Summer may seem eons away, but it's coming up quicker than you think. While we're all kinds of excited for the sun and fun that await us as the temperature rises, one thing we're not so stoked to see again are bugs. Mosquitoes, horseflies, and other biting insects can turn a beach outing or a backyard BBQ into a living nightmare — we've got the scars on our legs to prove it.
But as much as we hate those winged biters, we'd rather not spray ourselves in head-to-toe chemicals in an effort to ward them off. There are still some lingering concerns about the safety of these chemicals — DEET and permethrin in particular — despite what the EPA may say. A recent Duke study found that combined exposure to DEET and permethrin can lead to both motor deficits and learning and memory dysfunction.
Well, in the words of Bill Clinton, just don't inhale, right? Sadly, that's not going to help: A report in The Medical Sciences Bulletin, published by Pharmaceutical Information Associates Ltd., says that "up to 56 percent of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17 percent is absorbed into the bloodstream.” Not to mention the damage these chemicals have been shown to have on water supplies, soil, and important pollinating insects such as bees.
Fortunately, there are some natural insect repellents out there that work wonders without sacrificing your health. The benefits of using a natural spray are plentiful: They can be applied directly to the skin and reapplied as often as needed, they won't make you cough up a lung if you inhale them, some of them actually smell quite lovely, and they're safe for kids, pets, and the environment.
These repellents work by utilizing organic and natural oils in place of conventional chemical pesticides. Look for those that contain soy oil (The New England Journal of Medicine reported that natural repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as DEET-containing repellents), castor oil, cedar, cinnamon, peppermint, lemongrass, geranium, rosemary, eucalyptus, citronella, sesame, lavender, and witch hazel. Just be sure that they contain a high level of these active ingredients, otherwise you're not going to be getting the most buzz-off bang for buck — and you'll be serving the mosquitoes with an all-you-can-eat buffet.
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