Long before the first post from a long-lost high school friend extolling the skin-transforming virtues of Rodan + Fields popped up in your Facebook feed, Avon ladies were going door-to-door selling a variety of creams, cosmetics, perfumes, and one very popular body oil. Hydrating and luxurious, with a dry finish that leaves skin smooth and silky rather than slippery, Skin So Soft quickly became one of the company’s cult-favorite products.
Today, Avon reportedly sells five bottles of the original Skin So Soft formula, now available in a convenient, mess-free spray form, every minute in the U.K. That might seem like a lot, but there’s an unexpected off-label use that’s rumored to be part of the reason the lightweight hydrator is so successful: Some people swear that Skin So Soft doubles as an effective insect repellant.
And it’s not just reviews on sites like Amazon that stand as a testament to the product’s efficacy. In a 2005 interview, a spokesman for the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy is quoted as saying that “nothing works better” than the oil for keeping gnats away. The only problem? It’s not exactly something you can just pick up from the nearest army/navy store. “You can only get the stuff from Avon,” Neil Smith told The Scotsman. “Some buy it online and others are ordering it through local Avon ladies.”
The Skin So Soft-obsessed servicemen might think they have it hard, but that’s nothing compared to fans who are trying to avoid insects stateside: While the oil that’s sold in the U.K. gets its mysterious bug-fighting properties from citronella, the North American version is formulated without it. It does, however, contain dicapryl adipate, a lesser-known ingredient that is also known to repel bugs.
Whether you buy into the lore or are so desperate for a bug spray that doesn’t smell like bug spray that you’ll try anything, the original Skin So Soft dry oil is worth a shot. But if it doesn’t pan out, don’t worry: Avon now has an entire line named Bug Guard made for that express purpose.