Protect Your Skin From Biting Bugs , 0 Comments
Mosquitoes are one of Summer's biggest buzz-kills and shooing them from your picnic, outdoor concert, or trip to the park can be next to impossible. When the bugs are biting our instinct is to grab the closest bottle of bug repellent and douse ourselves in a layer of protection. And for good reason, not only are bug bites itchy and unsightly, mosquitoes can also carry diseases, like the West Nile and Zika viruses. But blindly choosing your repellent can be hazardous to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) around 140 products from 39 different companies on the market today contain DEET.
But what is DEET?
N,N-Diethyl meta-toluamide, better known as DEET, is a chemical pesticide that was developed by the US Army in 1946 to protect soldiers from disease-carrying insects in jungle combat situations. It was introduced for civilian use in 1957 and it is still used today as a common ingredient used to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting pests. Every year 1/3 of Americans use insecticides containing DEET, despite the label warnings that exposure can cause headaches, shortness of breath, rashes, eye irritation, memory loss, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and tremors. The EPA recommends avoiding prolonged exposure of DEET and washing it off skin and washing clothes as soon as returning indoors, but we believe in avoiding it all together. The Medical Sciences Bulletin reports “up to 56% of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17% is absorbed into the bloodstream.”
But DEET isn't the only ingredient to avoid when picking a bug repellent. Bug repellents have the same ingredient concerns as our other personal care products. They can include toxic alcohols, artificial fragrance, parabens, and more. It is important that you look beyond marketing labels on the front of your spray and read ingredient labels on the back.
How can I protect myself without chemicals?
There are ways to protect your skin from mosquitoes without applying harmful chemicals:
- Minimize exposed skin by covering up with clothing
- Wear lightweight clothing to reduce mosquito-attracting perspiration (they love lactic acid, which is secreted through sweat).
- Wear light colored clothing, as mosquitoes use sight to find their “victims” and dark clothing is a great target.
- Avoid spending time outdoors between dusk and dawn, as the mosquitoes are at their most active.
- Remove all standing water in your yard, as it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Eat garlic. It seeps through your pores and the mosquitoes don’t like it.
- Install a bat box in your yard.
- Plant an organic, mosquito-repelling garden with plants like citronella, catnip, marigolds, lavender, and peppermint.
- Use a non-toxic repellent, like our B Unbitten.
Many essential oils - like the oils from cedar, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, lemon, eucalyptus, and geranium - have proven to be successful pest deterrents. We don't recommend applying essential oils directly onto skin, but after diluting them in water, they can be quite effective. Sally B developed B Unbitten with an effective blend of organic essential oils and other good-for-you ingredients, like Fractionated Coconut Oil (coconut oil without the solids), which helps the product last longer on skin and leave it feeling silky smooth. Not sticky and smelly like products made with DEET.
I still got bitten. Now what?
The itch from a mosquito bite can be maddening. There are natural, non-toxic remedies to sooth the sting. We have had customers tell us that applying a bit of B Unbitten directly on top of the bite has been helpful in reducing symptoms, but here are other home remedies:
- Dr. Mercola suggests wiping a damp, cool tea bag over the bites and letting the tannins reduce the swelling associated with the bite.
- Dabbing essential oil of peppermint (diluted a bit with water) to the affected area will add a cooling sensation, which will temporarily mask the itching sensation.
- Basil (you can use the essential oil or crush up leaves) can relieve itching thanks to its camphor and thymol compounds.
- The acidity from apple cider vinegar can also be effective in controlling excessive itching.
This summer, be one step ahead of the mosquitoes. Stash non-toxic repellent in your car or purse so you're not tempted to use a convenient DEET filled product. Also, stocking your garden with mosquito-repelling plants can be a first line of defense as well as a solution to a nasty bug bite.