Buzz Off! 5 Chemical-Free Ways to Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

by Lela Nargi

As the August humidity swells, the nasty biting insects emerge to nibble on tasty feet and faces. In some urban areas, the mosquitoes are so aggressive—a few Brooklyn neighborhoods are notorious; you know who you are—that even the fiercest outdoors-loving children prefer to hunker inside their apartments than risk being eaten alive by skeeters. Health food store shelves are loaded with all-natural, chemical-free bug repellants. But which ones actually work? We've risked our and our children's own hides to test 5 easy-to-find products that actually work. 

 

This handy Baby Bug stick by Acure is great for quickly tucking into your shorts pocket on your dash to the playground. Loaded with organic bug-repelling ingredients like citronella, eucalyptus, cedar wood, and peppermint, it glides easily on to your toddler's face and hands—without covering your own hands with sticky matter. Check out the brand's other nifty sticks, too: boo-boo "Fix-It" balm, and an SPF 30 sunscreen—almost everything you need for surviving the wilds of the city in the dead-heat of summer. Recommended for low-mosquito areas ($8, acureorganics.com).

Indie Lee's sweet-smelling moisturizing oils—while not expressly intended to be bug repellants—are made with scents that bugs prefer to avoid. Lavender (shown in the Lavender Camomile oil at left), as well as the essential oils in the brand's Vanilla Citrus moisturizer, are especially effective at keeping biting insects away if you dab them on pressure points on your wrists, neck and ankles. We recommend these for older kids and adults, in areas that have mild mosquito infestations. Double bonus: these oils also smooth rough, dry summer skin and work to soothe itchy bug bites ($36, indielee.com). 

 

Shunned by mosquitoes, gnats, and biting flies alike, Babyganics' completely non-toxic mixture containing rosemary, lemongrass, geranium, and yes, citronella oils comes in a long-lasting spray bottle that even the eye-rolling tweens and teens in your house will find not-too-tedious to apply. Also available in a handy sunscreen/repellant combo. We recommend this for medium levels of irritating biting pests ($12, diapers.com).

Maybe it's the apple cider vinegar. Or the pungent cinnamon oil. But this blend from iWilla is the most effective and potent anti-bug spray we've found so far (the brand's website even touts a testimonial from a satisfied client who claims it saved her hide in an insect-infested region of South Africa. Having used it ourselves in only slightly-less infested Brooklyn, we believe her). Most recommended for areas with heavy concentrations of mosquitoes, ticks, and flies ($10, iwillaremedy.com).

 

For a little added protection from nasty biting flying things, these Spotz from Mosquitno can be stuck to sun hats and backpacks—or even just the back of your shirt—when 15 percent extra citronella is needed in the swampy wilds of the summer parklands. Recommended as a boost to rubbed- or sprayed-on repellant ($4, mosquitnoband.com).