How-to make natural Insect repellent

Living in Florida has its benefits for sure but it also has its challenges. BUGS are everywhere! Mosquitos, ticks, no-see-ums, horse flys… you name it we’ve got it So when the weather warms up and you want to go outside, you can bet the bugs will be there to greet you!

With all the natural alternatives out there, why would you make a homemade bug spray? For me, it’s a creative outlet to make things from scratch. I enjoy it like some people enjoy crafting. Also, it gives me peace-of-mind to know what is really in the products I use on my skin.

Why does it matter what you put on your skin?

Most bug sprays contain DEET which is a registered pesticide. It is a member of the toluene chemical family. Toluene is an organic solvent used in rubber, plastic cements, and paint removers.

In the research I’ve found, this chemical is highly controversial in whether or not it is safe to use on the skin. To me, it makes sense that if a chemical can create that much controversy and there’s science to support that natural alternatives work, AND when I use the natural stuff I don’t get bit by bugs… I’ll just go natural, thanks.

“We think that DEET and other chemical-based repellents should be used only if other, safer methods don’t work for you,” says Urvashi Rangan, director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. From this article from the Washington Post:

Whitewave Bodywork’s Buzz-Off Blend

The recipe:

10 mL Sesame oil (sun protectant)

5 mL Camphor oil

10 drops Vitamin E (oil preservative)

10 drops Vanilla extract

10 drops Lemon Eucalyptus

10 drops Citronella

1 drop Cinnamon

1 drop Clove

10 drops Geranium

5 drops Lavender

5 drops Lemon

5 drops Peppermint

-Put all ingredients in a 2 oz. spray bottle -Fill to bend with WitchHazel (with alcohol)

I chose these ingredients based off of a collection of research articles, reading ingredient labels of many other insect repellents, and anecdotal evidence as well as trial and error.

The Research:

According to this PubMed abstract, the 32% Lemon Eucalyptus Oil provided 95% protection for 3 hours vs 40% formulation of DEET which provided 100% protection for 7 hours. Because of the risks of using DEET, I’ll go for the 95% protection and reapply after 3 hours!

Here is an abstract from PubMed which states: “Some major constituents of these oils, e.g. citronellol [Citronella and Lemon Eucalyptus] and geraniol [Geranium] and eugenol [Clove] showed pronounced repelling effects.” 

*Brackets for clarity.

Another abstract showing effectiveness of Geranium on ticks is here. *Geranium (Bourbon) has the best research for repelling ticks, and Geranium (Egyptian) is best for repelling mosquitoes and other insects.

The article above takes a look at patents on mosquito repelling inventions and notes that Citronella and eucalyptus EOs were each cited in approximately 1/3 of all patents. Camphor, cinnamon, clove, geranium, lavender, lemon, lemongrass and peppermint EOs were each cited in > 10% of patents. Repellent chemicals present in EO compositions or added as pure “natural” ingredients such as geraniol, limonene, p-menthane-3,8-diol, nepetalactone and vanillin (primary component in the extract of the vanilla bean) were described in approximately 40% of all patents.

If you’re into natural alternatives but don’t feel like making your own, Young Living makes an insect repellant that has been tested to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas using 100 percent naturally derived, plant-based ingredients.

Young Living Insect Repellant

Young Living’s insect repellant contains “pure sesame oil and a carefully selected blend of essential oils traditionally used for their bug-repellent properties come together to make up all 99 percent of the active ingredients in this formula. The other 1 percent? Vitamin E. That means you can use it on your little ones and not worry about the synthetic chemicals used in many traditional repellents. You’ll also love the pleasant, citrusy aroma and smooth, non-sticky application.”

You can easily turn it into a bug “spray,” if you prefer, by putting it in a spray bottle with some witchhazel to dilute the liquid for easy spraying. You may want to add a few drops of extra essential oil for more protection after diluting. Young Living makes a great blend called Purification that contains many of the oils listed above as effective insect repellants.

Young Living Insect Repellant made into a spray!

If you forgot to put on insect repellant and are itching to get rid of the itch, you can Make an all natural anti-itch cream or spray to eliminate the pain/itch/sting like this one here:

Anti- itch cream after bug bites

Or if you prefer to purchase something ready to go, Young Living makes this Young Living’s LavaDerm™ After-Sun Spray that “offers temporary relief from the pain and itching of minor burns, minor cuts, sunburns, scrapes, insect bites, and minor skin irritations…” (YL website)

Young Living’s LavaDerm

This “vegan-friendly formula made without alcohol, synthetic fragrances, or synthetic colorants” uses menthol from mint to soothe and cool the skin, providing immediate relief from the effects of outdoor activity. Plus, its moisturizing qualities (from ingredients such as aloe, Lavender essential oil, and Helichrysum essential oil) leave skin feeling soft and smooth instead of tacky or sticky. (YLWebsite)

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