Scent free shampoo that doesn't attract mosquitos - recommendations?
July 5, 2013 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Needs scent free shampoo rec's for avoiding mosquito bites (a.k.a. I want to use a blowtorch on anything tiny that's flying today)

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I have always been someone who's had a horrid reaction to mosquitoes - typical 3 inch wide circular welts. Unfortunately I just moved to NYC, and feel like I'm under attack even in the daytime, and I wake up with at least 2 or 3 new bites every single night. I'm trying to do everything I can to prevent them - wear light clothing, douse myself with DEET, treat the bites with calamine and eventually do Hygeol/sodium hypochlorite (antiseptic bleach compresses) and Benadry , make sure windows are closed, etc. etc., shower to avoid being stinky sweaty, avoid dusk, make sure there's no standing water, etc. The last piece of the puzzle is eliminating anything with scent - but am finding it very hard to find a nice organic shampoo that doesn't have scent in it or make me smell like a pina colada. Does anyone have any recommendations for scentless shampoo/conditioner? Has anyone gotten Dr. Bronner's soap to work as shampoo? It's about the only soap I've seen that's both scentless AND natural, but can't see it working as a shampoo without it being drying Also recommendations for where one would find said shampoo in the NYC area would be much appreciated.

Bonus question: Does something like Therapik work against the bites? It seems to have mixed results. I've also seen people mention Goldbond so I'll try that, but am so frustrated at being bitten I'm willing to try anything this point. Anyone who has any latest research or ideas feel free to post them here. I'm a woman on a warpath, and appreciate tips on defeating them.
posted by rmm to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Insect repellent wristbands are available but I haven't tried them. They seem to get mixed reviews but apparently they work for some people, at least.
posted by workerant at 2:14 PM on July 5, 2013

I've had really really good luck with cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) instead of Benadryl. It is also an anti-hystamine but it's longer-lasting, less-drowsy-making, and anecdotally it works prophylactically (ie, when I was taking it daily, it would prevent the big welts from forming in the first place).
posted by muddgirl at 2:17 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, some mosquito species are hampered by windy conditions - have you tried blowing a fan across your bed at night?

(If you couldn't tell, I am also a sufferer, and I haven't found any topical solution that works on the itch. Before I discovered Zyrtec, I would do my best to cover the bites with clothing or bandages, which seemed to help keep the itching down.)
posted by muddgirl at 2:25 PM on July 5, 2013

I have not tried this so I can't say if it works well to repel bugs, nor can I testify to its suitability as a shampoo, but there's an indie soap shop, Herbaria, that sells something called Camper's Choice Soap. It's not unscented -- it's scented with things that mosquitoes are supposed to hate, like citronella and catnip.

They also sell a bar of something called Traveller's Soap that is just scented with its own ingredients, including rosemary, and is explicitly meant to be used as a shampoo.

I have tried Herbaria's natural citronella insect repellent spray, and that does work. Not as well as DEET but it definitely works. I use the Herbaria repellent as an everyday spray (I need it pretty much every day since I go out every day to garden). I like it because it actually smells nice, unlike a lot of the DEET sprays. If I'm going someplace that I know is going to be super mosquito-y then I will put on both the Herbaria repellent and DEET repellent.
posted by BlueJae at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2013

I tried all the granola unscented shampoos the organic store had to offer, and they all left me looking like a particularly unkempt yak. Baby shampoo stripped it dry. Then the nice lady at Sally Beauty helped me find Naturelle. It's the closest thing I've ever found to a "normal" salon-style shampoo,that doesn't smell like a French whorehouse. If I used it every day my hair would probably be dry, but I only shampoo every other day per dermatologist instructions.

