For as long as he can remember, a 54-year-old nudist from South Carolina — let’s call him “B.” — has gotten the most out of nature by being totally naked. “As a child I got in trouble several times for my inability to stay clothed with my playmates and encouraging them to do the same,” he tells MEL. “I have explored in nude in nature with a few hikes, and decades ago, a few skinny-dipping experiences as a teen with my scout troop.”
That’s all well and good. But there’s one thing about nudists I can’t wrap my head around, and it’s not the getting-naked part: It’s the mosquitoes. I genuinely don’t understand how a fear of bug bites hasn’t stifled out nudism altogether.
Personally, I come home from a quick hike with mosquito bites all over any piece of skin that was exposed for more than 10 minutes. Even when I pee into the creek outside my parents’ lake house in Wisconsin, I’m staring at my exposed peen, surveying for any unwelcome flyers as intently as an anti-aircraft gunman in enemy waters.
But B. walks around the woods, hanging dong so hard, worried as little about bug bites as he is about clothes. “Living near a coastal saltwater marsh and wetlands area has schooled me on mosquitoes,” he explains.
So how do they do it? What do nudists and naturists know that the rest of the clothed population doesn’t when it comes to bug bites? B. sums it up: “Don’t yada-yada repellent on genitals.”
B., 54, South Carolina
Until recently, being an adult has limited my nudism to inside my home. My newfound sun exposure caused my wife to eventually notice my lack of tan lines. I admitted my nudism, and she says she is okay with it as long as there is no social component. I’m hoping that as time passes, she will relax that rule a bit.
We recently moved to a new residence with a fenced yard that has allowed me to be nude outdoors. It was certainly a process of trusting the fence’s “opaqueness” and erecting an elaborate tarp system to ensure against accidental exposure. As a Bible Belt resident, the law is pretty strict here.
In my yard and on hikes, I’ve learned that the light-table coils that produce smoke only annoy humans. DEET is effective if you pay the money for brand name, but it’s expensive and I think environmentally detrimental.
If I am out in the woods or it’s windy, I use a Picaridin-based lotion. In the yard, I often use a citronella-oil torch, but only if it’s not windy. Tiki brand is worth the $$ over the Walmart brand because it burns more slowly.
Also, take it from me: Put on sunscreen before bug repellent. Apply both to your genitals, buttocks, nipples and under breasts — they’re all super-prone to burning, so over-apply here, especially early in the season. Then apply any repellent. Reversing the order may result in other than desirable outcomes.
If you put on the repellent first, in my experience, you at least get a blotchy tan, or burn. Perhaps the carrier in the repellent allows the sunscreen to sweat off, rather than bond to the skin? I’m pretty fair-skinned, so I burn easily. I have to start early in the season to gain exposure bit by bit.
I’ll say it again, don’t yada-yada repellent on genitals. That soft tissue, with blood vessels close to the skin surface, is a mosquito target. Try surreptitiously itching your penis repeatedly at work and you’ll get a better idea of the importance of coverage overkill here!
Other than that, just be smart about your surroundings. I once took advantage of a sparsely populated area along the edge of an island just south of Charleston. I had good sightline to spot other people on a narrow trail that was a bay area on the right, and coastal “forest” on the left. Despite the fact that I could literally pet dolphins who could come within feet of the water’s edge, I bailed on the walk because of the black fly population that was nearly smothering.
Even clothed it was unbearable. But for the few minutes I was able to be ankle-deep in the water with the dolphins, it was very memorable. Had I felt more secure, I would have gone deeper in the water to alleviate the mosquito/fly problem, but I thought it too great a risk to get caught so far from clothes.
As far as any other demographics, I identify as a cisgender male, a father, a husband, a Christian and finally a soon-to-be counselor who believes each person has value to the rest of the world.
Katie, 36, Florida
I’ve been a nudist since I was a teenager. I live in South Florida, but I am in Southern California often because I have a lot of family there. My husband and I enjoy going camping, so we’ll spend a few weekends away a year just the two of us and enjoy it “naturally” — aka nude.
So, I’ve tried a lot of mosquito repellents. The thing I can’t stand about the traditional “store-bought” repellants is the fact that the smell is so awful. I hate that it gets on everything my butt touches. Good nudist etiquette means always putting a towel down before you sit anywhere, and I hate having a towel that smells like repellant.
Since I’m often nude when I go camping with my husband, I want to make sure I’m not bitten in “sensitive” areas. I’ve never enjoyed the thought of chemicals near my vagina, so I’ve tried all sorts of natural options. … Finally I found one: Avon’s Skin So Soft. For some reason, this stuff works like a charm!
I got desperate because I wanted an option that was less “chemical-smelling,” but at the same time, I didn’t want to get West Nile virus or something awful as a result of being unprotected.
