Morning Mix


Safe bug spray options for your skin

Posted at 10:56 AM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 10:56:37-04

Nobody wants to be a bug's dinner while they're trying to enjoy a beautiful Michigan summer day, but at the same time nobody wants to put hazardous chemicals on their body to keep the bugs away. So what are the safe insect repellent options out there?

Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship talks about which bug sprays are the best, and safest, for the skin and environment.

Kimball says that the safest option when it comes to bug spray is to pick something that is plant-based, like essential oils. However different oils interact with everyone's body chemistry differently, so what works for one person might not work for another.

There's also an element called DEET (also known as N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) in many bug repellents, which repels mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies. However in high concentrations it can be very hazardous to the skin. Kimball says that when it comes to choosing bug spray, be sure that there's no more than 30 percent DEET in the ingredients.

Other options that are better for the skin include products that contain Picaridin and IR3535:

  • Picaridin
    • In Cutter Advanced, Skin so Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin and more
    • No known side effects for humans, not carcinogenic (BUT relatively new, in US market in 2005 - so not much research.)
    • Odorless, does not feel oily
  • IR3535
    • Developed by Merck in mid-70s, used in Europe longer than US (registered in 1999.)
    • Inspired by a naturally occurring amino acid, not environmentally persistent.
    • Repellent, not killer: basically tells insects via scent to "go away," but it doesn't stink like DEET. It masks your body's carbon dioxide.
    • 10-30% has similar efficacy to DEET on ticks and mosquitoes, with some insects repelled less and some more.
    • No known human side effects, recommended by WHO for pregnant women during disease outbreaks.

For more helpful tips and recommendations on safe bug sprays, visit