I honestly don't understand why finding unscented products is as hard as it is. You would think it would be cheaper and easier for manufacturers to just leave the perfume out, but I guess three's either some science thing or some consumer thing I don't understand. Your average consumer is using soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hair products, laundry soap, fabric softeners, and cleaning products - all heavily scented, and most with competing scents. And then most of them top it off with things like cologne and air freshener that DO NOTHING EXCEPT SMELL. It is simply beyond my power to comprehend.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have scent allergies so I use almost exclusively unscented products, and I am also mega-allergic to mosquitoes. I used to live in New Orleans so I completely understand your pain! However, I never found that scented products were an issue in terms of attracting mosquitoes. Those suckers thought I was very bite-able even with unscented shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion.

That said, I use Free & Clear conditioner and sometimes their shampoo. I use the gel sometimes although I'm not a huge fan. I use Nonscents texturizer but have never used their shampoo or conditioner.

In terms of remedies, I got prescription steroid cream from the dermatologist and always kept that with me. I alternated between that and cortisone.
posted by radioamy at 2:50 PM on July 5, 2013

I swear by Neosporin Plus in the cream formulation to take the itch out of mosquito bites; it works in thirty seconds to numb the skin. Doesn't do anything for the welt, but it does stop the itching. I, too, am irresistible to mosquitoes and stumbled across a tube of Neosporin Plus and tried it out in desperation.

I've had great luck with the Off Mosquito Repellant Clip-on Fans. I love that I don't have to slick myself down with stinky mosquito repellant sprays. The clip-on fans are odorless. Good luck!
posted by younggreenanne at 3:30 PM on July 5, 2013

Maybe you could do without traditional shampoo and conditioner altogether?

I was a little sceptical about the No `Poo method of hair cleaning using baking soda and apple cider vinegar, but my hair is better than it's ever been in my life. There were a couple of weeks of transitional hair, but after that I found using normal shampoo just weird.

muddgirl's suggestion of a fan is good for night time too. Or you could get a hungry frog as a companion animal that would eat the mosquitoes?
posted by pipstar at 3:35 PM on July 5, 2013

What attracts mosquitoes.
posted by cooker girl at 3:38 PM on July 5, 2013

A few months ago I was getting bitten on my ankles, not by mosquitoes, but by a type of sand fly that left small red bumps. I found that standing in the bath and using the hand-held shower attachment set to scalding hot water killed the itch. My ankles were glowing red but the itch never came back. Saved my life, I tell you.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2013

Are you getting bitten in your sleep?

Are they in groups or lines of 2/3?
posted by bunderful at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2013

I am also a mosquito magnet. I suddenly developed a similar reaction to mosquitoes in Mexico and ended up on steroids/antihistamines for weeks, then went camping ended up with a baseball sized lumps, one on my forehead, and spent the trip chomping on Benadryls. So this year, in addition to the bug repellant, I took the advice of Mefites and a) started taking Zytec a few weeks before the trip to get a good dosage built up in my system b) showered everyday with Dr. Bonners peppermint soap. I read on this question that the cast and crew of The Walking Dead were showing with Dr. Bonners peppermint to ward off the Georgia mosquitoes. I don't know if it did the trick but I had much less bites and no more weird reactions. There are many peppermint shampoos (I have one from Trader Joes with Tea Tree) you could try, but I'm sold on the soap as being good enough.
posted by biscuits at 6:02 PM on July 5, 2013

If you're waking up bitten, buy a chemically-treated mosquito net to sleep under for your bed. And as bunderful implied above, make very certain that the bites aren't from bedbugs instead of / in addition to mosquitoes.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:30 PM on July 5, 2013

And spray your clothes with permethrin.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:42 PM on July 5, 2013

Cooker girl has it. Mosquitoes are not attracted by the smell of your shampoo, so no need to worry about that. They are attracted by carbon dioxide (which you can't help exhaling) and other chemicals that are exuded from your skin.

DEET will work (I recommend Deep Woods Off) but to remain effective it needs to be reapplied every few hours. More often if you're sweating. This may not be practical for 24/7 usage. I personally would get pretty tired of the smell.