My husband and I took a trip to Belize several years ago and enjoyed three straight days outside, never having to put clothes on. I should say, I enjoyed one day outside, because the night of day one I was eaten alive by mosquitoes. We had fallen asleep outside for no more than a few hours ([after] a few adult beverages) before moving inside to our room.
While outside, I was feasted upon from my boobs down to my thighs. My husband counted 21 bites. Cortizone (over-the-counter ointment) ended up saving my ass — literally. I never made the mistake of forgetting repellant again.
My process is: Get naked, put on sunscreen, spray Skin So Soft, put on sunglasses. Every time I reapply sunscreen, I reapply my repellant and I’m good to go.
Pat, 37, Canada
I’ve been involved in social nudism for three or four years and solo nature nudism for more than 20. I go to beaches and belong to a club, and sometimes also get naked in remote clearings in a local forested park. Bugs aren’t usually a problem at the beach except for ants, and with those I just move elsewhere.
For mosquitoes, you’re not getting much protection from most clothes anyway, since they can bite through if the fabric is close enough to your skin. Horseflies and deer flies have been more of an annoyance to me while naked.
For those you can’t slap them on you or else the others will home in on the smell. And I don’t think DEET works to stop them from biting. All you can really do is try to catch them and then rip a wing off so they can’t keep following. Sounds bad, but they are trying to eat you, after all.
With DEET repellents, the sprays are mostly good for spraying on clothing. Directly on skin you sweat them off quickly. When I’ve encountered mosquitoes at the forest or the club it hasn’t generally been that bad. Might be necessary at night if I was to camp at the club.
My most miserable experiences with mosquitoes was while planting trees in Northern Ontario. Some of the low lying black spruce land was insane for mosquitoes. This one 30 percent DEET cream called Watkins, which stays on a lot better than sprays of the same percentage, was the only thing that really got them to let up. Interestingly, since then I don’t get much of a reaction to mosquito bites anymore.
Max, 34, Hawaii
I hate mosquitoes, especially when nude. I have enjoyed being nude by myself for around 10 years, but I have been into nude hiking, scuba diving, and just hanging out with friends for about six years. I try to get some outdoor nude time once a week, at least for several hours each time.
Thus, I really like the lemon-eucalyptus-oil-based bug repellents. The work very well and smell nice too. I have seen some research data showing that lemon eucalyptus is as effective as DEET products. [A 2014 comparative study between eucalyptus and DEET in Australia found a 40 percent DEET formula provided 100 percent protection for four hours, while the eucalyptus formula provided 95 percent protection.] So why go with something so harsh?
Luckily, nothing much changes about mosquitoes when [you’re] nude. I find mosquitoes mostly bite my feet, ankles and arms, not in the more sensitive areas. For a while, I thought it was the heat and blood vessels close to the surface of the skin in those areas, but apparently it’s the smell too. I always carry lemon-eucalyptus-based bug repellent and zinc-oxide- or titanium-dioxide-based sunscreen when heading out to be nude in nature.
Stéphane Deschênes, 53, Toronto
I’ve been a naturist since I was in my late teens/early twenties. I prefer “naturist” over “nudist.” [What’s the difference? Some naturists see themselves as more involved in the “spirituality and health benefits of being nude,” whereas nudists simply “like to be nude,” according to Cottage Life. —Ed.] I’ve heard lots of theories about diets and other things you can spread on your skin. But those things don’t seem to hold up when tested.
Sadly, the most effective [products] contain DEET. I don’t like to put that stuff on my body, so I prefer to avoid them. Part of it is not being in the bush at dusk or dawn. During the day when it is sunny is usually fine. Being outdoors during the bad mosquito time is still manageable if you have a screened-in area; either a screened-in porch or dining tent when camping. At [the park Deschênes owns] Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, we use a number of tactics that reduce the mosquito population without negatively impacting the environment. We use VectoBac pucks in ponds — a naturally occuring bacteria that kills only the mosquito larvae — and mosquito traps strategically placed around the public areas.
I’m also known for my prowess with the Executioner. It’s an electric racket that “snaps” when you contact with the mosquito, and they get electrocuted. I’ve tried many, and in my opinion this is the best one! Sometimes you feel like you’re being swarmed by mosquitoes. The reality is that there are probably only five to 10 around you. With this device, you can quickly dispatch them all and have some peace.
Sometimes it’s funny: I’m nude and standing next to a clothed person where they’re being swarmed and I’m fine as long as I don’t get too close. There’s no question that some people obviously attract more mosquitoes than others. Is it diet, genetics, clothing or detergent? I’m not sure. Maybe all of the above. But the Executioner and a healthy layer of DEET is the combo that keeps me safe.