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Avoid itchy bug bites with these organic repellents

Which natural products repel bugs?


As the warm weather of spring arrives, so do bugs. The stings and bites they inflict upon humans can be worrisome. However, slathering on repellents that contain synthetic chemicals also comes with concerns. But, not all products that keep biting pests away contain these potentially harsh ingredients. Organic repellents are excellent, natural alternatives that use plant-based ingredients to deter bugs.

Safety concerns of synthetic bug repellents

Many insect repellents on the market contain pesticides that are effective at deterring pests. N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, or DEET, is the chemical most commonly used in products made for application on the skin.

Although studies show DEET is safe when used sparingly and as recommended, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says there are side effects. These include agitated mood, skin irritation and seizures. What’s more, the chemical isn’t good for the environment because it ends up in wastewater and waterways.

Safety is key when using DEET-based repellents. Don't use them on babies and carefully follow instructions when applying. Apply organic repellents as recommended too, but they don’t pose the same risks as pesticide-based products.

What are some effective natural bug repellents?

It’s not only pesticides that deter bugs. There are natural substances derived from plants known for being offensive to insects such as mosquitoes, flies and more. Lemon eucalyptus oil and soy-based natural repellents are almost as effective as DEET at keeping bugs away. However, don't apply potent or concentrated lemon eucalyptus oil on toddlers or babies. Additionally, ingesting large amounts can be poisonous.

Many organic repellents also contain one or more essential oils. These can include citronella, clove, tea tree, lemongrass, geranium, lavender, rosemary, thyme and peppermint. These oils are natural and safe when used as recommended.

Forms of organic repellents 

Organic bug repellents come as sprays, lotions, creams, balms, towelettes and wearables. 

  • Sprays are easy to use, absorb quickly and come with pump and aerosol dispensers. 
  • Lotions and creams require a bit of rubbing to absorb but also moisturize.
  • Balms are like creams and lotions but are thicker and tend to wear longer. 
  • Towelettes infused with repellent apply simply by wiping them over the skin.
  • Wearables typically come in the form of repellant-coated bracelets. Although they have a limited effect, they are suitable for those who dislike applying other types of repellent.   

Best organic bug repellents

Greenerways Organic DEET-Free Bug Repellent for Kids

This kid-friendly spray uses certified-organic essential oils that are gentle on delicate skin. It’s dermatologist-tested and free of parabens and phthalates.

Sold by Amazon

Babyganics Natural Insect Repellent

This spray repellent keeps bugs away with a combination of essential oils in a soybean oil base. It’s formulated by a company known for making gentle baby products.

Sold by Amazon


Sallye Ander No-Bite-Me Natural Bug Repellent & After-Bite Cream

Not only is this cream soothing to the skin, it contains a unique blend of 16 essential oils that most bugs find offensive. The ingredients are safe, organic and not tested on animals.

Sold by Amazon

Australian Gold DEET-free Insect Repellent

This repellent targets ticks and mosquitoes with tea tree oil and aloe vera. It sprays on in seconds and absorbs fast.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Superband Mosquito Repellent Bracelets

These mosquito-repelling stretchy bands use essential oils and are wearable on the wrist or ankle. They fit kids and adults and they're waterproof. The pack of 50 includes multiple colors.

Sold by Amazon

Off Botanicals Plant-Based DEET-Free Repellent

This repellent deters pests with plant-based ingredients instead of DEET that’s in some of the other products by the popular brand. It’s available in towelette or spray forms.

Sold by Home Depot

Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Balm

This creamy balm uses bug-deterring essential oils and doesn’t contain artificial additives. It also contains beeswax that’s soothing to the skin.  

Sold by Amazon

Fairy Tales Bug Bandit DEET-Free Bug Spray

This spray has a soybean oil base and a blend of natural essential oils that work especially well at keeping mosquitoes away. It's usable on kids ages 3 and older.

Sold by Ulta Beauty

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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