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Buzz Off! The Best Nontoxic Insect Repellents

July 25, 2017

By Lindsay Cohn

Hopefully you’re already enjoying the long summer days outdoors, whether you’re a hard-core hiker and camper or just like a walk around the neighborhood at night or the occasional beach day.

No matter which camp you fit into, fighting bug bites is undoubtedly a concern.

There are plenty of conventional insect repellents on the market, but they contain chemicals such DEET, a registered pesticide and the most common ingredient in traditional formulas, and IR3535, which may cause skin and eye irritation.

While the EPA says DEET is safe to use as directed, and some studies have found these repellents to be the most effective and long-lasting, non-toxic living expert Sophia Ruan Gushee cautions that DEET poses potential risks, depending on how strong the formula is. Plus the American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concerns about using DEET on babies and young children.

Luckily, if you prefer to skip the chemicals altogether, there are plenty of nontoxic alternatives. Though no repellent—chemical or otherwise—can promise 100 percent protection, the right formula can significantly reduce your risk of getting bitten. Here are some of our favorites.

Farmaesthetics Tansynella Organic Bugscreen


This oil-based repellent keeps insects away and moisturizes skin at the same time. And, unlike many natural options, this gentle formula is safe to use everywhere—including face, ears and neck—and on everyone, including babies, people with sensitive skin and even pets. (Available online; $18 for a 4-fl. oz. bottle)

Paper Street Soap Co. Bug Spray

Bug spray

This certified organic spray wards off ticks and mosquitoes with shelf stable, herbal ingredients—notably witch hazel and eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and rosemary essential oils. (Available online; $12 for 2 fl. oz.)

Badger Anti-Bug Balm Stick

Anti-bug balm stick

If you like Badger’s anti-bug balm tins, you’re going to love this super-portable stick. It’s the same certified organic, petroleum-free formula, made even easier to apply to the whole body (and wiggly kids). (Available online; $12 for a 1.5-oz. stick)

Rocky Mountain Oils Bug Off! Essential Oil Blend

Bug Off oil blend

Add distilled water and a carrier oil like olive, coconut or jojoba to this bug-fighting blend of citronella, cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, lemon eucalyptus, thyme and lemongrass essential oils for an effective  DIY bug repellant. (Available online; $13.50 for a 15-ml bottle)


BIO: Lindsay Cohn is a wellness writer, yogi and essential oil enthusiast. You can follow her on Instagram at @lindsay_cohn and Twitter at @lindsay_cohn.

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