Baby oil is commonly used for skincare, but there’s not much evidence surrounding its effectiveness as a mosquito repellent.
Summary of Our Scientific Research
While there are many articles that preach the reliability of baby cream oil(1), especially Jonhson’s baby oil, there is no hard evidence to back up the claims. The closest we can get to hard evidence for baby oil is a paper from the Cleveland Health Council that was published in 1924. However, this paper only proves that non-toxic oils, such as baby cream oils, are useful for killing off mosquito larvae(2).
In fact, one study from 1990 by a student completely dismantles the idea of baby oil is a good mosquito repellent(3). As of now, determining if baby cream oil is as useful as some claim is not possible due to lack of hard evidence and study, though the evidence against it seems to outway the testimonials you see on your local news.
Johnson’s makes good products, but none that are good for mosquito repelling. Products that use DEET are highly recommended for quality repellents, and baby oil just doesn’t use that. But hey, they use aloe vera! And while aloe vera may feel good, but it will do next-to-nothing to adult mosquitoes, though it may be useful for larvae.
Avon’s bath oil is as close to baby oil as we can get in studies, and one study at the University of Florida proved that, compared to DEET, oil isn’t as effective at repelling mosquitoes (4).
The main issue is that baby oil lacks any substance that mosquitoes find repelling. Aloe vera and Vitamin E are ingredients in Johnson baby cream oil, for example, and these two ingredients don’t do much to mosquitoes.
If there was a baby oil that contained some DEET, then baby oil may be a valid option, but DEET wouldn’t be pleasing to rub on the skin. For now, you’re limited to either using the baby oil to ease the itch of that new mosquito bite or killing the larvae with it.
What I’m saying is, you better know where the larvae are or you need to run and get some citronella.
Where to Get Baby Oil and How to Use It
Baby creamy oil can be bought from any local drug store or online retailer, barring Johnson’s baby creamy oil. Johnson’s baby oil is hard to find, due to the company discontinuing the product after low sales (5).
However, any type of baby oil will do. As I mentioned earlier, you can even use Avon’s bath oil and reach the same effect. If you prefer sticking to baby oil, then brands like Aveeno will do just fine.
Once you obtain your baby oil, there are two ways to fight off your mosquito solution. The first is to simply rub it on your skin’s exposed areas. The theory is that the mosquitoes will be unable to bite you and be disgusted by the smell.
The other solution involves mosquito larvae. See, mosquito larvae are placed in water, typically shallow. All you need to do is put some of the oil into the water. From there, all you have to do is wait! The larvae will eventually “suffocate” and die from exposure to the oil.
And that’s it! While hard evidence is difficult to find for baby oil, my advice is to go for another solution. There are much better ones available, so shelling out money for a non-sure outcome isn’t the smartest idea. However, it won’t hurt to try if you already have a bottle lying around somewhere.
Maybe Johnson’s will not only bring back their baby cream oil but manufacture their own mosquito repellent oil. How good would it be? Probably not well, as oil tends to evaporate quickly, but it would better than pure baby oil.
I do advise to not take risks if you’re trying to protect your child from mosquito bites, though. The last thing you want your child to catch at 3 years old is West Nile. Spring for a product advertised for repelling mosquitoes.
1 – telegram.com – “Fruit test: A few ants arrived, but not a lot.
Body test: No insects landed that arm and I didn’t get bitten on that arm.
Results: It really did appear to work for me. One question: It would take a lot to cover your whole body with it. When I was wearing it (and three repellents on my other limbs), I did get bitten on the rear, where no repellent had been used.”
2 – ajph.aphapublications.org – “By one method the surface of a body of standing water is covered with a large quantity of a heavy non-toxic oil which, providing the entire surface of the water is continually covered, will after several hours ultimately kill all of the mosquito larva. The oil film placed in this manner will prevent any mosquito from depositing eggs as long as the oil film covers the entire surface of the water. An oil film of this nature will also kill the adult female mosquito if she attempts to alight near the water surface for the purpose of oviposition. In order to maintain an unbroken film of oil upon the surface of the water for any number of days, 220 USE OF OIL FOR DESTROYING MOSQUITO LARVAE it is necessary to use a very large amount of’ an oil which will spread well and evaporate slowly.”
3 – undernc.edu – “A sizeable discrepancy between Kurt’s results and those of 1990 involved baby oil. He again obtained a probability value of .001(effective), where the 1990 tests showed the product to be ineffective…Anyhow, baby oil did not repel mosquitoes.”
4 – snopes.com – “Mark Fradin and Jonathan Day of the University of Florida tested 17 nationally marketed mosquito repelling products under laboratory conditions. They asked 15 volunteers to stick a forearm coated with repellent into a cage containing 10 mosquitoes and observed how much time elapsed before the first bite. Products containing DEET repelled best, and the more DEET they contained, the better they worked. Off! Deep Woods, which contains 23.8 percent DEET, provided the longest-lasting protection: 302 minutes on average. By contrast, Avon Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil failed after 9.6 minutes, on average.”
5 – nbc-2.com – “The manufacturer of the product, Johnson & Johnson, said the product was discontinued due to lack of sales.
“Unfortunately, sales were not strong enough to support continued production, so we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue it. But following the feedback from our customers and reporters like you, we are hoping to bring it back,’ the company wrote to NBC2.”