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Natural Mosquito Repellents That Really Work

Find out how to ward off mosquitoes without exposing your skin to harsh chemicals.

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Summer is in full swing, and that means you’re probably spending lots of time outside. But while outdoor activities like camping, hiking and backyard barbecues are a lot of fun, chances are you’re also dealing with something else a bit unpleasant: Pesky mosquitoes. They can turn a perfectly good time into an uncomfortable, itchy nightmare. Not to mention, mosquitoes can carry diseases like malaria and West Nile virus. Now, you could reach for some DEET, which has been found to be both safe and effective at repelling mosquitoes. But, what if you’re worried about putting pesticides on your skin—or your child’s? That’s where these five natural mosquito repellents come in.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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Go Herbal

Want a natural bug repellent that you can grow in your very own garden? Try lemon balm. It has high levels of citronellal, a compound that mimics citronella, which gives the herb a lemony scent and flavor that mosquitoes find unpleasant. Just crush some lemon balm leaves in your hand, rub them on your skin and let the mosquito-repelling powers kick in. Find out what else lemon balm can do.

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Harness the Power of Wind

Here’s a really simple trick to deter mosquitoes and cool you off at the same time: Turn on a fan. One study out of Michigan State University found that using fan-generated wind helped keep mosquitoes away. Why? Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, the chemical compound you produce every time you exhale. Fans help dissipate carbon dioxide, which in turn makes you less appetizing for mosquitoes. The study also found that wind helps prevent mosquitoes from landing on you in the first place.

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Oil Up

Instead of spraying on potentially toxic chemicals, try making your own bug repellant by mixing lemongrass, lavender or lemon eucalyptus with water. These essential oils have all been found to help keep mosquitoes away. Lemon eucalyptus is particularly effective. One application gives you a total of two hours of bug protection, about as much as an insect repellent with a low concentration of DEET

woman in a towel after a shower using scent-free lotion
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Pass on Perfume

If you smell sweet to others, chances are you also smell sweet to mosquitoes. Floral scents tend to be the most appealing to them. So skip the perfume and opt for scent-free soaps, lotions and deodorant. You might not smell as great, but at least you won’t be covered in bug bites.

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Change Your Diet

Think you’re a mosquito magnet? It could be due to your diet. People who eat foods that are rich in refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated fats tend to produce a higher level of lactic acid, and mosquitoes (and fleas) are attracted to lactic acid. By reducing the amount of carbs and bad fats in your diet and taking a supplement with B complex vitamins, you can lower your lactic acid levels and help prevent mosquito bites.

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