DEET or Don’t?

DEET – the active element in many insect repellents – is one of those ingredients that we have a “love-hate” relationship with. On one hand, it is consistently proven to be the most effective repellent available against insects like mosquitos and ticks. Furthermore, is the gold standard for protecting against life-altering illnesses like Zika and Malaria. (Yikes.) But studies like this one have shown that prolonged exposure to DEET can cause physiological abnormalities and cell death in rats. What’s more, DEET has also been linked to negative side effects like skin irritations, nausea, rashes, headaches, and dizziness.


This conflicting information is downright maddening – do we DEET? Or no? Our answer: We do, but sparingly.


Given that DEET is the most effective repellent against viruses like Zika, we’d be remiss to advise against using it if you’re traveling to an area where, for example, the virus exists. This isn’t just our opinion – it’s one shared by the EWG, too. But for your garden variety day-to-day repellent needs, you’re probably okay foregoing DEET and opting for an ingredient that doesn’t have questionable toxicity levels. Cue: Lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Studies like this one have shown that sprays with 30% lemon eucalyptus essential oil effectively repel insects for up to six hours – no DEET required.


As such, we’ve whipped up an easy DIY insect repellent that will have you DEET-free all summer and smelling pretty good, too. It’s below.


DEET-free DIY Insect Repellent


  • 4 oz distilled water (or water that has been boiled and cooled down)
  • 3 oz witch hazel
  • ½ tsp vodka (acts as a natural preservative)
  • ½ tsp jojoba oil
  • 40 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil


Combine all ingredients together in an 8oz spray bottle. Shake thoroughly and spray on as needed, avoiding sensitive areas like eyes. Use within 3-4 months. Do not use on children under the age of two.

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