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What does it take to develop a new insect repellent? Lifesystems' R&D team reveal all

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What does it take to develop a new insect repellent? Lifesystems' R&D team reveal all

Matt, you’ve worked here at Lifesystems as Buying Manager for 12 years – can you explain a bit more about what you do?

My role involves coordinating everything to do with the development of our products from the initial R&D to sourcing, pricing and ensuring everything meets all the necessary regulations.

Lifesystems recently launched its Expedition MAX repellent – can you explain what it is and why it's different from other repellents?

Our Expedition MAX repellent is the result of years of lab analysis, in-field testing and development here at Lifesystems. It is a unique formula and contains a high-strength repellent which can be used by both adults and children.

Unlike many other high-strength repellents, Expedition MAX can be applied multiple times a day to provide round-the-clock protection. Its formula contains DermaLOC® which reduces dermal absorption by four times and this means the repellent can also be applied to more of the body without exposing yourself to higher levels of DEET than is recommended.

If you look closely at the guidelines on most high-strength repellents, many of them advise travellers to apply the product to just the hands and ankles and assume you’ll be wearing full length clothing. However, this isn’t realistic in many real-life scenarios where you’re wearing, for example, shorts and a t-shirt. Thanks to its innovative formula with DermoLOC®, with Expedition MAX, you can safely apply the formula over larger areas of exposed skin, multiple times a day to achieve 24-hour protection.

And where does the idea for a new repellent formula like this come from?

A few years ago, the entire repellent industry was forced to reformulate their prdoucts when regulations changed from COPR (Control of Pesticides Regulations) to EU BPR (Biocidal Product Regulations). This change meant the migration of active ingredients through the skin was now specified and the level allowed, greatly reduced. This was a problem for all high-strength repellents and it meant we had to come up with an idea for a new formula that offered our trusted protection while meeting all necessary regulations.

How long does it take for a product like this to be developed – from the initial idea to being available to buy?

It's difficult to answer this exactly as many factors dictate our timings but for original concept to completion of the primary studies, we allow 2 years with a further 3-5 years for the authorities to then review and authorise products. It’s a long process!

What are the biggest challenges of developing a product like an insect repellent?

Understanding all the regulations. Finding, and contracting accredited labs to complete necessary studies and ensuring development takes place within the set timeframes.

Do you test Lifesystems repellents with real mosquitos?


The prime objective of the studies conducted for each repellent formulation is to prove the effectiveness against live mosquitos. These studies are extensive and take months to complete. They involve many volunteers working with the GLP certified labs to ensure all guidelines for proving efficacy against mosquitoes are met in the study.

The mosquito efficacy test involves volunteers placing a set dosage of Max repellent on their forearms and allowing this to soak in for a few minutes. Once this is done, they put their arm in the cage of mosquitos for five-minute intervals every half-hour until the repellent fails.

I've also taken part in these tests, and it's quite something when you see 200 hungry mosquitoes hovering close to your arm and not biting. Or shoud I say, it's a huge relief!

Are DEET repellents better than others?

50 years of specific field studies, military use, and worldwide experience result in DEET being accepted as the most reliable repellent against biting insects. For this reason, it is found in most repellent formulations.

In our Expedition MAX repellent, the reliable protection of DEET is combined with DermaLOC® which allows you to use it on all the family with complete peace of mind.

What does the DermaLOC® formula actually do?

DermaLOC® a unique formula that reduces the absorption levels of DEET by holding it on the skin's surface. This provides long-lasting protection from malarial and non-malarial mosquitoes and also means you can use the repellent in real-life conditions with confidence.

Should we be concerned about mosquitoes here in the UK or on our holidays in Europe? Or is it just something you need to consider in more exotic places.

The UK is classified as low risk and tropical diseases here are effectively nil. However, customers still seek quality repellents to avoid the constant irritation and discomfort caused by mosquito bites as well as other biting insects like midges and ticks. We’d advise you to check the government’s guidance before you travel to get the latest travel guidance for your destination.

Thank you so much Matt. Explore Lifesystems full range of insect repellents.

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