Mosquitoes spend the summer whirring around obnoxiously, leaving itchy bites as souvenirs, and making news for carrying diseases like West Nile and Zika. We all want to beat the bugs before they bite, but before you reach for a natural mosquito repellent, know this: most of them don’t work, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Insect Science.
Perhaps that’s why DEET is the gold standard insect repellent. It’s powerful and highly effective—and it’s safer than many people assume. It’s approved as a repellent by many public health organizations, including the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Still, it’s understandable if you’d prefer to have a more natural option on hand to fend off mosquitoes. And there is one common naturally derived ingredient that can provide long-lasting protection against mosquito bites: oil of lemon eucalyptus, also known as PMD or OLE.
“PMD really is very effective, especially against mosquitoes,” says Dan Strickman, Ph.D., a fellow at Entomological Society of America. He notes that PMD is long-lasting and doesn’t typically cause irritation. OLE is not suitable for use on children under the age of three. The ingredient isn’t toxic for little ones, but it can irritate the eyes if it’s on a child’s hands and they go on to touch their face, explains Mustapha Debboun, Ph.D., editor of the Insect Repellents Handbook.
It’s important to note, though, that pure lemon eucalyptus oil will not protect against mosquitos. It’s not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and little is known about its toxicity or potential to irritate your skin, Debboun says. The EPA classifies oil of lemon eucalyptus, on the other hand, as a biochemical pesticide because it’s derived from the eucalyptus plant, then synthesized in labs.
Here are the best natural mosquito repellents worth trying:
This pump bottle spray contains 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus and works to ward off mosquitoes for up to six hours.
More than 3,500 5-star reviews don’t lie; this stuff works—and well! For up to six hours, too. Strickman’s tried out Repel, which he notes has a distinct eucalyptus odor, and found it worked as effectively as DEET-based repellents.
This non-greasy formula, which fends off mosquitoes for up to six hours, is a smart alternative to DEET-based repellents. Reviewers describe the scent as pleasant without being overpowering