All-Natural Bug Repellent: What's the Hype?

Kaitlin Domangue

How much do we really know about bug repellent? We’ve used it forever, our parents use it, and we put it on our kids. 

Studies have been emerging about traditional bug spray and the damage it can cause to humans and animals. The main perpetrator? An ingredient called DEET that has been thought to create adverse effects. Studies are showing just how harmful this ingredient can be, but because it works, it’s continuously used. Also, the bugs don’t die on contact, so it’s seen as a humane solution to outdoor pest control. 

All-natural bug repellent vs. DEET

How many bugs have died from prolonged exposure to DEET? If there are any, we will probably never know just how many. Here’s what the research says about this far-from-natural ingredient:

  • DEET was developed in 1944 for the U.S. Army by Samuel Gertler. While this seems like a pretty long time ago, it really isn’t enough time to analyze the long term effects of DEET
  • Studies suggest that the long term ramifications of DEET might be negative, and the ingredient should be avoided until we know more

There’s not enough research to say for sure, but even if there’s a chance - it isn’t what we want. If DEET negatively impacts living things like bugs, we could lose the bug ecosystem. Science shows what will happen if we lose bugs. We have lost our beautiful plants, nutritious crops, and our way of life. 

What would happen if everyone continued to use DEET products, and decades from now, bugs ceased to exist? Well, nobody knows for sure what would happen, but here are a few ideas:

  • No more bees to make honey
  • No more bugs to pollinate plants, meaning:
    • No more apples, cherries, peaches, plums, berries, flowers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more, destroying our food supply
  • No more mosquitoes, with over 3,000 species that feed: birds, bats, frogs, and other animals, unhinging the animal ecosystem

Bee on a pink flower contributing to pollination and placed in the all-natural bug repellent article

All-natural bug repellent is bug friendly

The solution is not kill the bugs we coexist and have a mutually-beneficial relationship with. The solution is to apply a bug AND people-safe solution to our skin before going outside, safely repelling bugs without causing them future harm. 

All-natural bug repellent is effective, and bonus points: the infused CBD in this outdoor balm soothes your muscles! Throw the balm in your hiking bag, in your zippered pocket before a run, or in your toolbox at work for long-lasting muscular relief. DEET bug repellent bug spray can’t say the same! 

Neem oil as a natural bug deterrent

All-natural bug repellents typically feature bug-deterring ingredients like neem oil, which is a common ingredient used in organic gardening to prevent pests! Not to worry, neem oil is included in other consumer packaged goods like shampoo, so it’s not a novel idea to include it in our product. 

Neem is naturally moisturizing, and thought to have some antifungal and antibacterial properties, too! It’s natural and derived from a tree. All-natural bug repellents that feature neem will also have other ingredients to dilute the application, we don’t recommend applying neem directly to the skin before heading outside. 

This 2016 review explores the use of neem oil for organic methods of cultivation, and the role it will play in the future. The research reads: “neem-based products can act as antifeedants, growth regulators, sterilants, anti-oviposition agents, and repellents. Other factors that have stimulated the use of neem-based products for pest control in agriculture are ecological and toxicological aspects (low toxicity to non-target organisms), as well as economic aspects (small amounts of the product can provide effective pest control.” In other words, neem oil is great at repelling bugs, and it has a low-toxicity score and is fairly economic for small-scale targets. 

Two people hiking with backpacks on through the green grassy mountains on a sunny day after applying all-natural bug repellent

In conclusion

We don’t know much about DEET, which is why so many are making the switch to all natural-bug repellent until more evidence presents itself. We recommend testing all topical CBD products on a small patch of skin before generous application to monitor potentially adverse reactions.

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