What to Look For In A Natural Bug Repellant + Zoe Organics Insect Repellent Review


While sunscreen might be the most sought-after summer skincare, those of us with sensitive skin (or with kiddos whose sensitive skin we’re taking care of!) can’t forget about bug repellant. Most bug sprays sold have all sorts of petroluem-based ingredients and irritants that we should definitely avoid, because those potentially hazardous ingredients have a way of making themselves at home by getting absorbed into our bloodstream.

Deet (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, which you’ve probably heard of, is a good example of this: It’s very harmful, especially for small children—neurological damage, and severe seizures have been reported as side effects of using the blend improperly, and even the medical community has advised that we keep our exposure to it from being prolonged. Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is another common repellant, and is often sprayed on wood decks to prevent bugs from attacking.

Part of the reason these are both considered quite toxic is that they have a great diffifulty of being expelled from our bodies once they get inside. They absorb into our colons and our fat cells and when they linger, they cause disruption of natural functions and may cause disease. In fact, there is new research surfacing these days about how pesticides (which are really insect repellents) are one of the major contributing causes of Parkinson’s disease.

Natural ingredients, however, work more in balance with our bodies and can be excreted easily, without the potential harm of lingering.

You know that we at NMDL love our plant-based oils and bug repellant is no exception. Ingredients that are directly extracted from plants are they themselves made up of potent chemical compounds that synergistically work together to deter insects, in a form that is not going to cause potential long-terms toxicity in our bodies (because they’re easier to get rid of and our bodies understand better how to excrete them when the time comes).

The best oils are high in certain chemical compounds that have been proven to deter insects; they basically act the same as a more toxic chemical compound to mask’s the skin’s natural scent or compound that insects use to find us (kinda crazy, right?). There are a number of oils, especially essential oils, that can do this. Some of the best:

  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Lemongrass
  • Geranium
  • Oils that come from either eucalyptus or tea tree families, tea tree, rosalina, naiouli, cajeput, lemon eucalyptus or mint eucalyptus
  • Lavender

One of my favorites for that I’ve handed off to friends with kids is the Zoe Organics Insect Repellent. It’s a 100% organic blend of botanical oils, in a base of nourishing, non-GMO soybean and castor oils. With geranium, peppermint, lemongrass, clove bud, red thyme and rosemary, it feels (and smells) more like a beautiful, herbal body oil than a bug spray. I’m so sensitive to scents and this one not only smells good, but it actually works without causing me to sneeze or feel overwhelmed by the aroma. Plus, my younger sister used it on her camping trip recently and it kept the bugs at bay, even in a heavily wooded area.

Have you tried a natural bug spray you love? What do you use on your kids? Or is there a DIY recipe we should try?

9 Responses to “What to Look For In A Natural Bug Repellant + Zoe Organics Insect Repellent Review”
  1. Ann says:

    I’ve made the mountain rose herbs recipe, it worked flawlessly in a mid summer camping trip.

  2. Carrie says:

    The California Baby Bug spray smells really good– I’ve been dousing myself in it every morning. It has many of the same ingredients– Citronella, Cedar and Lemongrass plus some other E.O.s. Although, can’t say I know if it ‘works’ because I haven’t seen too many mosquitos out yet where I am (massachusetts). I will say that I like the California baby one better because it does NOT have lavender, which is proven to have estrogenic effects (I already have too much estrogen in my blood and EOs can really mess with my menstrual cycle). So . . .Deet? Or too much estrogen? If the Zika virus does start circulating in the US, then I think its would be better to use DEET for a couple of months. The Environmental Working Group, which is usually very conservative about recommending toxic products, suggests: “Among the three repellent chemicals that are EWG’s top picks is DEET, which is widely used but much maligned. DEET’s safety profile is better than many people assume. Its effectiveness at preventing bites is approached by only a few other repellent ingredients. DEET isn’t a perfect choice nor the only choice. But weighed against the consequences of Zika disease and West Nile virus, we believe it is a reasonable one.”

  3. sarah says:

    I was recently shopping for a natural bug spray in anticipation of a camping trip, and I think I was unable to find the Zoe Organics one in-stock at a Canadian retailer. Instead I was able to find a Canadian retailer selling Aromaflage, which I’ve been lusting after since first hearing about it. It’s very pricey for a bug spray, but it also doubles as a perfume and is supposed to be just as effective as DEET.

    I can’t say for certain how effective it actually is. The first day of my camping trip my old can of OFF! was more accessible so that’s what I started with. I did get a few bites that day, and the mosquitoes were buzzing even after application. The next couple days I used the Aromaflage, and I don’t think I got a single bite other than what I got before I applied it. I even noted on one occasion that a mosquito was flying around and instead of landing or continuing to search for a landing spot, it flew away looking for someone else. However, the final day I got a few more bites even after applying, although I admittedly did not apply very much, so maybe I just needed to re-apply.

  4. NOLAStephanie says:

    Mosquitos are a big problem in Louisiana – it’s our unofficial state bird. I don’t know if it’s that bad elsewhere, but it’s always been that way here. Our parish has a whole Mosquito Control department, trucks & planes that have to spray regularly. I need to spray myself just to do yard work.

    I’ve never used OFF, but have always used Avon’s Skin So Soft (Army Navy store carries it) and now that I know about ZOIR I’m going out today to get some. I’m not a DIY girl, nor am I a big internet shopper. As @Rebecca once said to me, I’m a brick and mortar girl so if I can’t find it at a store, I’m not going to try it.

    @Carrie – Thanks for mentioning the lavender problem, I tend to have an allergy to lavender anyway so I have to avoid.

  5. Naomi says:

    I recently spent a day at a volunteer event, which involved pulling weeds and other harmful plants from an overgrown area, most of the plants were between waist- and shoulder-height so we were right in the thick of things. (Relevant? I’m not sure…) Anyway I tried the wristband with a little disc of lemongrass or citronella and didn’t wear anything else and I didn’t notice any bites or even insects flying near me and bothering me. The smell of the disc is quite strong but I happen to like the scent, it’s fresh and clean (IMO) so I’m going to stick with this for any potential buggy situations… Not sure how it would do in a proper wooded area, but I prefer trying this as I worry about my skin reacting to a spray or lotion, as well as the possibility I would get it on my hands and subsequently rub my eyes or something silly.

  6. Natalie says:

    Great topic and post on bug spray! And a very important one. Although I am very surprised that Lemon Eucalyptus was not mentioned…that specific essential oil can be just as effective as Deet, studies show. I just use the one called Buzz Away from Whole Foods because that one on the label says it protects against ticks… and I definitely want a bug spray that protects against ticks!! Does anyone know another bug spray that does this? Or do they just all generally do if it protects against bugs in general??

  7. Sarah M says:

    Clementine Fields (www.clementinefields.ca) is a fantasic Canadian retailer of natural beauty products & sells Zoe’s bug spray. You can even buy samples.
    I am obsessed with their store and refer everyone I know to them for their sample program alone.
    Shipping charges are reasonable if you don’t meet the minimum order for delivery, and if you live in Toronto, you can opt for free in store pickup at the Queen St. location of Coal Miner’s Daughter.

  8. Chris L. says:

    Keep in mind, certain oils work for certain bugs. Mosquitoes are particularly not fond of citronella essential oil. I am a fan of Zoe’s as well as Combat Ready Insect Repellant.

  9. sarah says:

    @sarah m: yes, i did check clementine fields — it was out of stock at the time i was shopping, but was one of the few retailers i found that carried it. next time, though!

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