Every Memorial Day weekend, my Aunt C throws a birthday barbecue in honor of her twin sons’ birthday. I love getting together with my family and catching up on all the
gossip news. And the yummy food! I come from a huge family of good cooks and can always count on seriously good grub at these functions.
What I do not love are the bugs. Sweet fancy Moses, I came home from the bbq with a dozen bites on my ankles and shoulders. Not counting the ones on my scalp. I HAD MOSQUITO BITES ON MY FRIGGIN’ SCALP, Y’ALL!! Gah, my head is itching just thinking about it.
While I know DEET is the king of bug repellants, my inner hippie wanted a natural version. In between scratching and whinging about my numerous bites, I turned to my online message board friends, whom I affectionately and ironically refer to as my invisible friends, for their sage advice. D posted a recipe involving essential oils (EO) and distilled witch hazel that looked super easy and not too expensive. Here it is:
1/2 teaspoon citronella essential oil
1/2 teaspoon eucalyptus essential oil
1/2 teaspoon lavender essential oil
4 ounces distilled witch hazel (Thayer’s makes an alcohol-free one that’s nice for those with more sensitive or dry skin)
Mix ingredients in a 4-ounce spray bottle. Shake well. Spray onto exposed skin, avoiding eyes and mucous membranes. Reapply every 2 hours, or as needed, shaking well before each use.
I substituted lemon eucalyptus for the regular eucalyptus because my local health food market was out of the latter. Fair warning: citronella EO is really strong-smelling, so much so that I was actually a bit nauseous when I first started using this bug repellant.
I’ve sprayed it on every morning from head to toe for the last two weeks and so far, I’m bite free!
Another friend warned that eucalyptus EO can be quite strong and some people can have a topical reaction to it, so if you’re a bit worried about an allergic reaction, use half the recommended amount at first. It’s also really important to know that many essential oils are not meant to be applied directly to your skin, so please don’t put a random EO onto your skin without checking to see if it’s safe to do so; most have to be mixed with other ingredients. I believe lavender, tea trea, and peppermint EO are safe to apply undiluted to skin.
For more information on essential oils, take a look at the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy’s website or you can Google essential oil safety.
Edited to add: This homemade spray is not meant to be effective in very bug-infested environments, so if you’re going to, say the Amazon, please do use DEET or whatever commercial product best suits you.