I am a mosquito magnet. I’m not exaggerating. They always gravitate towards me, choosing to bite me and not whoever I’m standing next to. So bug spray is serious business for me if I’m going to spend any time outdoors in the summer (even just trying to grab a few leaves of kale from the garden is enough to warrant a few bites). The problem of course is that most bug sprays out there are full of nasty toxins.
Environmental Defence has a great information sheet about insect repellent you can download. It has some great tips (many of which I didn’t know until I read it) like:
- don’t go outside 30 minutes before/after dawn/dusk (mosquitoes are most active then)
- mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours
- bug zappers, treated wristbands, & candles are not effective (I definitely didn’t know that!)
Healthy Child Healthy World also has a great article about how to beat bug bites.
Just be careful about the bug spray you decide to buy. For example, Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard was suggested to me as a good natural alternative – and then I looked up the ingredients. I could only find them for the old formulation, and they didn’t look good. Avon Skin So Soft products have EWG (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep ratings between 5 to 8 (ratings are on a scale of 0-10, with 0-2 considered low hazard, 3-6 moderate hazard, and 7-10 high hazard), though the new Bug Guard formulation is not in the database yet. Check out Colorful Canary’s post about the previous formula here. The current formula contains Picaridin, which doesn’t have neurotoxicity concerns the way DEET does, but it hasn’t been tested over the long term so we can’t be sure about its effects. I can’t find an actual ingredients list of the product anywhere, which to me, raises warning bells.
The one I’ve been using (and that I actually find effective) is First Element’s Outdoor Shield – which comes in a spray or a lotion stick (like a deodorant stick). It is made with essential oils including lemon eucalyptus (note that Environmental Defence suggests that products containing lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3). Here’s the full ingredients list for the Outdoor Shield Spray:
water (reverse osmosis), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Eucalyptus Citriadora (Lemon Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Cymbopogon Winterianus (Citronella) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavendar) Flower Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Sapindus Mukorossi (SoapBerries) Extract, Allantoin, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Leaf Oil.
The lotion stick has most of the same ingredients, with the addition of grape seed oil, shea butter, bees wax and candelilla wax. For a real life example, I had run out of my Outdoor Shield on the weekend and tried to do some work in the garden. I was out for a little less than 1 hour and got at least 10 bites. When my Outdoor Shield came in (thank God!), I sprayed myself very thoroughly and went out in the garden for less than 1 hour again. 1 bite. I did see mosquitoes come towards me – but they didn’t bite when they got the scent of the Outdoor Shield. Woohoo! (If you are interested in purchasing the Outdoor Shield products from First Element, shoot me a message first! I can give you 10% off!)
If you’re into DIY with essential oils, you can easily make your own bug spray! 2 Moms Natural Skincare has an easy recipe here, along with some other natural bug spray suggestions. Overthrow Martha has a recipe for bug spray with SPF in either a body butter or a spray.