Bugs bugging you this season?  

I must be a bug magnet; they love me.  Unfortunately I really react to a bite, so avoiding them is best.

When trying to figure out which insect repellent to use, consider how often you will be applying them.  This is especially true if you are applying something directly to your skin.  Skin is an effective absorption surface – which means the product may make it’s way into your liver or bloodstream.  The more often you use them, consider the safety very carefully.


DEET is considered safe when applied correctly by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), However, when not applied correctly, a host of issues can ensue, including neurologic effects (effects on the nervous system).  This means if you apply it with your hands and then grab a cookie, then DEET gets transferred to the cookie and you ingest it, which is not using the product correctly.  Also, don’t spray it on your face, as many membranes such as those around the eyes, can become very irritated.  Spray it on your hands and apply it to your face with your hands – then go wash your hands with soap and water.  Directions also say not to inhale it, which is difficult to accomplish when spraying on squirmy kids.  Read  more about your risk and use with children here.  

I personally am not anxious to use it.  Maybe if I were in a deep rainforest or some circumstance where the threat of mosquito or tick bites needs a more powerful force; that would be rare in my case and I might consider it.

DEET-Free Products:

Avon sells a product called “Skin So Soft” that is reputed to repel mosquitos for about 2 hours.  I have not found any information on it other than one study that proves it works.

We used the ultrasonic clip ons when my boys were young and those seemed to work.

New on the block are permethrin-infused clothing, which comes from chrysanthemums.

Essential Oils

And of course, one of my favorites, essential oil based products.

The most common are citronella based products.  Citronella is the essential oil of two grasses.  It is sold most often as candles, and will repel mosquitos for about 2 hours. Other essential oil products include sprays which have lemon eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, rosemary or other oils.  To learn more about the use of essential oils, click here.  The two I have found that are especially effective for me are DoTerra Terrashield® and Peppermint Oils.  Peppermint oil especially will deter ants, flies, mosquitos, knats, and ticks.  Here are the ingredients in the TerraShield blend:

Fractionated Coconut Oil, Ylang Ylang Flower, Tamanu Seed, Nootka Wood, Cedarwood Wood, Catnip Plant, Lemon Eucalyptus Leaf, Litsea Fruit, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Arborvitae Wood

If applying as an oil, you will want to add a carrier such as a liquid coconut oil.   

Making and using Essential Oil Wipes

I personally like to use a wipe and found a recipe for baby wipes that I swapped out the oils for ones that discourage bugs.   My own bug repellent wipes using essential oil! I hang these up near a door entrance to deter the pests as well, such as at the entrance from the garage to the house.  They dry up and I have to hang a new one, but it has cut down on the number of flies that get in.  I also have a spray bottle with water and a few drops of peppermint that I spray around the doorways.  Smells nice to me; nasty to the bugs!

Here is my modified recipe for bug repellent wipes using essential oil:

Bug-Off Wipes

Mix together in a glass bowl (that has a fitted lid):

1 & 1/2 cups distilled water

2 Tablespoons fractionated coconut oil (or liquid coconut oil)

2 Tablespoons witchhazel

6 – 8 drops of vitamin E oil (optional)

15 drops TerraShield® essential oil

10 – 15 drops peppermint essential oil

Stir together. Next, take a roll of good quality paper towels (I like the half-size tear offs).  Do not use the cheap stuff for this.  Cut the roll in half so that you have two half rolls (they will be about the size and look of a roll of toilet paper).   Tear off the half-sheets from one of the rolls, and lay them in a decently straight stack.  Put the stack of paper towels in the bowl with the liquid and let it soak overnight with the lid on.  Keep the lid on when not in use.  Use one or two wipes at a time.  Can be used on the skin, even the face.  It has not been tested, and I would use caution for use on infants, toddlers, children or those under age 18.

Safety for pets:  

I have not reviewed any information on safety around pets, infants, or small children.  Read up on that if it is of concern to you.

Final Thoughts:

For most of my life, I just wanted the bugs to stop biting me, and gave little thought to the products I was using. Now that I’m more aware of both the effects of products and the effects of viruses the bugs carry (mosquitos and Zika, West Nile and the ticks and Lyme Disease) I have become more concerned about finding a balance.  These products are more natural but they haven’t been studied for safety around pets or others, and many should not be ingested.  Please use caution, but best of luck!

Photo credit:  mosquito:  Егор Камелев on  Unsplash; tick:  Foad RoshanonUnsplash



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