Summer brings out the biting bugs. Mosquitoes, no-see-ums, gnats, and midges can become a relentless force chasing you inside when all you want to do is enjoy an evening on your porch, a hike in the woods, or a little lounging by a lake.
Pharmacy shelves are heavy with commercial insect repellents that contain some rather eyebrow-raising ingredients. Deet is the ingredient many people are most wary of. Though it has been deemed safe for topical use by the EPA, other organizations, such as the CDC, recognize its potential harm if inhaled or swallowed and reports instances where people have experienced skin irritations and blistering from topical use of Deet.
Deet is also a powerful solvent and can melt some plastics and other synthetic materials. Spraying Deet on yourself while wearing certain materials such as weatherproof nylon jackets or anything containing rayon, spandex, or vinyl can result in damage to said items.
In the end, it is up to you to make the best decisions for yourself and your family. If you are interested in whipping up some homemade insect repellents, a few simple ingredients can get you well on your way. The best thing is that by making your own, you can be in control of what you put on your skin.
Diluting Essential Oils
Essential oils, though natural, can be quite powerful and are generally not recommended for use on the skin undiluted. You may have noticed that many recipes for homemade skin products require that you use a carrier oil or some other diluting agent for your essential oil.
Common knowledge tells us that oil and water don’t mix. Adding essential oils to water or water-based liquids like witch hazel results in the essential oils collecting at the top of the container. This could result in undiluted essential oil being transferred to your skin.
The best thing to use with essential oils is some kind of carrier oil. This oil can be olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or any other oil that remains liquid (unlike coconut oil) and is deemed healthy for the skin. Essential oils added to carrier oils are diluted and distributed evenly throughout.
Oil-Based Insect Repellent
Source: Everything Homemade/YouTube
This has to be the most simple way to make insect repellent. Choose a carrier oil that works for you. Different oils will have different properties and offer various health benefits for your skin. Olive oil and sweet almond oil are great choices as they are easy to source and absorb into the skin well.
It is best to make your repellent in small batches. You will need either a one-ounce spray bottle or a one-ounce bottle with a regular lid. Fill your bottle three-quarters full with the carrier oil of your choice. How many drops of essential oil you add will depend on the type of essential oil you are using.
A general rule of thumb is that the essential oil should make up between 0.5-2 percent of the final product. This roughly equates to 3-12 drops per fluid ounce. There are dilution charts and calculators available online to help you with your research into individual essential oils.
Once you have decided how many drops to use, add your essential oil directly to the carrier oil, screw on the lid and shake. Apply the insect repellent regularly throughout the day as needed.
Insect Repelling Salve
Source: Mountain Rose Herbs/YouTube
Salves are a lovely skin product that can nourish, moisturize and keep those bugs at bay at the same time. To make a homemade salve, you can start by making a herbal-infused oil. Here you can use bug-repelling herbs such as catnip, peppermint, rosemary, or citronella geranium (Pelargonium citrosum).
Next, choose a vegan wax such as candelilla wax or carnauba. You need to melt your wax in a double boiler until it is completely liquid. Remove it from the heat and add your herbal-infused oil. A general ratio would be one part wax to three parts oil. If your salve turns out too hard, remelt and add a little more oil. If it turns out too soft, remelt and add a little more wax.
At this point, you can add some extra essential oils and thoroughly stir them into the mixture. Again, make your calculations as to how many drops to use by using a dilution chart and researching the individual essential oil you are using. Pour your salve mixture into small jars or tins and label them appropriately.
Some Essential Oils to Consider Using
Lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, citronella, and tea tree oil have all been touted as being effective in repelling various biting insects. Be sure to research each essential oil individually and do patch tests on your skin to check for allergic reactions.
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