It’s an open secret that I hate summer. I don’t like the heat, humidity, or long daylight hours. The thing I hate the most though? The bugs.
Since I was a kid, I’ve had some kind of invisible-to-me neon sign over my head that directs every biting and stinging bug to me immediately. It doesn’t matter where I am or how long I’m outside. I always get eaten alive.
Because of my inherent sweetness (which is clearly the reason I’m so tasty to bugs), I never leave home without some kind of bug spray. I used to exclusively use the heavy-duty repellents that hikers and campers use, but I got tired of always having that weird, chemical smell attached to my skin and clothes.
If you’re also tired of itchy bug bites and smelling like funky chemicals, I’m here to help. I’ve found three bug repellent options that help me stay bite-free.
1. DEET-free Sprays
As one of my many weapons against mosquitoes and other bitey insects, I do always have at least one can of Deep Woods Off spray handy. However, those honestly smell terrible, so I reserve them for when I’m going to be outside for extended periods.
When my best friend was pregnant a few years ago, the Zika virus was a big concern for pregnant women, so I did some research to see what bug repellent options she could use and feel comfortable with. I hit upon this lemongrass and eucalyptus spray that had plenty of good reviews. There was enough research behind the blend that she and I both felt confident in the choice, and it has done a surprisingly good job!
It’s not perfect, but it’s great for days that I just don’t want to reek of DEET. The smell is fresh and pleasant, and we both stay mostly bite-free whenever we use it. And now, four years later, we use it on my niece too.
2. Essential Oil Blends
This is one of the few times that you will ever hear me singing the praises of essential oils. Go ahead, make a note.
There are a surprising number of essential oils that do a good job of repelling insects. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, and citronella are the most popular ones, but there are plenty more that can work!
The ones that are most readily available to us include:
The research into these extracts shows that each has the potential to be a moderate-to-good alternative to traditional bug sprays, so this is one case where I think it’s okay to mix up a blend of essential oils and coat yourself in them!
The research shows that each of these extracts has the potential to be a moderate-to-good alternative to traditional bug sprays, so mix up a blend and coat yourself in them!
Be sure to dilute your oils to about a 25 percent concentration (e.g., one part essential oil to four parts carrier oil), and test them on your skin first to make sure that you don’t have an allergic reaction!
Also, keep in mind that you’ll likely need to reapply this blend every few hours, especially if you’re sweating.
This one is new to me, but I’ll be happily spraying my clothes with it as soon as my bottle comes in the mail.
Permethrin is a pesticide that was developed originally by the military to help protect soldiers who were deployed in jungles. It’s important to note that, yes, this is a pesticide, but as long as you use it properly, there shouldn’t be any harmful effects on you or your family.
You can find spray bottles on Amazon, or you can grab them from your local sporting goods store. Like the UPF clothing sprays I’ve mentioned in other posts, you simply spray your clothing in a well-ventilated area (while you’re NOT wearing it) and let it dry.
From what I’ve read, it’s colorless and odorless once dry, so it won’t mess up your clothing. (I’m going to patch test a few items before I spray things I love, just in case.) Each treatment is supposed to last four to six washes!
If you’re curious, this article has a ton of useful information about permethrin! It’s what convinced me to try the spray for myself.
Also, if your style is sporty or outdoorsy, you can skip the DIY treatment and buy pre-treated gear from retailers like LL Bean, REI, and Realtree. Bonus, a lot of those clothing items are also UPF 50!
How Do You Keep the Bugs Away?
Planting a garden full of lovely herbs and flowers that insects hate is one of my favorite ways to repel the bugs, but since I can’t bring the garden with me, I had to get creative. For days that I don’t want to smell like I bathed in chemicals, I opt for the better-smelling bug repellents, even if it means I have to be more careful or reapply more often.
Do you have other, non-smelly bug repellent options? Share them in the comments so we can all be bite-free this summer!