An evening walk or an outdoor dinner can become torture, so much so that many give up, but some places become almost impassable even during the day. All this because of mosquitoes, which seem to be particularly attracted to some people and less to others. The fault is to be found in the personal smell and how this is altered by the shampoos, perfumes and soaps that we use every day. A very recent scientific research has shed light on this aspect, until now little known, offering interesting advice on how to counteract the onslaught of mosquitoes. The study was published in the journal iScience thanks to the work of an American team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VanderGiessen et al, iScience, May 2023).
Mosquitoes, what are the risks and what attracts them
Mosquitoes bite and the result can be something that goes far beyond the simple, even if very annoying, itching accompanied by bumps and redness. Mosquitoes are also the vectors of diseases, such as malaria, Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever, just to name a few. This explains why the aim is to avoid an assault by mosquitoes as much as possible, using specific sprays and products. Sometimes, however, there is nothing to do and some people more than others become the favorite meal of mosquitoes. How can this happen? It all depends on the smell that is released. Mosquitoes use volatile organic compounds emitted by plants and animals to search for food, mainly blood and nectar. The point is that the soaps and shampoos we use alter our personal smell, adding substances and fragrances and modifying the very emission of the compounds that our body naturally produces. This alteration of the smell can attract or repel mosquitoes more. But let's try to better understand the results of the study that dealt with understanding how soap can alter our smell and make it more or less attractive to mosquitoes.
The soap we use can repel or attract mosquitoes, the study
The study is very small and recruited a sample of only 4 people. Precisely for this reason other research will have to be carried out, but in the meantime the results obtained are worthy of note. The scientists analyzed how the volunteers' smell changed before washing with soap and after washing. For this purpose, four different types of soap were used, including products containing lilial, a floral fragrance, which recalls the notes of lilac, lily and lily of the valley, widely used in cosmetics but which was recently banned by the European Union, and coconut oil. Then it was evaluated how the new smell could attract mosquitoes or not. What emerged is that all the soaps significantly modified the personal smell of the volunteers and that the repellent effect or not is also linked to the basic smell of the study participants. Nonetheless, some general observations can be made. In particular, soaps containing lilial were found to modify the smell and make it more attractive to mosquitoes. In the European Union lilial is prohibited but in any case the advice is, if you want to counteract the attack of mosquitoes, limit the use of soaps with floral fragrances reminiscent of flowers, such as lilac, lily of the valley and lily. Instead, soap with coconut oil was the one that made the smell less attractive, creating a real repulsion from mosquitoes. Not only that, other compounds that have shown a repellent action are limonene, alpha pinene and linalool, contained in the essential oils of lemon, citronella, eucalyptus but also ylang ylang and geranium.
Shampoos and soaps that we use every day can change our personal smell and make us more or less repellent towards mosquitoes. Therefore, if we live in places with large infestations of mosquitoes or if we are planning a trip to a seaside resort, perhaps a good idea can be, in order to defend ourselves from annoying bites and diseases, try to temporarily change our personal hygiene habits, avoiding products with floral scents such as lily of the valley or lily and preferring products based on coconut oil, but also with essences such as lemon, lemongrass or eucalyptus, geranium or ylang ylang.