DEET-Free Alternatives for Insect Repellents

August 05, 2019 4 min read

DEET-Free Alternatives for Insect Repellents

Insect repellents can almost feel like a catch-22. Do we let our families go au naturale and risk nasty bug bites (and potential illness from said bug bites)? Or do we spray some chemicals directly onto their skin which may or may not be entirely safe?

DEET is used because it works. It has also fallen out of favor in recent years because of potential safety concerns. This begs the question:

Do DEET-free insect repellent alternatives exist? They certainly do, and we will discuss how they can be effective, safe, and great for your whole family!

Is DEET Dangerous?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. On one hand, DEET is a frequently used ingredient that causes no issues to very mild health issues for the majority of individuals. On the other hand, DEET has also been shown to cause seizures, headaches, blisters, memory loss, and more in rare cases.

A common concern regarding DEET is skin absorption. DEET indeed absorbs well into the skin. However, horror stories of DEET including being absorbed into the bloodstream and exposing unborn children to toxic chemicals are unfounded. So where does the truth lie?

DEET is generally safe when used in proper doses. However, DEET has associated health risks and has been shown to contaminate groundwater and cause environmental issues.

For those who want to avoid using synthetic chemicals for themselves and their families, what are some natural alternatives for repelling nasty mosquitoes and flies?

DEET-Free Alternatives for Insect Repellents

Natural, DEET-Free Insect Repellent Ingredients

DEET is still on the market because it is cheap and it is effective. However, there are plenty of alternative ingredients that are both natural and effective as insect repellents which offer a healthier alternative. These include:

Lemongrass Oil

Lemongrass essential oil boasts a wide range of uses including aromatherapy applications, hair care, anxiety reduction, and as an insect repellent. Lemongrass oil is sourced from the lemongrass plant and is often used in skincare and personal care products.

A recent study into the effectiveness of lemongrass oil as an insect repellent showed that lemongrass oil was 95% effective at repelling local mosquitoes for approximately 2.5 hours. It was also shown to repel African rear-horned baboon tarantulas, but let’s not even go there, shall we?

Peppermint Oil

The same study cited peppermint oil as one of the most effective natural insect repellents available.Peppermint essential oil is extracted from the herb peppermint and is frequently used as a cooking ingredient and in the skincare, hair care, and cosmetics industries for its natural fragrance. 

Peppermint oil was shown to offer 100% protection against aedes aegypti mosquitoes for 45 minutes.

DEET-Free Alternatives for Insect Repellents

Rose Geranium Oil

There are a few types of geranium essential oil, most of which are distilled from the geranium plants native to Southern Africa. Rose geranium oil has been shown to be 63.3% effective at repelling anopheles arabiensis(mosquitoes) for up to three hours. 

How do Natural Insect Repellents Work?

All insect repellents are intended to keep insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and more at bay. So how do insect repellents actually work?

The primary way in which natural insect repellents function is to mask the individual’s smell.Mosquitoes and many other insects locate humans by smelling the sweat and/or carbon dioxide being emitted from the body. If you are someone who gets eaten alive by mosquitoes, you probably smell pretty good to them!

This is why most insect repellents only work when applied directly to the skin. The scent must be masked at the source in order to keep those pests away.

DEET-Free Insect Repellent FAQs

Is DEET approved for use on children?

The FDA has approved DEET for use on children of all ages. However, they cite the possibility for individuals of all ages to have a reaction to the product. The FDA has not yet reached a final decision on DEET’s overall safety pending further study.

Do natural insect repellents really work?

Absolutely! The key is finding the right product(s) for you. Just because an insect repellent is natural does not mean that it is safe or that it will work. Instead, search for all-natural products with proven effective ingredients such as lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, cedarwood oil, soybean oil, and more.

How long does natural insect repellent last?

That depends on the ingredient potency and concentration. Some natural, chemical-free insect repellents have an effectiveness of up to four hours, similar to typical DEET products.

DEET-Free Alternatives for Insect Repellents

All-Natural Insect Repellent from The Yellow Bird

At The Yellow Bird, we are proud to offer a family of products that are always all-natural and free of synthetic chemicals. This belief extends to our all-natural chemical-free insect repellent. This DEET-free insect repellent is long-lasting, all-natural, affordable, and packed full of potent ingredients to keep those bugs away.

Our insect repellent’s simple yet powerful ingredients list entails:

  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Geranium Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Cedarwood Oil
  • Organic Non-GMO Soybean Oil
  • Distilled Water

If you are looking for an all-natural alternative to DEET-based insect repellents, look no further! To learn more about The Yellow Bird, please read our story and find out how we can best serve your health, skincare, and hair care needs.

Nicole P
Nicole P

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