Update: Recent news about the mosquito-borne Zika virus have made taking extra caution with mosquito repellent and bug sprays even more important. NPR's recent story on the study pointed out that one of the mosquito species tested was the extra-dangerous breed Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito that carries the dangerous Zika virus. This story was originally published on October 29, 2015.
Growing up — and to this day, tbh — my mom would regularly caution me not to wear strongly scented perfume or lotion outside in the summer months if I wanted to avoid getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Makes sense, right? Mosquitoes are said to be attracted to floral, sweet scents. If I want to lessen my chances of being devoured, I should stick to non-fragranced (read: bland) body products, and lather on the bug repellent instead. Well, it turns out that in this (pretty rare) case, mama’s not always right. New research shows that Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume will keep mosquitoes at bay just as well, if not better than, commercially manufactured bug sprays. Researchers at New Mexico State University tested 10 commercially available products, three of which contained the insect-repellent DEET as the active ingredient, and four that didn't — including the previously mentioned VS Bombshell and Avon's Skin So Soft Bath Oil. The products were tested against two species of mosquito: the yellow fever and the Asian tiger. The results, published in the Journal of Insect Science, showed that, as expected, products containing DEET were effective in shooing away the bloodsuckers. But surprisingly, they found that VS Bombshell also repelled both mosquito types for up to two hours (Avon's bath oil only repelled one type). "The results of this study show that not all commercially available mosquito repellents are effective in repelling mosquitoes, and that efficacy is also dependent on the species of mosquito that is repelled," the authors wrote. But wait, there's more. "Our results challenge the notion that floral, perfume-scented sprays, in general, attract mosquitoes. Floral fragrances may provide a masking odor resulting in low mosquito attraction rates, but over a shorter duration of time." There is a slight exception: The researchers used a "rather high" concentration of fragrance, the report says, and lower doses might have different effects. More is more, in this case. So Bombshell, which won the Fragrance Foundation's Fragrance of the Year award in 2011, can now add "Best for Fending Off Bloodsucking Bugs" to its résumé. Feel free to also go ahead and forward this story to your mother. It might be the only chance you get to prove her wrong, after all.