We can all agree that mosquitoes are annoying and their bites can sometimes be deadly. As a means to protect ourselves and our loved ones from mosquito-borne diseases, mosquito repellents are often used. The convenience that spray-type mosquito repellents are able to provide makes it an easy and popular choice among consumers. However, when choosing a mosquito repellent for our young ones in the family, a dilemma consumers may face often surface itself:
Synthetic or Natural repellent?
“Man-made is bad and natural is good” – a common social stigma among people that revolves around synthetic products. For various reasons, synthetic products have been shunned upon and natural products are heavily favored as a safer option. Now that the target users (babies) become a priority consideration in decision making, the stigma is often further reinforced.
In an attempt to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions and to challenge the social stigma on synthetic repellents, at ChemoPower, we decided to conduct a study on seven popular baby-friendly mosquito repellents from both groups (Synthetic and Natural) in the market in hopes of finding out:
- If the compounds present in natural repellent products are “better” in repellent properties than the ones in synthetic repellents.
- If the synthetic repellent products contain harmful chemical compounds.
With ChemoPower’s proprietary software applications SmartDaltonTM and MoleculeDBTM, we are able to perform our analysis in a fast, timely and accurate manner. Throughout the course of analysis, a detection limit of 0.0089% of the total area percentage was observed from ChemoPower’s software. Such precision, sensitivity and efficiency makes ChemoPower’s software competitive and gives them an edge over their competitors.
After analysis, a total of 276 unique compounds were found for both repellent types. 194 chemical compounds were found across all the claimed natural repellent products, of which 43 exhibit repellent properties. 112 chemical compounds were found across all the claimed synthetic repellent products, of which 26 exhibit repellent properties.
Various trends and observations were also observed after analysis**:
1. Generally, each of the claimed natural mosquito repellent products contain more repellent compounds than each of the claimed synthetic mosquito repellent products. Interestingly, they also contained more chemical compounds which exhibit skin irritation or contact dermatitis.
As such, consumers should be wary of the possibility of contracting such skin conditions and are advised to perform patch testing on theirs babies to check for any skin reactions before considering to apply the products directly on them.
2. Each of the claimed synthetic mosquito repellent products do contain natural repellent compounds, but each of the products are still largely constituted by non-repellent chemical compounds.
The main bulk of these claimed non-repellent chemical compounds may pose various pharmacological side effects ranging from skin irritants, contact dermatitis to aspiration hazards. Consumers whose babies have slightly sensitive skin or respiratory system may want to take extra precaution before committing to a synthetic repellent product.
For the claimed natural mosquito repellent products, synthetic repellent compounds were absent, validating their claim as being natural repellent products. Consumers who are considering natural repellent products but are hesitant due to the possibility of synthetic repellent compounds that may be present can now have a peace of mind.
3. Presence of compounds with reportedly stronger or comparable repellent effect to DEET.
Interestingly, each of the claimed natural repellent products does contain some natural chemical compounds which are reportedly stronger or comparable effect to DEET1. Consumers who are looking for alternatives to DEET can now consider switching over to using natural repellent products.
On a whole, we hope that our study has not only highlighted the capabilities of ChemoPower’s software, but also has provided different perspectives on the debate between synthetic and natural repellents. Most importantly, we hope that consumers now have better insights on the chemical compounds present in both natural and synthetic repellents and are now able to better decide between the two repellent types for their babies.
Say yes to hassle-free spraying and keep the mozzies away!
Only volatile contents in each sample were analyzed, thus the data obtained may not be a true reflection of all compounds present.
1 N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, a synthetic mosquito repellent compound and it is the current gold standard for its repellent properties .
 J. J. Zhu, S. C. Cermak, J. A. Kenar, G. Brewer, K. F. Haynes, D. Boxler, P. D. Baker, D. Wang, C. Wang, A. Y. Li, R.-D. Xue, Y. Shen, F. Wang, N. M. Agramonte, U. R. Bernier, J. G. D. O. Filho, L. M. F. Borges, K. Friesen, and D. B. Taylor, “Better than DEET Repellent Compounds Derived from Coconut Oil,” Scientific Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018.
Article written by Lester Tan