Avon Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil enjoys a decades-long reputation as an effective insect repellent. Avon emphasizes the oil isn’t designed as a bug spray, and it makes no claims that it works as one. But many Amazon reviewers say it helps ward off bugs, as do TripAdvisor contributors referencing their trips to tropical destinations and mosquito-infested locales.

So Consumer Reports decided to test Avon Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil as well as Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin insect repellent. Here’s what we found.

Bath Oil: Not a Good Insect-Repellent Choice

The Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil didn’t perform well in our most recent insect-repellent testing. That result tracks with the last time we tested the product’s insect-repellent abilities, way back in 1993.

This time around, the oil provided only about two hours of protection from deer ticks and two kinds of mosquitoes, the Aedes variety (aggressive daytime biters that can spread Zika), and Culex (nighttime biters that can carry West Nile). That would put it among the worst-performing insect repellents we tested: The products we recommend generally protect for upwards of seven hours.

“While we know that many consumers have turned to Skin So Soft Bath Oil, the product is actually not intended to repel mosquitoes or sold for that purpose, and is not approved by the EPA as a repellent,” Avon told Consumer Reports.

Skin So Soft insect repellent with picaridin.

Bug Guard: A Middle-of-the-Pack Performer

Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin, a dedicated insect repellent, performed reasonably well against ticks and mosquitoes. That places it among the midrange performers of the insect repellents we tested.

The product's active ingredient, picaridin, is a synthetic repellent modeled after a compound that occurs naturally in the black pepper plant. In Skin So Soft’s product, the concentration is 10 percent. In our recommended products containing picaridin, the concentration is 20 percent.

Avon pointed out that its insect-repellent products are deet-free. We think that up to a 30 percent concentration is safe, when used properly. Three of the products we recommend contain deet, from 15 percent to 30 percent concentration. 

Another Avon product, Skin So Soft Plus IR3535 Expedition, combines an insect repellent with a sunscreen. We didn’t test that product as either a repellent or as a sunscreen because we think combination products are a bad idea. Sunscreens should be applied liberally and often; the same isn’t true for bug sprays, so the combination could lead to unnecessarily high doses of insect repellent.

The Bottom Line: Best Ways to Avoid Bug Bites

Using an effective insect repellent is essential part of keeping bugs at bay, especially if you are traveling to an area where Zika virus is common.

Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin provides reasonable protection, but other products are more effective, including: 

And believe Avon when it says the Skin So Soft Bath Oil is not meant to repel mosquitoes. It might work for “skin moisturizing” and “dryness reducing” as the company advertises, but it’s not a good bet when it comes to avoiding bug bites. 

Guide to Mosquito and Tick Diseases

Where Most Cases Occur
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Serious Side Effects

Symptoms appear

Treatments

Common Symptoms
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