While deciding what kind of repellents to use is a matter of personal preference, it’s important to know what’s inside the bottles you’re buying. DEET is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents such as Off! and Repel Insect Repellent. Many people are beginning to stray from sprays containing DEET due to recent studies showing the chemical can have serious side effects on its users with prolonged use. Opting for repellents with non-chemical oils, what many call essential oils, and homemade ingredients can be safer, more effective and less costly.
There are various ways to make your own natural bug repellent and it’s helpful to know what the purpose of each ingredient is. The essential oils are what actually deter bugs. Combining them with carrier oils or other alcohols allows the repellent to be used as a spray. These carrier oils are easy to find and most likely are already in your kitchen cabinet. Vodka, witch hazel, olive oil, sunflower oil and really any other cooking oils make a great base for natural repellents that are also safe to use on the skin.
Because different bugs are attracted to certain chemicals, using certain essential oils will protect you from the different kinds of bugs you are hoping to ward off. The best essential oils to deter mosquitoes are cinnamon oil, eucalyptus oil, citronella oil and castor oil. These oils will also protect against ticks, fleas and other biting insects. To help protect your dog or cat, try using a small amount of the oil on their collars (Start with one drop to see how much they can tolerate). Rose geranium is especially known to repel ticks.
Natural bug repellents can also be made with dried or fresh herbs. This method is effective for getting rid of flies because they dislike the smell of herbs. Try combining dried lemongrass, lavender, cloves and mint to witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Boiling the herbs is the most recommended way of adding them into a spray. One might also try using basil or garlic in either an oil or dabbing directly onto the skin.
If you’d rather not spend all day trying to mix up the perfect concoction or risk emitting a certain funk to your fellow human, fortunately there are ready-made natural repellents. Look for labels that say DEET-free, all natural, non-chemical, herbal and hypoallergenic. Bite Blocker ($9 USD) and Quantum Health Buzz Away ($8.50 USD) are both natural insect repellent sprays that can be found online.
More important than price, effectiveness or accessibility is personal health. Whatever measures you are taking to protect yourselves from summer bugs, make sure you know what you are applying to your skin or clothes before use. It’s important to know the side effects of both chemicals and even natural oils to prevent any allergic reactions or perhaps anything worse.
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My name is Caty and I’m studying Journalism and Spanish at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.
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