Smell Fantastically Natural and Repel Insects: 6 Essential Oils for Summer

repel insects

Summertime can leave us sweating up a storm and smelling a little ripe. Constantly swatting all those biting bugs away doesn’t help, either. Good news: you can smell delicious and repel insects with essential oils.

Few things can be more startling than hiking through nature or lounging at the beach when a waft of detergent fragrance hovers like a storm cloud in your olfactory zone. When surrounded by the fresh smells of nature, the absurdity of artificial fragrances really hits home. And not to defend perfume (or Tide) wearers, but it’s somewhat understandable when the thermometer rises towards humid hell. No one wants to smell awful.

Even though I’d personally rather take a noseful of bad BO over artificial fragrance any day, I could do without both…and I’m guessing many of you readers agree. There’s also my love for the insect kingdom, as long as those critters aren’t seeking to suck my blood…which they often do during summer. So instead of ruthlessly murdering insects left and right, I turn to my go-to for both a better smelling body that’s also bug-bite free: essential oils.

While essential oils have potent fragrant power, they come from 100 percent natural sources, and you can tell. The smells don’t linger too long. They’re softer on the nose and don’t contain that soapy smell common in perfumes, body washes, deodorant and the ubiquitous laundry detergent scent most people flaunt without even knowing. They’re also a potent way to repel insects.

When using essential oils to repel insects, mix with water into a spray bottle. A two-ounce bottle of water with 30 drops of oils should do the trick. Spray clothing and body (avoiding eyes). You’ll need to reapply every few hours. You can also make a balm type of protection with vegetable glycerin or carrier oils such as almond, jojoba or sesame. Same rules apply for blending as with water. Instead of spraying, rub mixture onto exposed skin areas (note: it may stain clothing).

When using essential oils to smell great in the summer, you have quite a few options. You can use the simple spray method mentioned above, make your own deodorant, or just anoint key areas on the body such as wrists and neck. You can also massage a few drops into your hair, where the fragrance will last longer than on your skin.

Give these essential oils a try for summer

1. Eucalyptus: It’s fresh almost minty scent repels mosquitoes and smells divine. This can also be a go-to for congestion from allergies, improving breathing.

2. Clove: Clove oil is a potent healer and has shown an ability to repel insects longer than most any other oil. It’s got a peppery, warm scent that’s perfect for evening outdoor adventures.

3. Geranium: Ticks don’t like geranium and that’s good news for you. Its floral, fruity scent is reminiscent of an expensive perfume without the chemicals. Dab those seam areas directly where clothes meet skin to prevent ticks from biting.

4. Lavender: This oil might be on every essential oil list no matter the reason. It’s an extremely versatile oil with many components (many of which human noses are unable to smell), including repelling all kinds of bugs. Surprisingly, its fragrance is mild, sweet and floral, but not too intense. It blends well with most other oils, too.

5. Cedar: Keep biting flies at a distance with the woodsy, earthy scent of cedar. This is a great one for you guys. The familiar forest smell is both effective at repelling bugs and attracting the ladies!

6. Lemongrass: Of the same species as citronella, which is widely used in commercial bug repellents, lemongrass is a bit fruiter and spicier. A personal favorite, lemongrass possesses something that almost screams summer. It’s strong, so a little goes a long way, especially for those biting bugs.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.