The danger of insect repellent and how to make your own

Summer is a favourite time of the year for most people, especially for those who love packing their summers with outdoor adventures, like hiking and camping. The only downside of spending so much time outside is being bitten by the inevitable mosquitoes and other critters native to your region, so packing insect repellent is crucial. 

bug spray.jpg

Unfortunately, many insect repellents are full of harmful chemicals, solvents, fragrances and preservatives. Some concerning ingredients found in most insect repellent include:

  1. Deet: With quick absorption into the skin, this chemical, which is an acronym for N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, can have negative side effects, including headaches, skin blisters, shortness of breath and overall skin irritation. When exposed to the environment, it can contaminate soil and groundwater. 

  2. Cyfluthrin: This chemical can interfere with sodium and potassium ion channels in the nerves, decrease glucose, and even disrupt liver function.

  3. Permethrin: Linked to neurotoxicity, permethrin can cause repeated nerve impulses, seizures, and even kill off neural cells which can affect overall physiology and behaviour. 

  4. Pyrethroids: The most common ingredient in insect repellent, pyrethroids can become toxic to the central nervous system. Studies have found several acute reactions to the chemical, including dermatitis, nausea, incoordination, and itchiness. 

Fortunately, we don’t need to rely on all the harmful chemicals to ward off insects. Educating yourself on the harmful ingredients of insect repellent can help you make better choices that serve both your health and the environment. You can choose natural ingredients that not only repel insects, but actually nourish your skin. Plus, you only need four ingredients, and you can make it in your own kitchen!

Here are the ingredients you need:

  1. Essential oils: There are tons of essential oils that repel insects, including rosemary, citronella, lavender, eucalyptus, cedar, mint, lemongrass, cinnamon, tea tree, and basil.

  2. Carrier oils: Choose your favourite oil to be the base for your natural insect repellent. My favourite is neem oil for its natural insect-repelling properties, but I also recommend jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil.

  3. Water and emulsifier: If you’d prefer a water-based repellent, you can use water and an emulsifier of your choice, such as aloe vera gel, witch hazel, vodka or vinegar.

The formula:

  1. Add 40-50 drops of chosen essential oil. Feel free to add more than one essential oils, and have fun creating a scent you love!

  2. Add 1 cup of your chosen carrier oil


  1. Add 40-50 drops of chosen essential oil. 

  2. Add ½ cup of water

  3. Add ½ cup of emulsifier

Enjoy your natural, chemical-free insect repellent for the rest of your summer adventures!

Riley Webster