If you’re concerned about chemicals leaching into your skin, but tend to be a mosquito magnet, turn to these natural products to protect you from those pesky critters.

By Brooke Showell Kasir

With people seeking natural products for everything from skincare to cleaning supplies, it seems counterintuitive to douse oneself in DEET to ward off mosquitoes and gnats. “What we’re seeing at the consumer level is a lot of skin irritation when they use chemical-based products,” says Bob Root, author of Chemical-Free Skin Health. However, “If you want natural products you don’t want to compromise what you’re getting in an insect repellent.”

Natural repellents can be equally effective as the drugstore stuff—if you know what to look for. It’s about “ingredients, ingredients, ingredients,” Root says. “If you look at a label with a bunch of chemical names you can’t understand, walk away.” Unsure what’s what? It may take some sleuthing, but cross-reference items in the ingredient list in a simple online search. An effective natural formula will include things like neem oil, karanja oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, red thyme oil, sweet basil oil, and citronella. For broad-spectrum coverage from different types of mosquitoes and any other biting flies, look for multiple repellent ingredients—that inexpensive, one-note citronella oil sold at the cruise ship gift shop may not provide enough protection.

Also, buy through a source you trust. Your local natural market, pharmacy, or apothecary most likely thoroughly vets the products it carries. Another rule of thumb is that true natural products do tend to be a bit more expensive than the superstore buy. To create their natural formulations, companies curate oils from all over the world, and the physical act of transporting them to the factory costs more than chemical ingredients.

Here, we’ve saved you some time by selecting the picks you can count on:

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