That Bites: Most Natural Mosquito Repellents Don’t Work

Most natural mosquito repellents don't work, but if used correctly, other repellents can work.

All right, people. We’ve got some upsetting news. It looks like most natural mosquito repellents don’t work. No one wants to waste money on products that don’t work. But these recent findings are especially discouraging now that Americans may find themselves exposed to mosquitoes with the Zika virus this year. And we know what you’re thinking, pregnant ladies: what the heck are you supposed to do?

Before everyone panics, let’s break down the news from Consumer Reports.

The natural mosquito repellents test

Consumer Reports tested six plant-based repellents against the type of mosquitoes that carry Zika. All but one didn’t work. So, if you have repellents from All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor, Burt’s Bees Herbal, California Baby Natural Bug Blend, Cutter Natural, or EcoSmart Organic in your medicine cabinet, stop using the product, or reapply it every hour—that’s how long each of these lasted.

Now, a bit more about the one that did work: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. “This insect repellent warded off Aedes mosquitoes, Culex mosquitoes (which can spread West Nile), and ticks (which can spread Lyme) for at least 7 hours,” according to Consumer Reports. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus contains 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, which is its active ingredient.

Also, Consumer Reports found that wristband insect repellents don’t work well, either.

Other repellents

If you’re in a pinch and can’t find this version of Repel quickly, Consumer Reports does note that there are other bug sprays that work well, but most of them aren’t natural. However, if used correctly, you should be able to wear them safely.

Those repellents include:

  • Products with 20 percent picaridin (a synthetic compound resembling a chemical in the black pepper plant), including Sawyer Picardin and Natrapel 8 Hour.
  • And products with 15 to 30 percent deet, including Ben’s 30% Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula, Repel Scented Family (15 percent deet), and Off! Deepwoods VIII (25 percent deet).

All these repellents typically become dangerous when too much of the product is applied and when the product is applied too often. Here are some best practices when it comes to insect repellents, according to Consumer Reports:

  • Apply just enough to cover exposed skin, and only for as long as needed.
  • Don’t use it on wounds, cuts, or broken or irritated skin.
  • Never put it on under your clothes.
  • For your face, spray it on your palms first, then rub it in, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and using sparingly around ears.
  • Adults should put it on children, since children often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  • Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating or drinking.
  • At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
  • Wash repellent off your skin and launder treated clothes.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Protection says that  all of the ingredients—including deet—are safe, even if you’re pregnant. Just make sure you use them properly to avoid any complications.

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Image of natural mosquito repellents via Shutterstock