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Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect Repellent

Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect Repellent

Summertime brings sunshine, flowers and mosquitoes! Insect repellent spray is commonly used to ward off those pesky critters and the itching, allergic reactions and possible exposure to West Nile Virus that can come along with a mosquito bite.

Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect RepellentPin
Essential oils bottle.

Although it is important to protect against the potential harmful effects of mosquito bites, it is also important to protect ourselves from unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals.

What is DEET?

A common chemical found in insect repellents N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, also known as DEET. DEET affects a mosquito by dulling its senses which inhibits their instinct to bite.

When DEET is applied directly onto the skin it can be absorbed into the body.  Potential reactions to DEET include skin rashes, lethargy, muscle spasms, nausea, irritability, insomnia and seizures. These DEET toxicity symptoms can be avoided by using essential oils as an alternative.

7 Tips to avoid toxic side effects from DEET containing insect repellents:

  1. Keep spray off of the face and out of the eyes.
  2. Do not spray repellent on children’s hands because they are likely to rub their eyes and put their hands in their mouths.
  3. Wear long-sleeved clothing and apply repellent on the fabric rather than on the skin.
  4. Use a product with a lower concentration of DEET on small children and if you are pregnant.
  5. Avoid inhaling and ingesting repellents.
  6. Children age two and younger should not have insect repellent applied to their skin more than once in a 24-hour period.
  7. Wash repellent off your skin after the risk of an insect is gone.
Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect RepellentPin
Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect Repellent

What is an essential oil?            

An essential oil is extracted from a plant and highly concentrated. They must be diluted before used topically because they are toxic if ingested. If ingestion occurs, call your doctor immediately.

Essential oil insect repellents may not last as long and may need to be reapplied more frequently than DEET especially after exercise and swimming.

How to make your own essential oil insect repellent


  • 10-25 drops total of essential oil combination
  • 2 tablespoons of a carrier substance
  • Small, dark glass spray bottle

List of insect repellent essential oils:

  • Citronella
  • Clove oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Neem oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil

List of carrier substances:

  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Vodka
  • Witch hazel

Have you used essential oils as insect repellant?

Dr. Ellen Simone, Naturopath
Dr. Ellen Simone, Naturopathhttp://www.drellensimone.com/
Dr. Ellen Simone welcomes you to work with her under a holistic view of health which encompasses the understanding that the mind and body are connected to sustaining long-term health and wellness. As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Simone focuses on family wellness and has special interests in women and children’s health. She loves working with women through different phases in their lives; to regulate the menstrual cycle, ease PMS symptoms, optimize fertility, provide support during and after pregnancy, maintain breast health and welcome menopause. Children are also a primary focus in her practice and she believes that setting healthy habits at a young age is important for long-term health and wellness.

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  1. Great info, but be careful if you have cats in the house; peppermint oil is dangerous to them. (Don’t know about the other oils)

  2. Yes, don’t let children or pets ingest essential oils because they are toxic. Even topically, it can be useful to do a little test patch on the skin prior to spraying everywhere to make sure there is no skin irritation or rash that develops. I’d also not spray directly on the face because the oils can be irritating to the eyes, nose and mouth. Instead, you can spray hats, hoods and collars to keep bugs away from the face.

    Hope you find these extra safety tips useful!

  3. I recently mixed up a homemade bug spray with essential oils. I think it works ok. Not as good as DEET products, BUT, I would way rather have essential oils on my skin than DEET!

  4. We’ve started using essential oils over the last year. Lavender is FANTASTIC for bites and burns, scrapes, pretty much anything! we also make our own mosquito repellant, but have to spray it on a lot. I think I’ll try this recipe, thanks!

  5. Hi Ellen! I love this post as my family has been looking for an alternative to DEET repellants. Do any of these essential oils weaken sunscreen when they are both applied to skin? Thanks for any help you can give us!

    • I haven’t heard any reports of essential oils weakening sunscreen. But if you wish to be on the safe side, you can spray the essential oil bug repellent on your child’s clothing instead of directly on their skin. If you do apply it to skin on top of sunscreen perhaps you can also bring light coloured long sleeve clothing and a hat for more coverage from the sun. Hope this helps!


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