This article first appeared in our summer ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Natural Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 03 Aug 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Howard Carter had a temperature of 104.1°F and was on his second visit to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. 11 months earlier he’d visited Cochin in India – a low-risk area at a low-risk time of year. He’d used a Deet-based repellent recommended by a UK pharmacist, but had still been bitten by mosquitoes.
‘The Deet obviously didn’t work!’, Howard tells us, ‘probably because the mosquitoes were resistant to it!’ Sure enough he’d contracted malaria – despite also being on anti-malarial drugs. ‘Like the mosquitoes, the malaria parasite must have developed a resistance’, he says.
Not to be deterred from travelling, Howard celebrated his recovery with an 11-day trip to Thailand – only to wind up with dengue fever, which is transmitted through Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Like many mosquito-borne diseases, the best cure for dengue is prevention; Howard’s experience inspired him to develop a repellent that offered real protection without harming the environment.
A protective cloak
‘I’m not sure how many people would think of developing a repellent when potentially on their deathbed’, Howard tells us. But that’s what he did. The award-winning incognito® spray launched in 2007 and almost immediately garnered high-profile support from A-listers and even royalty. Due to its ethical foundations and business practice, the company went on to win the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development in 2015. It has also bagged a Janey Lee Grace Platinum Award for six consecutive years, plus a P.E.A. Award for Travel & Tourism and Treading Lightly awards from Waitrose.
The spray and roll-on repellent is effective against many different species of mosquito, as well as midges, sandflies, horseflies, ticks and lots of other insects. The active ingredient in incognito® products is PMD, which has been approved by NHS and Public Health England and recommended for high-risk areas for mosquito-borne diseases. To address the safety concerns associated with conventional repellents, it’s also 100% natural.
Following the spray’s success and with the help of the late Dr Nigel Hill (previously head of the Disease Control and Vector Biology Unit at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), Howard also concocted a range of repellent washing accessories: a hair and body wash, a citronella loofah and a luxury soap. ‘What you wash in affects your attractiveness to mosquitoes and other insects’, Howard explains.
Bacteria on the skin feed off the detritus around the pores and excrete a kairomone, a strong attractant to female mosquitoes. The loofah soap has microscopic hairs that gently remove the detritus while cleaning and conditioning the skin. The idea is to make yourself invisible to biting insects, instead of confusing them by jamming their odour receptors.