Are you getting bitten a lot inside your apartment? Can you verify that it's mosquitoes biting you? It sounds like you are being pretty cautious about keeping your doors and windows shut.

Assuming you're being bitten by mosquitoes and it's not a mistaken identity situation with fleas or bed bugs, this makes me wonder if the mosquitoes are breeding in your apartment. Even a tiny pool of water can breed mosquitoes. A standing puddle under the sink, the water trap tray on the backside of your fridge, a drip tray in an AC unit, etc.

You can also try citronella candles and diffuser units. My experience is that these are useless in an outdoor setting, but that they can be very effective in enclosed areas where the citronella smell has a chance to accumulate.

The best thing you can do for a mosquito bite is to not scratch it. As a fellow sufferer with a mosquito bite sensitivity, I know how hard that is. But scratching only diffuses the poison into a wider area. If you can avoid scratching it for 2-3 hours, it will limit the size, and it will go away a lot faster.

There are a million creams and ointments and Benadryl cream works pretty well for me, but none of them work as well as putting an ice cube on it. Wrap the cube in a paper towel to soak up the drips.
posted by ErikaB at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of this, everyone - fellow scratchers of the world, at least we are not alone in our itchiness!

I will definitely look at the list of brands people have suggested. I will also check out Zyrtec - I've always found Sudafed works for allergies and tried Zyrtec with little results, but maybe for bug stuff it could work.

Muddgirl, I do sleep with a fan in my face. I now sleep with earplugs, so between the no fresh air and the fan in the face it's a wonder I sleep at all, honestly. Plus I find that getting a bunch of the bites tires me out - not sure if anyone else has had that.

BlueJae, thanks for the catnip (!) scented recommendation - although I will try the Herbaria as well.

Underpant Monster, agree re: granola shampoos being less than fantastic - and I share your frustrations at finding scent free anything. I get the appeal as a consumer - heck, I love vanilla chai lotion from Dessert Essence as much as the next gal - but the smelliness comes at a cost. It makes one wonder if there's a business idea in there somewhere...

Younggreenane, will definitely look into Neosporin and Off clip on fans; I have some Bactine related anti-itch stuff that has helped, and found the Afterbug bug treatment in cream form which I can recommend highly. I've used it in its pen form, but find the cream really good. Also the Caladryl Clear ( is fantastic.

Pipstar, the frog thing is tempting. I was even thinking swamp cooler if I could be sure that the bugs wouldn't treat water as some sort of theme park and orgy spot :( I would really like to try the baking soda and vinegar route, but have long hair and just don't know how that could work... and a couple of weeks of transitional hair sounds iffy. I may try it though...

TWinbrook8, yes, I've done the hot water thing too, since the 'flooding pain receptors' does tend to work.

Bunderful, yes, I seem to be getting bitten in my sleep, but no, not in lines. Hopefully just mosquitos at this point!

Biscuits, I've got the Dr. Bonners hand held soap, but maybe can try the peppermint soap and try that as a shampoo, too. At this point I'm terrified of any scent attracting them, but suppose

Nicebookrack, it may come to the mosquito net next.... and will into permethrin.

ErikaB, I did like that link from Cookergirl (thanks, Cooker girl) - I know it's as much about carbon dioxide and blood type (damnit, O+) and not the scent per se, but still I wonder if smell plays a role. I do spray myself with DEET, but have to get into more spraying. We do seem to have a lot of flies AND I am being bitten, so I do wonder if there are some breeding grounds nearby, as horrible as that sounds. We have a garden outside the window, but don't see any containers full of water; I will check the kitchen area for those pesky areas. My roommate has mentioned that he's had a hell of a time in his room, too, which makes me think there could be something to it.

Thank you so much everyone - feel free to any any other suggestions. I still like the flamethrower idea, but realize that the little bastards would probably fly away when they see the heat. On the brightside, the flames might help with the itching...
posted by rmm at 11:16 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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