Avon Works The Bugs Out New Skin-so-soft Mixes Moisturizer, Sunscreen, Repellent

Posted: June 13, 1994

It's easy to imagine the board of directors at Avon Products, Inc. throwing up their hands and screaming:

"All right! Enough! We give up. You want to use Skin-So-Soft as an insect repellent. We'll give you an official Skin-So-Soft repellent. STOP BUGGING US!"

But Sharon Hall, general manager of Avon's personal care products group, swears that is NOT the reason the company has come out with a combination moisturizer, sunscreen and, ta da!, insect repellent this year.

Hall acknowledges that, for years, a "folklore" has built up over supposed bug-repelling properties of Avon's Skin-So-Soft bath oil.

Consumers have insisted upon using the product as a weapon against mosquitoes and other pests. New Jersey Boardwalk merchants have been known to call their local Avon representative in order to have bottles on hand to sell when consumers ask if they carry "that Avon bug repellent."

Some people claim it has to be the pine-scented version. And some say it only works if you apply frequently.

But Avon has always said: It's a bath oil . . . it's a bath oil . . . period.

"We have never tested it for efficacy as a repellent," Hall explained.

A few years ago, Avon began issuing its bath oil in a spray bottle. So wasn't that sort-of-marketing it for people to use as a bug spray?

No, Hall said. "Consumer research showed that women were taking fewer baths and wanted a bath oil to spray on just after coming out of the shower. We aren't the only company to sell bath oil in a spray bottle. Neutrogena has had a sprayable bath oil for years and years."

What happened this year, according to Hall, is that the folks at Avon simply decided to expand its Skin-So-Soft product line as "your complete source for skin moisture."

That meant having sunscreens, hand and body moisturizers and bath products. ''There is an industry trend toward products with multiple benefits, so we developed a moisturizer plus sunscreen and a moisturizer plus sunscreen plus bug protection to stay ahead," she said.

The new product contains the well-known insect-discouraging ingredient,

citronella. And Avon stresses that the formula is officially registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, any product sold as an insecticide or repellent, whether for your face or your farm, must be approved by the EPA. Avon is making a big deal of this, Hall said, in order to distinguish the new lotion from all that ''folklore" about the bath oil.

And now that Avon has a product it proudly proclaims as a pesticide, will people stop purchasing the bath oil for that purpose?

Hall isn't prepared to claim that. The folklore, she admits, "has a life of its own.

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