extent.
Of note, both of the fragrances performed better than many of the “organic” mosquito deterrents tested, and markedly better than a commercially available skin patch that delivers vitamin B1 into the skin and promises to protect against mosquitoes for up to 36 hours.
The only catch is that a lot of Bombshell was used in the experiment – around 0.5 ml – and the researchers pointed out that in quantities used for conventional purposes the fragrance probably wouldn’t have had the same effect.
The researchers nevertheless gleaned some useful information out of the experiments, which aimed to provide consumers with 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 advent of Zika in the region, not to mention other mosquito-borne diseases like chikungunya and dengue.
So why would a Victoria’s Secret perfume attract people but repel insects? Scientists hypothesise that it’s less to do with the perfume’s ingredients and more to do with the fact that they mask the natural smell of the wearer, which is what attracts the bugs in the first place.