Many conventional mosquito repellents contain the active ingredients DEET or picaridin. But there are more natural mosquito repellents available that may also work well.
If you live in an area where mosquitoes are more a mild nuisance, plant-based mosquito repellents often work just fine. They may be a reasonable alternative to conventional mosquito repellents.
But if you live in an area that is heavy with mosquitoes or you are prone to bites, you may not want to take any chances. Conventional mosquito repellents containing higher concentrations (23.8%) of DEET or picaridin offer the best protection.
Although it may be unsettling to apply chemical repellents to your skin, it may be better than the alternative -- being bit by potentially disease-carrying bugs.
'Natural' Mosquito Repellents
A mosquito repellent doesn't actually kill mosquitoes. Repellents work by making people less attractive to mosquitoes, so they're less likely to bite you.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says mosquito repellents that contain DEET or picaridin are safe for adults and children over the age of 2 months, when used correctly.
But there are other options that are deemed "natural" because they are derived from natural materials such as plants.
Here are some you might want to consider:
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). This is a natural, plant-based oil. It works as well at preventing mosquito bites as products that contain lower concentrations (6.65%) of DEET.
PMD is a version of oil of lemon eucalyptus that is produced in a lab. Repellents containing OLE or PMD may provide up to two hours of protection.
If you decide to try OLE, make sure you buy the insect repellent version and not "pure" oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil). They aren't the same. The safety and effectiveness of the essential oil as an insect repellent is not clear. Also, OLE should not be used in children under age 3.
IR3535. This is also known as Merck 3535. It is an active ingredient in some insect repellents.
IR3535 was used for years in Europe before being registered by the EPA. It may offer up to two hours of mosquito protection. IR3535 is considered "natural" because it is structurally related to a naturally occurring chemical.
2-undecanone. This is derived from the tomato plant. It may offer 4.5 hours of protection from mosquitoes. It can be found in some insect repellents.
Oil of citronella. Mosquito repellents containing 10% citronella offer some protection. But University of Florida researchers say the protection may only last for 20 minutes at most. Not all products containing citronella are registered by the EPA.
Catnip oil. This insect repellent is derived from the nepeta cataria plant. It may offer mosquito protection for seven hours, according to the EPA.
Many other natural ingredients are currently being studied as mosquito repellent. These include:
However, more studies are needed to verify their safety and efficacy.
Garlic and vitamin B1 taken by mouth does not protect against mosquitoes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.