08 August 2012

DIY Natural Bug Repellents for Your Body

You stink!  That's what you want a bug to think of you.  It's a strange concept to think about, but bugs are either attracted or unattracted by scent.  As mentioned in the August 4(for) Green Acres challenge, mosquitoes carry the highest amount of the west nile virus in August and September.  It's important to arm our bodies so we can continue to enjoy the outdoors, and it's as easy as applying the right scent.

Lavender and mint are two herbs that mosquitoes are especially repelled by.  You will find in the recipes below that one or both of these herbs are found in the ingredient list.  While I'm mostly dealing with mosquitoes because of the serious health risk, you can also combat other pests at the same time. Here is a list of herbs and what insects they help repel.  Essential oils can be found for all of them.

As you begin to mix and use your sprays or gel keep these important tips in mind.

1.  Use the purest ingredients you can find.  Ingredients that you don't grow yourself or you don't have on hand purchase in a health food store or at a farmers market.  Read the list of ingredients to make sure they don't have a lot of additives.  We are fighting nature with nature so stick as close to it as you can.

2.  Remember to be diligent with reapplying.  Our homemade versions are not waterproof or sweat proof.  Nor do they have agents that will stay on your skin for quite some time.  By adding a conditioning agent like an oil they will be able to stay on your skin longer.

3.  Essential oils are very potent and should never be applied directly to your skin.  They could burn.  They must be diluted with water or witch hazel prior to application.

4.  These repellents do not have a long shelf life.  Over time the scent starts to diminish and scent is the key ingredient in making these work.  If you find you're losing scent you can add a few drops of essential oil to the bottle or gel and shake or mix well.


  • Essential oils: rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, lavender, catnip, citronella, mint, etc.
  • Witch Hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka (whatever you have on hand)
  • Water that has been boiled or distilled water
  • Olive Oil (optional)*  

small spray bottle


  1. Fill the spray bottle half way with water.
  2. Add the witch hazel to fill almost to the top.
  3. If using olive oil add 1/2 tsp.
  4. Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent.  The more you use the stronger the scent will be.  Mix and match the oils for a customized scent.
  5. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  6. Spray on exposed skin and clothing* 

*Be sure to test the spray on a discrete place on your clothing to ensure it does not stain or damage.


  • Fresh or Dried herbs: mint, citronella, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, etc.
  • Witch Hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka
  • Water for boiling

small spray bottle


  1. Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of any combination of dried herbs.  If using fresh herbs add more.  Fresh is less potent than dried.  If you feel your mix is too strong you can always dilute it later.  
  2. Take off the heat, mix well, and cover to cool.  Be sure to keep the lid on so the oils (scent) don't evaporate.
  3. When cooled, strain the herbs out and mix 1 cup of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or vodka and funnel the mixture into a spray bottle.
  4. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  5. Spray on exposed skin and clothing*  
*Be sure to test the spray on a discrete place on your clothing to ensure it does not stain or damage.


  • 2 cups of clear aloe vera gel (not dyed green)
  • 2 tsp tea tree oil
  • 2 tsp citronella oil
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary oil
  • 1/2 tsp local honey (optional) - honey has antibacterial components and also adds moisture to the gel.  It will not make the gel sticky. 
Note: The oils above can be exchanged for other oils depending on what insects you are trying to repel.  I would trade out peppermint or lavender for tea tree oil to work better on mosquitoes.  

Small jelly jar or baby food jar


  1. Pour the aloe vera into a bowl. 
  2. Add the essential oils and honey if you are using it and mix well.  The gel may look slightly creamy.
  3. Spoon into a jar and cover with a lid. 
  4. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  5. Slather on exposed skin.

  • Rub vanilla extract (not imitation) on your skin with a cotton ball on the hot parts of your body: behind your ears, underarms, the crease of your elbow, behind your knees, etc.  You can also add vanilla to any of the receipts above.
  • Rub the leaves and flowers from fresh herbs all over the skin, especially anything in the mint family.


  1. Why do you need the alcohol in the spray? What does it help accomplish? Also could you do the aloe gel recipe in coconut oil instead or is that an attractive smell to the bugs?

  2. Great question Shanna. Water and oil don't mix. You can leave the alcohol out of it, but you'll have a hard time dispensing it. The alcohol will dissolve the essential oils enough to mix with the water making for an even distribution. Please note that you if choose to leave out the alcohol, you will need to shake the mixture very well before you spray. Otherwise you run the risk of putting pure essential oils on your skin and that can burn.


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