For those of us in New England who love the outdoors, the biting insects that show up at this time of year can be annoying! And if we have concerns about using chemical bug repellents on our bodies, using plant fragrance oils give us natural protection and peace of mind. But beware; many of the common oils used in natural bug repellents can increase your risk of sunburn and allergic reaction!
Plant fragrance oils (called essential oils) are the volatile essences of various plant materials. Extracted from the plant in a concentrated form, these oils contain the assorted organic components of the plant. As a visual, think of the viles in a chemistry lab; like these, essential oils are intensely active and flammable combinations of chemicals.
The chemical constituent coumarin occurs in many common plants and is responsible for lending a particular sweet smell. However, when coumarin is applied directly to the skin it absorbs UV light then releases it into the dermis creating photosensitivity (reactivity to UV light). Wearing any of the following plant oils that contain coumarin while in the sun greatly increases your risk of sun burning, sun spotting or developing an allergic rash.
WHILE IN THE SUN, AVOID WEARING BUG REPELLENTS (or body lotions & perfumes) THAT CONTAIN:
- common orange
- mandarin orange
- cassia “cinnamon”
And if you happen to be experimenting with rare and unusual essential oils or bathing in herbs ( 🙂 ), parsley, tarragon and celery also contain coumarins!
It is further interesting to note that coumarins have been synthesized in the laboratory for use in making perfumes adding that particular sweet smell. This could explain why many/most synthetic fragrances create photosensitivity! The ramifications are endless; fragranced soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, body lotions… this is one of the reason why I am an advocate for avoiding synthetic fragrance.
The most effective essential oil I have found to repel bugs is Eucalyptus Citriodoro. The Nation Center for Disease Control has classified this as a suitable replacement for DEET. You may have noticed the postings at some of the trail heads in New Hampshire mentioning this. My client Stacia, who is a farrier, uses this on her horses to repeal flies.
You might enjoy my latest concoction, Outdoor Body Mousse, a skin conditioning & soothing mousse-creme that provides natural, chemical-free sunblocking while additionally repelling bugs. Sweat resistant, non-greasy, mineral-tinted glow with a silky dry finish. Along with zinc oxide, plant extract Eucalyptus Citriodoro creates an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin while providing an uplifting citrus/eucalyptus scent. SPF around 25; apply liberally for best protection. Sitting in the yard side by side with David, black flies are all over him while not a one is touching me when wearing this. The smell reminds me of summer!
I also sell the oil alone by the 1/2 oz.