The Best Natural Bug Sprays That Actually Work

Outdoor hikes, workouts or camping trips would not be complete without a little protection from pests. With outdoor activities comes the threats of Zika, West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease, there’s got to be some great options for protection out there on the market.

 Traditionally, insect repellents are heavy on the DEET, which has some people worried about the effects it will have on their health. DEET, or diethyltoluamide, was used originally as a pesticide for plants, and somehow found its way into personal care products in the 1940’s. DEET can be a severe skin irritant and has even been linked to seizures and deaths. Since no method of insect repellent is 100% effective, including DEET, people have to make educated choices on what’s right for them. For people who live in areas where West Nile Virus is not a threat, they may be inclined to choose a more natural formula.

Some think the threat of DEET is far more severe than the threat of mosquito-borne viruses, especially when it comes to slathering it on their young children, and are looking for some DEET-free options to keep the bugs at bay. Here are five of the best natural insect repellents on the market, so that you can choose the one that fits your needs.  

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon Eucalyptus oil is the only natural insect repellent that the CDC has deemed as effective as DEET. Lemon Eucalyptus oil makes up 30% of this formulation, so it packs a punch against pests of the buzzing variety. This formula is so effective, its achieved cult status amongst outdoorsy types like hikers and campers, so you can rest assured that it will protect you during an outdoor workout session.   
Buy it now: Target, $5 

Sail Away

Captain Blankenship Sail Away Bug Spray is more than just a cute name and a pretty bottle. This formula contains the beloved Lemon Eucalyptus oil that we now know is highly effective at keeping bugs away. It also contains essential oils of rose geranium and peppermint, which are rumored to keep ticks away. With other essential oils like cedar, lemongrass and lavender, this formula gets points for being actually pleasant smelling in a world where insect repellents are usually anything but.   
Buy it now: Captain Blankenship, $20

Zoe Organics Insect Repellent

Zoe Organics is a brand that is popular because most of their products are safe to use for “mom and baby.” Aka, they’re safe for everyone to use. This product is an interesting surprise, because it turns out that some soy-based products may repel insects. Who knew? The number one ingredient in this product is non-GMO soybean oil, making it both gentle to use on many different skin types as well as an effective insect repellent. The formula also has some essential oils, but not enough that it would be a skin irritant, so out of all the products on the list, this one is probably the best one for sensitive skin types.  
Buy it now: Zoe Organics, $20 

Patio Oil

Jao’s Patio Oil Moisture Mist is heavy on the Lemon Eucalyptus oil at a 20% concentration. It also contains soybean oil to repel insects and soften the skin, alongside hemp and jojoba oils. This one gets points for not only repelling pests, but keeping the skin cool and smooth on hot and sticky nights.   
Buy it now: Jao, $32 

Anti-Bug Spray

Alba Botanica Anti-Bug Spray is one for the traditionalists. Heavy on the citronella, and in a convenient spray bottle, it seems exactly the same as any of the traditional bug sprays you’ve probably used in the past. The difference is that this is DEET-free and made with natural, non-toxic ingredients like essential oils.
Buy it now: Lucky Vitamin, $13

Lisa Bensley is the founder of BeautyByBenz, a health and beauty blog that is really just an excuse to buy too much makeup. When she is not writing, she's probably boxing, obsessing over her Dachshund, Stanley, reading, or binge-watching Law & Order: SVU. Follow her (and Stanley's) antics on Instagram.