Repelling mosquitoes and midges is an accidental but welcome side effect of this moisturising and affordable oil spray.
- Smells great
- Also moisturises skin
- Not strong enough for jungle conditions
- Full coverage required to work
Meet the wild card in the world of insect repellents: Avon Skin So Soft Original Dry Oil. Veteran beauty company Avon brought out a moisturising dry oil in 2005, only for hikers to discover that the new Skin So Soft spray was also brilliant at keeping insects at bay.
This light oil is much cheaper than most insect-specific sprays, smells great and moisturises your skin as it repels insects – ideal if you have sensitive skin or find DEET-based products tend to dry out your skin. It’s effective against insects in the UK due to a healthy smack of citronella, and there are even rumours that the Royal Marines pack Skin So Soft when they train in the mountains.
We did find on test that you’ll need to apply it to every inch of exposed skin to avoid bites, and reapply a few times over the day. The lack of strong active ingredients, such as DEET and Pircaridin, means the oil is gentle on skin - you can stick Skin So Soft all over your face and scalp or apply liberally to children with no tears.
(If in doubt, Avon say: “[choose] the Skin So Soft dry oil spray with the blue label. The pink one doesn't have citronella in”.) Don’t apply to clothes, though, due to the oily consistency.
- Best insect repellents: our guide to the best you can buy
- How to avoid bites and stings on the trail
- Ready for your next adventure? Consult our camping checklist
In the field
We’ve carried this spray in our backpack on multi-day hikes in Scotland and did find on test that you will need to apply it to every inch of exposed skin to avoid bites, and reapply a few times over the day. If you apply carefully, it definitely does work well at repelling midges.
There’s no DEET, Pircaridin or similar present, so the oil wouldn’t be strong enough to rely on when a repellent is an essential, such as in areas where mosquitoes may carry malaria. It has a pleasant, unisex scent, and it’s a nice bonus that skin feels moisturised and comfortable even as you’re keeping bugs away.
An award-winning travel and outdoors journalist, presenter and blogger, Sian regularly writes for The Independent, Evening Standard, BBC Countryfile, Coast, Outdoor Enthusiast and Sunday Times Travel. Life as a hiking, camping, wild-swimming adventure-writer has taken her around the world, exploring Bolivian jungles, kayaking in Greenland, diving with turtles in Australia, climbing mountains in Africa and, in Thailand, learning the hard way that peeing on a jellyfish sting doesn’t help. Her blog, thegirloutdoors.co.uk, champions accessible adventures.
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