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June 9, 2005 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Do scented lotions really attract bugs? If so, are there ingredients to avoid, or is it an effect of the perfume? Is getting an "unscented" lotion good enough (they can contain perfumes too), or should I be searching for something specifically designed to not attract bugs? Any recommendations? I'm going to be spending a while in West Africa, and while I'll be vaccinated and talking malaria meds, I want to do everything I can to avoid mosquito bites.
posted by asnowballschance to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Avon Skin So Soft is well known to be an effective bug repellent. And I know people who have good luck with citronella-scented lotions/oils.
posted by bricoleur at 4:15 AM on June 9, 2005

I've always had issues with anything "fruity". Bugs love my kiwi shampoo.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 6:08 AM on June 9, 2005

I'm seconding Avon Skin So Soft. It works better than DEET sprays for some people. It is apparently also marketed under the name "Bug Guard Plus" these days, but I think you should be able to still buy the original lotion.
posted by emyd at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2005

> Avon Skin So Soft is well known to be an effective bug repellent. And I know
> people who have good luck with citronella-scented lotions/oils.

I've tried SSS several times during biology field research in the Georgia coastal swamps (there may be buggier places on earth than a Ga coastal swamp in August; if so I don't wanna go there.) My experience is that SSS has some protective qualities but isn't as effective as a high-DEET repellant. If I was out to protect myself from malaria and other insect-borne diseases, rather than just uncomfortable bites, I would certainly dispense with any kind of skin lotion and use nothing but purpose-formulated repellant (and protective clothing and sunscreen as necessary.)
posted by jfuller at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2005

Another recommendation for SSS in general, though I'd recommend some serious DEET-based stuff where you're going. Go to a camping store and get the highest concentration they have. Don't mess around.

As a rule of thumb, though, it's the perfumes that attract bugs. The scents make you smell like flowers, which are where bugs like to hang out. Same goes for shampoo and deoderant. Shower (and esp. wash your hair) less. Seriously. You'll get used to the smell of body odor well before you get used to constant, all-body itching.
posted by mkultra at 8:17 AM on June 9, 2005

I'm not saying that Skin-So-Soft doesn't have some repellant qualities for some people with certain skin chemistry. I know that for me, the stuff attracts bugs.

I will say that NEJM did a study a few years ago that surveyed efficacy of a number of products. Skin-so-Soft didn't do so well. (The formulation under the Bug Guard name actually contains a non-DEET chemical bug repellant.)

While DEET-based stuff came in tops, Bite Blocker was right up there. I love this stuff because I hate the smell of DEET-based products. I rave a little more about Bite Blocker and a similar product by Repel in this thread about soothing the itch.

I also add the extra little layer of repellant-ness by using lemongrass soap when it's buggy season.
posted by desuetude at 1:24 PM on June 9, 2005

Also, totally agree with not washing your hair/body with shampoo/soap everyday. You can get away with just washing in plain water for quite awhile before you really need a shampoo.

Don't know that I'd be willing to give up something for underarm stink completely, but you could bring one of those natural crystal deoderants instead. They don't work as well as Speed Stick or whatever, but well enough.
posted by desuetude at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2005

i've heard garlic will do it, but straight dope has another opinion. funny enough, they same catnip works well, but you have to avoid cats :)
posted by puke & cry at 1:38 PM on June 9, 2005

Re-reading the question, re: lotion specifically

I find that the repellant-containing lotions make me a bit photosensitive, especially if they are combined with sunscreen. YMMV.

For the purpose of lotion to moisturize, just stick to basic unscented stuff like Eucerin and you should be fine.
posted by desuetude at 1:56 PM on June 9, 2005

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