Getting eaten alive by mosquitoes? It could be the soap you're using.
Here’s the soap that keeps the blood-suckers away.
Have you ever noticed how some folks seem to attract mosquitoes like magnets while others can sit outside on a warm summer night without a bite? It's a puzzling phenomenon, but there are a few reasons behind it. Mosquitoes are drawn to various factors like body heat, carbon dioxide, and even certain scents.
A group of researchers at Virginia Tech wanted to know if certain soap scents can repel or attract mosquitoes, so they tested them to see which ones give you the best shot at camping without getting bitten.
“Soaps drastically change the way we smell, not only by adding chemicals but also by causing variations in the emission of compounds that we are already naturally producing,” co-author of the study Chloé Lahondère, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech, said according to USA Today.
To begin the study, the research team studied the unique odor profiles of four unwashed volunteers, and then they washed with Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth soaps.
The researchers determined that over 60% of the scent that is detectable after bathing is attributable to soap, rather than the individual's natural body odor.
“The other aspect is that it's not simply adding stuff to our body odor, but it's also replacing some chemicals while eliminating others that are washed away,” Vinauger said in a press release. “So we think there is a lot of chemical interaction between our natural chemicals and soap chemicals.”
To see how smell affects mosquitoes, the researchers let some loose in a mesh cage with two cups inside. The blood-suckers were able to choose which unwashed and washed scents attracted them. The researchers then recreated the test with different odor combinations.
“This way we can really measure and quantify the effect of the soap in terms of increasing or decreasing the attractiveness of the individual,” Vinauger said. “That's where we found that not all soaps have the same effect on all volunteers.”
The researchers found that three of the four soaps made the people more attractive to mosquitoes, and only one made them less. All of the soaps the mosquitoes liked had a fruity or flowery scent. The one that worked as a repellent was coconut scented.
So, there you have it, folks, if you're someone who usually gets eaten alive and you want to enjoy a nice summer night on the porch without getting bitten, bathe with a coconut-scented body wash. For a little extra protection, you may want to sip on a piña colada as well.
To further their understanding of the topic, the researchers want to try different soaps and see if they lose their effectiveness as the day progresses.
“Trying different soaps is important because we are showing that it's really the combination between your natural odor and a specific soap that matters,” Vinauger said. “We also need to study the duration of these effects. What if you shower in the morning? The evening? We need to answer these questions in our future work.”
The researchers also note that soap is just one part of the equation when it comes to body odor. Laundry detergents, deodorants and other scented products could also play a factor as well.