As the weather gets warmer, pesky bugs start to bite. If you want to prevent itchy, bumpy skin caused by insect bites and stings, an effective bug spray is a must-have!

Whether you’re planning a weekend beach trip or a backyard cookout, protect yourself from bug bites with a natural, homemade insect repellent! Using essential oils and herbs in your DIY bug spray has plenty of benefits and will help you avoid potentially-harmful chemicals at the same time.

Learn more about natural bug repellents or jump to the infographic below for 5 easy recipes!

4 Reasons to Use a Natural Bug Repellent

mom and kid camping

While many store-bought sprays and topicals do a good job of keeping them off, natural bug repellents are an easy, DIY way to protect yourself and your family from insects.

If you value natural ingredients and remedies, check out these reasons why using a homemade, natural bug repellent is right for you!

No Chemicals

DEET is the most widely-used insect repellent in the United States. It consistently ranks among the top-performers for combating mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. However, more than 25 percent of Americans report that they do not trust the safety of DEET repellents and avoid it when possible.

If you prefer to protect yourself and your family from insects with natural ingredients, rather than chemicals like DEET, a bug repellent recipe using essential oils and herbs may be a safe and effective alternative.

Safe on Skin

While chemical-based bug repellents contain powerful, skin-irritating ingredients like petroleum, natural ingredients can be safe and even beneficial for the skin. Many natural repellents will help prevent allergic reactions and soothe sensitive skin. For example, lavender essential oil is known to promote the release of histamine, the body’s natural chemical response to allergens.

Extra Benefits

Aside from keeping the bugs away, natural bug repellents have additional benefits that you’ll love for your family. For example, peppermint oil also functions as a muscle relaxer and headache soother. Lavender works as an antiseptic, lemon eucalyptus oil can be used for poor circulation and thyme is an excellent source of vitamin C and A.


Our furry friends get bug bites too. Protecting them from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes with safe, natural ingredients is a great way to prevent disease, heartworm and other illness.

It’s important to remember that some essential oils and natural ingredients may not be safe to use on your pet. Be sure to check labels for any harmful ingredients and always use essential oils as directed.

To help you make the best decision for your pet’s safety, we’ve included a marker for the natural bug repellent recipes that are pet-friendly!

Natural Ingredients that Keep the Bugs Off

From essential oils to dried herbs, there are many natural alternatives to DEET insect repellents. We’ve collected nine of the top ingredients you can use to make your own natural bug repellents. These ingredients can be combined and adjusted in many ways to create the perfect natural bug spray for you!


Studies have found that lavender is effective in repelling mosquitoes. In addition to protecting you from bug bites, it also has analgesic, antifungal and antiseptic qualities that soothe irritated skin.

Lemon eucalyptus oil

The CDC has approved lemon eucalyptus oil as an insect repellent ingredient. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for pain, congestion and poor circulation.

Thyme oil

5 percent thyme oil has been shown to have a 91 percent protection rate against mosquitoes. It has also been used as a natural pesticide and source of vitamin C.


Both dried peppermint and peppermint oil have many uses and are popular choices for natural insect repellents. It can also be used to calm rashes and sunburns.

Greek catnip

One study found that oil from the catnip plant repels mosquitoes for up to three hours. Other research has shown that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET.


A common ingredient in many insect repellents, citronella has been shown to be as effective as DEET repellents and is effective for up to two hours.


Allicin, a compound found in garlic, is effective in repelling both insects and animals. One study found that garlic was successful in repelling ticks specifically.


A type of alcohol commonly used as a fragrance or flavoring, geraniol repels mosquitoes for up to two hours.

Cinnamon oil

A Taiwanese study found that cinnamon oil could be used to kill mosquito eggs. It can also be used to repel adult mosquitoes, notably the Asian tiger mosquito.

Natural Bug Repellent Recipes

man spraying bug spray

Get ready to create your own bug spray using all-natural ingredients! Remember to dilute strong essential oils with a carrier oil like sunflower or coconut oil to protect your skin, especially when using these natural bug repellents on babies, children and pets.

If you prefer to use fresh herbs instead of essential oils, mix ingredients together and boil for 2–3 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into a spray bottle.

Materials needed:

  • Measuring spoons
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Stirring spoon
  • Clean spray bottle


  1. Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
    • Dilute essential oils as needed with a carrier oil to protect sensitive skin.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray mixture onto the skin before going outdoors.
  4. Refrigerate between uses and re-make recipe every 1–2 months.

Check out the infographic for our top natural bug repellent recipes. To help you choose the perfect recipe for you and your family, we’ve marked which mixtures are pet-friendly and which are safe for sensitive skin, children and pregnant women.

Enjoy your summer vacation without worrying about being attacked by mosquitoes and other bugs. Whether you’re heading on a tropical getaway or sending your little one to their first sleep-away camp, be sure to slip a spray bottle with one of these natural bug repellent recipes into your backpack or suitcase.


Healthline 1, 2, 3 | Mercola | Gurunada | NCBI 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 | Common Sense Home | Dr. Axe

Wellness Mama | Dogs Naturally Magazine | Family Handyman | Consumer Reports | CDC

DA Aromatherapy | Medical News Today | Science Daily | Bio Med Central | ACS | The Bump