As we move forward to warm weather, many parents are concerned about using regular DEET-containing insect repellents on themselves and their children. And if you do end up with a bug bite or ant bite, how can you help soothe painful bites? That’s where essential oils for bug bites and a homemade mosquito repellent spray can be a one-two punch to knock out painful bites with toxic-free ingredients!
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The Problems with Mosquito Repellents
Hundreds of millions of people use DEET and other synthetic bug repellents every year, and I caution you not to fall into that trap. The primary ingredients – malathion, DEET and permethrin – are commonly used pesticides and have been linked to a variety of health concerns, which is why my family and I avoid the stuff like the plague. Let’s take a look at these 7 reasons straight from the medical literature:
- “Workers at a national park who used insect repellents or lotions containing DEET repeatedly during the summer season complained more often of chest pain or wheezing, muscle cramping, skin rashes and blisters, dizziness, disorientation, and difficulty concentrating than workers who used the products less often or did not use them at all.” (1)
- “Observations demonstrate that a pesticide mixture (permethrin and DEET) can promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease and potential sperm epigenetic biomarkers for ancestral environmental exposures.” (2)
- “DEET and permethrin have been implicated as potential neurotoxic agents that may have played an important role in the development of illnesses in some veterans of the Persian Gulf War.” (3)
- “Subchronic dermal application of DEET and permethrin to adult rats, alone or in combination, leads to a diffuse neuronal cell death in the cerebral cortex, the hippocampal formation, and the cerebellum. Collectively, the above alterations can lead to many physiological, pharmacological, and behavioral abnormalities, particularly motor deficits and learning and memory dysfunction.” (4)
- DEET alone caused a decrease in blood brain barrier permeability in brain stem and significant decline in sensorimotor performance. (5)
- “Exposure to real-life doses of malathion, DEET, and permethrin, alone or in combination, produce no overt signs of neurotoxicity but induce significant neurobehavioral deficits and neuronal degeneration in brain.” (6)
- “A combination of DEET and permethrin led to significant decrease in AChE – an enzyme necessary for neuromuscular function – activity in brainstem and midbrain and brain stem.” (7)
This topic is still hotly debated, but I am not convinced that DEET is safe and I caution people from spraying their families with pesticides!
Repellent Sprays Don’t Last Forever
Even though making your own essential oil mosquito repellent is safer, it’s not as easy as I’d like to admit. Finding the right essential oil mosquito repellent blend for your body chemistry can be tricky and I want to help you find the right solution for you!
There are two main limitations to creating essential oil mosquito repellent.
First, I wish there were one recipe that we all could use, but our individual biochemistry interacts with each blend differently. Depending how our body chemistry respond to the phytochemicals in the chemicals in the essential oils, this can change based off of the time of month (hormone levels), environmental factors and largely depends on what body care products we’re using. Not to mention that it’s impossible to get the same result from the same blend all the time because our skin microbiome is in constant flux.
Secondly, another complication to making to your own non-toxic, essential oil mosquito repellent is that it doesn’t last nearly as long as the toxic DEET varieties. Remember, essential oils are volatile organic compounds (meaning that they easily evaporate), not to mention that they absorb into your blood stream with minutes.
The reason why harmful non-essential oil mosquito repellents work is because they help create a coating on your skin, which acts as scent barrier. Your natural aroma is one of the first things that attract mosquitoes to your body and blocking that smell is key to warding off insects.
So, what’s the solution to these two natural limitations in making your own essential oil mosquito repellent?
- Make a few different blend variations.
- Be sure to use the right carrier oils.
- Keep your sprays on hand and re-apply every 60-90 minutes.
I know this may sound like a hassle and I understand that (sometimes) avoiding chemicals isn’t as quick and simple as the easy-to-use synthetic alternative, but trust me it’s worth it!
Which Essential Oils Repel Mosquitoes?
- Cedar wood
- Clove (reported as being the most effective)
- Lemon eucalyptus
Research suggests that using at least a 2% essential oil dilution with these carrier oils can provide similar repellency to low-concentration DEET for up to 1.5 hours at a time (11).
Remember, there are no magic formulas for finding the right essential oil mosquito repellent. You need to find that right blend for your body chemistry and I recommend trying to create a couple different blends using the scientifically proven oils above.
This recipe is an all-natural homemade mosquito repellent that works. What’s your favorite carrier oil and what essential oils are you going to use to make your essential oil mosquito repellent?
- Drop essential oils* into glass spray bottle.
- Add in carrier oil and shake vigorously.
- Spray over and rub onto exposed skin right before going outside.
- Reapply every 60-90 minutes.
Clove (reported as being the most effective)
During the summertime we try to prevent bug bites with our natural mosquito repellent spray above to help avoid bites. But unfortunately we all suffer a bite or sting at some point. That’s why a roller bottle of this “After Bug Bite” itch relief remedy is something you’ll want to keep on hand. These essential oils for bug bites will help relieve those painful itches and stings, immediately.
Peppermint essential oil is naturally cooling which works wonders on a sting. Lavender essential oil is relaxing and will help take away the itch. Before heading outside, on a camping trip, or to a local park – toss this remedy in your purse so you are prepared!
- Add essential oils to glass roller bottle.
- Fill the roller bottle with fractionated coconut oil.
- Shake well, until blended.
- Apply to bug bite to relieve itch and sting.
This recipe gives a 2.5% dilution percentage which is suitable for the children in your family. If you need help figuring out the dilution amounts of your blend, be sure to grab our free dilution chart here. Higher concentrations are useful for spot treatment – see more tips on diluting and dispersing essential oils here.