By Jessica Rubino
Natural bug protection that works
Chances are, if you've used bug spray, you've probably applied DEET, the most widely used insect repellent in the United States. So, is it dangerous? Not when used properly, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency. "The tricky part is following the directions," says Lori Alper, founder of natural lifestyle blog groovygreenlivin.com.
According to the EWG, one common mistake leading to overexposure is using a sunscreen that also contains a chemical bug repellent. Two-hour reapplication (as you should do for sunscreen) can lead to overexposure to chemicals like DEET. So use both a mineral-based sunscreen and an effective bug repellent, but as separate products.
Although chemical ingredients DEET and Picaridin remain among the EWG's top picks for safe and effective protection, if you're concerned about their potentially toxic nature, on natural option stands out as being most effective: lemon eucalyptus oil. When put to the test, studies show that lemon eucalyptus oil is as effective against mosquitoes as low concentrations of DEET. The EWG recommends looking for a product with a concentration of 30 percent to 40 percent to protect for long periods of time (although it shouldn't be used on children younger than 3).
Interestingly, it appears that a combination of oils works best to deter mosquitos rather than just a single oil. Other essential oils known to repel insects: clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, lavender and mint. The best way to use essential oils is in a diffuser so that you do not need to place it on your skin. If you do want to use the essential oils on your skin, remember that is important to dilute the oils with a non-volatile carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, or coconut oil.
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