Victoria’s Secret Perfume Is Almost as Powerful as DEET

Researchers were surprised to find that Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume made a decent mosquito repellent.

11.12.15 9:40 PM ET

Researchers at New Mexico State University have published findings in the Journal of Insect Science indicating that Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Eau de Parfum is unexpectedly good at repelling mosquitos—almost as effective as commercial insect repellants containing the active ingredient DEET.

The paper wasn’t specifically about perfume and mosquitos. Rather, the focus was to test the relative effectiveness of alternative “natural” styles of insect repellent that do not contain DEET. From the paper: “fear of possible side effects of DEET and general chemophobia has resulted in the development of a multitude of “DEET-free” mosquito repellents with a variety of active ingredients.” The researchers also wanted to test claims that floral scents attract mosquitoes.

The researchers tested the effectiveness of 10 different substances across two species of mosquito. These substances ranged from commercial DEET-containing insect repellants, to “natural” DEET-free alternatives, to simple fragrances, as well as vitamin B1-containing patches purported to have insect-repelling properties.

To test the effectiveness of these substances, 20 mosquitos (raised on chicken blood and cat food, of all things) were introduced into the bottom end of a Y-shaped tube. This end also housed a computer fan to provide modest yet constant airflow away from the other two ends. At the other ends were the hands one of the co-authors selected “based on preliminary attraction studies that found her to be a superior attractant.” As someone who has anecdotally demonstrated superior attractiveness to mosquitoes, I can sympathize.

The substance in question was applied to one hand (or else left bare as a control), and the other was covered in a rubber glove. After the release of the mosquitoes into the tube, they were given two minutes to wander before their locations were recorded. By comparing the number of mosquitos in each part of the tube, the scientists were able to measure how effective each substance was against the bare-hand control test. This test was performed immediately after application of the substance, and was later repeated at times of a half hour, two hours, and four hours.

Expectedly, the DEET repellants all had a measureable repellent effect when compared against the control of no substance applied. Two DEET-free sprays produced little or no repellency, though Lemon Eucalyptus Insect repellent turned out to be a long-lasting, strong repellent. Avon Skin So Soft bath oil also showed some level of protection for two hours. The patches containing vitamin B1 had no measurable effect.

To some extent, all these findings fell within expectations, but the same cannot be said for Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Eau de Parfum:

Surprisingly, the perfume we tested, Victoria Secret Bombshell (Fragrance type: Fruity floral notes: Purple passion fruit, Shangri-La peony, Vanilla orchid) has shown to be a strong repellent with effects lasting longer than 120 min. It must be noted that the concentration of perfume we used in this test was rather high and that lower concentrations of the same fragrance might have different effects.

So does this mean that you should be using Bombshell perfume to ward of mosquitos at your next picnic? Probably not. As the researchers noted above, the amount of perfume used was “rather high” and given that a bottle costs $50-$60 over DEET or Lemon Eucalyptus insect repellents that both cost less than $10, you can save a lot of money without smelling like a warehouse full of jungle-flower petals.