These Natural Bug Repellents Are Healthier Choices for You and Your Family
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One downside to warmer weather? Bug bites. Waking up covered with those itchy red welts is enough to make you wish winter lasted all year (OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but still). Unfortunately, a lot of bug repellents give us that sticky, I-just-doused-myself-in-chemicals feeling.
Many parents are leery of the ingredient DEET that can be found in some mainstream bug repellents, as they are worried about the potential dangers and side effects. To learn more about this controversial ingredient, we spoke with Dr. Jeannette Graf, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
She tells Best Products, “Bug sprays that contain DEET have been considered the most effective repellents for years, and endorsed by the World Health Organization. The ingredient is safe and long-lasting.” Unfortunately, however, sprays containing DEET can be oily and irritating to people with very sensitive skin, and children are sometimes turned off by sprays with this ingredient, according to Graf.
What Are Some DEET Alternatives?
If you're looking for a DEET-free bug repellent, Graf recommends trying to use bug sprays that contain the active ingredient picaridin — a synthetic chemical that mimics the natural chemical piperidine — as an effective alternative for people with sensitive skin. Picaridin is usually sprayed on the clothing instead of directly on the skin, making it easier to handle.
There are also several natural ingredients that work as bug repellents.
Lemon eucalyptus oil: This is an essential oil that can be found in natural bug repellents, and it's one that Graf recommends. Note that this is different from oil of lemon eucalyptus. However, both are used in natural repellents. They can cause skin irritation, though, so watch out for redness and rash.
Cinnamon oil: Cinnamon oil kills mosquito larvae and repels adult mosquitos. (It also smells just lovely!) It is in very few insect repellants, and can be more irritating than other essential oils.
Thyme oil: Studies have shown that thyme oil can be effective in insect repellents. Burning thyme leaves in your general vicinity also appears to have some repelling effects. It does smell a lot like weed, though: Be warned!
Citronella: Graf suggests that parents try citronella in the form of candles. “Some people prefer to continuously apply citronella oil to their wrists (obviously not as effective and long-lasting, but they prefer it)," she adds. "You have to apply this about every hour, but they are safe for kids and can be effective with constant reapplication.”
The options for DEET-free insect repellents have never been better or more plentiful, so the team at Best Products has put together a list of the best natural options that don't contain the potentially irritating ingredient. These DEET-free natural bug repellents will keep you safely insect-free and comfortable all season long.
Organic Mosquito Repellent
This formula is made with citronella, clove, and rosemary oil. These ingredients give this effective, all-natural bug repellent a light, herbal fragrance that is pleasant without being pungent. (It smells a bit like Thanksgiving, to be honest.)
The plant-based formula is easy to apply, thanks to the handle-grip easy nozzle, which is ready for reapplication at any time.
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Botanicals Insect Repellent
We're all familiar with the Off! bug spray brand. Now, there's Off! Botanicals natural bug repellent.
It’s made with a form of pine extract called menthane diol that works similarly to eucalyptus oil, and it surprisingly doesn’t smell like a medicine cabinet. It’s one of the best-reviewed insect repellents on Amazon.
It's effective for 2 hours. It's inexpensive, well-known, and a darn good option.
Organic Bug Spray
For your tiny tots, you'll want to use a natural bug spray that's free of any and all potential irritants. Hello Bello's bug spray is 100% USDA-certified organic and designed to keep away 56 different types of pesky bugs.
According to Hello Bello's own lab tests, this natural bug spray will keep your kids bite-free for up to 4 hours.
Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (2-Pack)
For adults and kids older than 3, Repel's plant-based spray is a highly effective natural bug repellent.
The active ingredient — oil derived from the leaves of a lemon eucalyptus plant — protects against mosquitoes, gnats, and ticks for up to 6 hours, which is just as good as products containing 25% DEET.
Kids Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent
With a blend of essential oils like citronella, peppermint, and cedar, All Terrain is a natural approach to keep the mosquitos away.
The DEET-free formula is perfectly safe for your kids — plus, the convenient spray bottle makes the application super easy. Toss a bottle in your kid's summer camp bag for on-demand protection.
Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks
Get your hippie on and light up Murphy's Naturals incense sticks to steer clear of annoying bugs. There are eight sticks in each tube, and each stick provides more than 2 hours of burn time — depending on which way the wind blows, of course!
5-Ounce Citronella Candles (4-Pack)
Bring home this set of four citronella-infused candles that look inviting to humans, but will still scare the mosquitos away. The jars are beautifully designed, resembling cool old pottery, and the candles burn for up to 30 hours each.
Insect & Mosquito Repellent (2-Pack)
Lemongrass oil, vitamin E, castor oil, and a little vanilla make this pack of natural bug repellents from Medella an irresistible fragrance to humans, all while being disgusting to bugs. In fact, this option repels mosquitoes, ticks, and other creepy crawlies for up to 2 hours. It's not oily or greasy, and it's safe for sensitive skin.
Medella sells their bug spray in a pack of two, making it affordable and available to most families. We recommend buying multiple pairs early and often, especially if you plan on being outdoors frequently.
Insect Repellent With 20% Picaridin
The Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent is one of our favorite DEET-free repellents that contain picaridin.
It’s touted as being a camping must-have by reviewers, leaving behind virtually no grease or odor, but repelling biting bugs very effectively.
Plant-Based Natural Bug Repellant Spray, Pack of Two
Though a little pricey, this essential oil-based insect repellent from California Baby is one that you'll want to have by your side this summer.
With ingredients like lemongrass and cedar, this biodegradable formula keeps mosquitos and ticks away without the harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your baby's skin.
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