Mosquito repellent doesn't have to stink. In fact, these fine fragrances help ward off the pesky insects.
For mosquitoes, summertime is prime time. The pesky buggers swarm and feast as thirstily as their targets at backyard barbeques.
But with the looming threat of Zika this summer, mosquito season is underlined with uncharacteristic anxiety. Cue the mad scramble for mosquito repellents.
As people anxiously douse themselves, perfumes that double as bug repellent are having a moment. And they’re considerably more sophisticated than the classic Avon Skin So Soft.
One of them, Coqui Coqui Colonia Repelente ($16 at coquicoqui.com), the fragrance line of a group of Mexican boutique hotels of the same name, offers a citrusy mosquito repellent packaged in the same manner as its fancy perfumes.
At Aromaflage, a perfume-repellent hybrid line, Michael and Melissa Fensterstock, its husband-and-wife founders, have been fielding daily questions about the Zika virus through their customer service channels.
“Our sales have doubled since last summer,” Michael Fensterstock says.
The couple started the company in New Jersey in 2013 after traveling in Southeast Asia for their honeymoon. There they discovered that locals used essential-oil blends as repellents and thought to create a lab-refined version.
They now offer two scents: the original Aromaflage, a zesty blend of orange peel oil, cedarwood oil and vanillin; and Aromaflage Wild (both $65 at aromaflage.com), which is more woodsy and features geranium oil, geraniol, lemon grass oil, cedarwood oil, citronellol and thyme.
The line has been largely marketed through luxury hotel chains. (At Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons properties in the Caribbean, orders were up 50 percent during the peak travel season earlier this year.)
But when it comes to efficacy, most essential oils can do only so much, says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in Manhattan. She points to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend only four mosquito-repelling ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
“I always tell my patients these are the ones that have the studies to back them up, with DEET generally thought as being the most effective,” Engelman says. Still, she says, a lot of her patients “bristle the second you mention anything chemical.”
For those who dislike a chemical odor, Jessica Richards, founder of Shen Beauty in Brooklyn, has a savvy solution. She imports Mrs. White’s Unstung Hero Anti-Mosquito Eau de Cologne ($38 at shen-beauty.com), which contains IR3535 but smells like lemon tea. She has nearly doubled her usual order this season.
“We usually sell a ton of it anyway,” Richards says. “It smells great, it’s in pretty packaging, it works and people love that it’s British. But Zika is freaking everybody out. I have moms come in asking all sorts of questions and buying cases of 12.”
For die-hard anti-chemical clients, Engelman points to a natural option: a repellent with oil of lemon eucalyptus as its base. Some studies support the effectiveness of rosemary and peppermint as well. Intelligent Nutrients Smart Armor Perfume Spray ($31 at intelligentnutrients.com) is a bug repellent that contains both.
Should you travel to mosquito-rife territory, Engelman suggests a multilayered plan of attack.
“If someone doesn’t want to put chemicals directly on their skin, I recommend insect-repellent clothing, which is infused with permethrin,” she says.
In general, mosquitoes are drawn to pulse points — the neck, wrists, ankles and behind the knees, she says.
“Keep those areas covered with clothing or even a bandanna as much as you can,” Engelman says.