In December Sol de Janeiro released Delícia Drench Body Butter at Sephora, selling the 8.1-ounce purple tubs of barrier-repairing body lotion for $48. While the brand has previously released viral favorites, like their original sweet-smelling Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, the new body cream soon went viral for a different reason: a Sephora review claiming that the scent attracts wolf spiders. “One of the ingredients is like kryptonite to wolf spiders! When I put it on instantly one will come out. Normally I'll see one every like 3 years, used this and it was every day,” it read. The reviewer even claimed that a spider chased them to follow the scent.
We didn’t expect wolf spider-attracting body cream to be on our 2024 bingo cards, but the review has set off a torrent of bug-related beauty product stories across Reddit threads, Twitter, and TikTok. So how worried do you need to be about a spider becoming captivated by your body butter?
Since the initial review, one person tagged Sephora in what they think is a wolf spider bite. “Here's my wolf spider bite after using some of my wife's lotion and then changing her freaking tire,” they wrote. Others have claimed that the cream is made of “spider pheromones.” “Combine farnesyl acetate with hexadecyl acetate in right dosage and it might bring all the thirsty boy spiders to your yard,” one Reddit commenter said. (Both are common ingredients in skin care products.) Then there are those actively looking for the cream to “collect an army of spiders to breed and release in areas with high levels of mosquitoes” or stating that other beauty products also attract a plethora of bug species (like this post saying that Lush’s Super Milk conditioner attracts bees).
Sol de Janeiro’s Response
On December 29, Sol de Janeiro addressed the spider-related claims in an Instagram story. "We didn't think we'd wrap 2023 becoming an urban legend but all of our products, including our Delícia Drench Body Butter and upcoming Cheirosa 59 Perfume Mist are free from farnesyl acetate, diisobutyl phthalate, and hexadecyl acetate," the statement said. "So while they may attract a lot of attention from people, they won't from arachnids (even though we love all creatures at Sol de Janeiro)."
What The Experts Say
Paula Cushing, a senior curator of invertebrate zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, says there “wouldn’t be any good evidence” of any beauty product attracting spiders. “Spiders do use sexual pheromones to attract one another, but the sexual pheromones that they release are species-specific,” she tells NYLON. For example, there are over 2,300 species of wolf spiders in the world. “It doesn’t make sense that there would be some chemical in the cream that would attract multiple species.”
After looking at the Delícia Drench Body Butter on the Sephora website, Cushing says the main ingredient (water) could be a more simpler explanation. “The spiders that are found inside homes are in a dry environment, so one of the reasons people find spiders in bathrooms and kitchen sinks is because they’re following that plume of moisture and trying to find a place to drink,” she says. The viral accounts of spiders “following” the cream’s scent are likely an example of confirmation bias, says Lauren Esposito, assistant curator and Schlinger chair of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences. “If you think something is happening, then you look for evidence that it is happening, and then you’re almost certain to find it,” she says.
“It’s probably impossible,” says Esposito of the Sephora spider incident. “I say ‘probably’ because I’m a scientist, so I feel I should never say anything is impossible.” Esposito adds that chemical cues are only one element of a spider’s mating process. “Spiders use chemical cues as a first signal to identify mates, but they would never approach a potential mate without seeing the visual signals or hearing acoustic signals that coincide with the production of pheromones,” she says. This includes a coordinated song and dance.
It appears that wolf spiders, at large, are not coming after your body butter. Esposito even says this viral Sephora spider bite is more likely to be a staph infection. But, even if they were, Esposito says there’s no reason to fear; wolf spiders are not generally interested in biting humans and their venom is not poisonous to humans either. These spiders are actually incredibly beneficial in our environment for helping to keep other insect populations in check. Another fun fact? Wolf spiders are considered the beauty queens of the spider world. “Wolf spiders have some serious Maybelline lashes on their legs and beautifully blended coloration to attract mates,” says Esposito. In other words, our human beauty products simply pale in comparison.