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The All Natural Bug Spray I’m Using This Summer

Jun 18, 2020

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If you are anything like me, a natural mosquito magnet, you want to keep yourself protected from these critters!

Like I always say, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

When it comes to bug spray, we often reach for a bottle of DEET based repellant to keep those pesky bugs away. But does using DEET come at a cost?

DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) ultimately is a pesticide. And while it’s long term toxicity may be in question, I personally try to avoid pesticides in my food and on my skin! My view is, if there is a safer AND effective alternative, why not use it?

As the EWG (Environmental Working Group) states: 

When EWG started our research, we were particularly concerned about the potential downsides of DEET. We still are. We urge consumers to handle DEET with caution. It is known to irritate the eyes and in intense doses it may induce neurological damage. In very rare cases, DEET has been reported to impair the nervous system, with symptoms including seizures, tremors and slurred speech – this most often occurs after exposure to high concentrations of the chemical.

Some studies also suggest that up to 17% of DEET can be absorbed straight into the blood stream and can lead to skin irritation, reproductive and developmental issues as well as damage brain cells. DEET does cross the placenta and small children are traditionally more vulnerable to toxic chemicals as their bodies and nervous systems are still developing. This begs the question, is it worth it?

I believe in balance and clearly there may be situations that call for DEET or other toxic repellants—if you live in an area high in Lyme’s disease, Zika, malaria or West Nile. Again, just educating here so you can make the best decision given your circumstances!

The USA and EPA currently allows the sale of repellants with up to 100% DEET concentration. Canada however disagrees and only allows 20-50% for adults and 20-30% for children. Generally Canada and the EU are more conservative and have higher restrictions on toxic chemicals—again, just a fact to consider before picking up a bottle of DEET.

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Are there other safe + effective solutions?

Whatever your opinion of DEET is, fact of the matter is it is still a toxic substance—toxins build up in the body and can impact your health, hormones, daily functioning, respiratory tract and more. Limiting toxic exposure when possible is so important to promoting healthy bodies!

My favorite all natural bug spray that works!

Nature has an incredible way of protecting itself and thankfully nature also gives us potent ways to protect ourselves. Essential oil based bug repellants can be very effective!

I’ve been using Primally Pure’s Nature Spray since it came out a few years ago and it WORKS. Like really works—I am a total mosquito magnet, and sadly have discovered my daughter is too. I feel confident spraying this on her sweet little skin knowing that it is protecting her health and preventing pesky bug bites!

Concentration is super important for effectiveness. From Primally Pure: EO dilution is somewhere around 11-13%, which is considered a ‘medicinal’ type eo dilution.  In clinical aromatherapy, a 4 – 12% essential oil dilution is commonly used for skin healing issues such as cuts, burns, sores and ulcers, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, perfume, roller balls, ointments, body mist, linen & room sprays.

Ingredients 

Certain essential oils can either repel bugs or mask your human scent that attract bugs to you!

  • Citronella essential oil has been registered as a plant-based insect repellant in the US since 1948 and it works similarly to DEET (masking the smell our bodies produce that attract insects) but without any negative side effects.
  • Castor oil effectively repels insects because of its bitter taste and scent
  • Geranium is a strong wound healer and helps to repel mosquitos.
  • Peppermint and Rosemary combined create a smell that bugs can’t stand! Watch peppermint near your eyes as it will sting and burn.
  • Cedarwood is incredibly effective against ants, ticks and other insects.

Have you tried Primally Pure’s Nature Spray? I currently have 4 bottles on station for the summer!

Other ‘natural’ bug sprays options

‘Natural’, essential oil based bug sprays are often questioned because of effectiveness—in order to be effective, the essential oil concentration needs to be high. And sadly there is a lot of greenwashing today, so we never really know if ‘natural’ products are both safe and effective!

DoTerra’s TerraShield: This one smells a bit more intense but is effective.

All Terrain Herbal Armor: This one has essential oils and soybean oil (known to be a good carrier oil to help repel critters). I used this years ago and remember it working but can’t comment if they have changed their formula as of late.

Badger Anti-Bug Shake & Spray: This spray has both soybean oil and essential oils to keep bugs away. I’ve heard good things about this brand and love that they are a B corp!

Always avoid aerosols!

As I mention in my dry shampoo post, aerosol sprays should be avoided as they can harm both you and the environment! 

Aerosol uses a colorless and odorless chemical propellant that sprays the dry shampoo out of the can and onto your hair. Liquified petroleum gas is made up of butane and propane and always comes with a warning—extremely flammable!

I don’t know about you but spraying something on my body or my children that is extremely flammable just doesn’t sound right. Several states have even banned aerosol sunscreens as they greatly damage the ocean environment.

I hope this helps you and your sweet family stay safe this summer and soak in all the outdoor time!

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Photos by kylie martin

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