Avoid Sunburns and Bug Bites Naturally

By Wenona Napolitano, Green Options

The days are getting longer, the sun is shining, and kids want to be outside. Soon there will be a whole summer full of long days and energetic kids spending hours outdoors. Yet there are a few things that can put a damper on summer fun fast…sunburns and bug bites.

How can you keep your kids safe from burns and bugs while being healthy and green?

Read on for several eco-options.

Start Out By Keeping Them Safe in the Sun

Sun protection is a must but with parabens and PABA and all kinds of things showing up in personal care products should you lather up or just cover up?

Keeping covered in the sun is a good idea and easy for infants but not always practical for older on-the-go kids. Even if your kids don’t want to stay covered you should keep light weight fabric long sleeve shirts, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses close by for you and your kids to keep the harsh sun rays at bay.

If you choose to use sunscreen opt for the safer choices.

One safe sunscreen is Vive Sana (which in Italian means live healthy). Vive Sana sunscreens are made with 100 percent natural ingredients, 70 percent of those are organic. Vive Sana sunscreens are phthalate free, paraben free, nanotechnology free and contain no emulsifiers, no thickeners, and no synthetic preservatives.

Another safer sunscreen is KINeSYS. KINeSYS sunscreen has been voted the safest and most effective sunscreen by the Cosmetics Database after investigated over 1000 sunscreens. KINeSYS is also a proud signer of The Compact for Safe Cosmetics and strives to be a carbon neutral company. Their bottles are even made from 100 percent recyclable, BPA free plastic and they avoid excess packaging whenever possible.

And try to stay out of the sun during the hours when the sun is the strongest usually somewhere between 10am and 2pm. Look for shady spots to hang out during those hours or take extra special care in protecting delicate skin from the sun.

Keep The Bugs at Bay

Insect repellents containing DEET should be avoided, I don’t care what the EPA or FDA or whatever says. DEET can enter the bloodstream through the skin and can cause side effects that range from rashes and headaches to impaired memory or muscle weakness, even death. Not something I want to chance with my family. Using DEET in conjunction with sunscreen can increase the risks because it can increase the body’s absorption of DEET directly into the bloodstream.

Many natural bug repellents are now on the market, the main ingredients being essential oils such as citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, geranium, clove and lavender.

While these oils are safer than DEET some people may experience sensitivity to them and patch tests should always be done before applying all over. Pregnant women may also want to avoid prolonged exposure as some women can experience adverse reactions to essential oils. And essential oils should not be taken internally.

Once precautions are taken, products made with natural essential oils are much safer for you, your children and the environment than toxic bug sprays full of DEET and other man made chemicals.

Some natural insect repellents on the market are:

ecoSMART insect repellent sprays are becoming very popular, not just their insect repellents but their pet, home, and garden organic pesticides as well. I’ve only had the opportunity to try the personal insect repellent and I must say it smells really good and seems to work great. I put some on while working in my garden the other day and not a mosquito or fly came near me.

Bug-a-Bug spray by eco.kid! is an organically derived product made with all natural products indigenous to Australia (eco.kid! is an Australian compnay). “Unique Australian indigenous oils combined with wild harvested organically certified Andiroba Oil and our pure carrier oil blend to hydrate and nourish—a soothing elixer—helps to protect from annoying insects while infusing skin with visible radiance.”

Bug Band makes an assortment of sprays, wipes, and wrist bands with the effective ingredient being Geraniol, a plant based insect repellent. The vapors from the products form an invisible barrier around the user to keep bugs at bay.

We’ve tried the wristbands and so far they work pretty well and are super easy to use. They are adjustable and fit everyone from my three old with super tiny little wrists to my husband with rather large wrists. They smell great and don’t make a mess, just put them on and enjoy the outdoors.

Badger Balm’s Anti-Bug Balm insect repelling lotion is not as convenient as a spray or wipe but works great, smells great and leaves your skin soft and mositurized. I really love Badger Balm products and their ethical and green business philosophies. Badger is also one of the few body care companies to be USDA certified organic.

Brittanie’s Thyme repellent spray is made from five essential oils that create a strong yet pleasing aroma that bugs will hate but you’ll love. No more smelling like chemicals while keeping the bugs away.

Brittanie’s Thyme is currently applying for USDA organic certification, their mission is to broaden the consumer base for organic personal care products while keeping the products affordable.

Bug Bam wristbands are made of natural, FDA and EPA approved ingredients (citronella, geranium and lemongrass) that safely repel mosquitoes while being kind to you and the environment. The Bug Bam bands can protect for up to 100 hours when worn on the wrist or ankle. Very similar to Bug Bands they seem to work pretty good.

And if you have kids going off to camp or you are in an area that has lice issues check out Happy Heads Bye-Bye Lice Kits. The Happy Heads lice repelling kits are made with enzymes and essential oils to get rid of lice and keep them at bay. The shampoo contains active enzymes that kill lice on contact while the GelRepel, the spray repellent and natural oil repellent all use essential oils to keep the lice away. The Happy Camper Prevention Kit is a great kit full of useful and great smelling products perfect for summer time use and will help keep the lice away but if you already have a lice infestation going on make sure to get the shampoo, too.

But how do these natural insect repellents work? Do they really keep the bugs at bay?

So far so good but it has been so cold and rainy here in Michigan the mosquitoes and other biting bugs have not really been out too much. We haven’t had the opportunity to really try these products during optimal conditions.

We’ve had a couple nice nights when we tried out a few products and they all smell good, no one has had any bad reactions and the bugs didn’t bother us anymore but we haven’t used them for long periods of time to see how they last.

The one thing I love, is the smell of most of these products. They smell so good compared to the awful smell of OFF and other bug sprays that I grew up with.

As the weather warms and we have more opportunities to test the insect repellents I will keep everyone posted as I plan to take notes and compare products and let you know what really works in the middle of the woods in the summer.

Green Options Media is a network of environmentally-focused blogs providing users with the information needed to make sustainable choices. Written by experienced professionals, Green Options Media’s blogs engage visitors with authoritative content, compelling discussions, and actionable advice. We invite anyone with questions, or simply curiosity, to add their voices to the community, and share their approaches to achieving abundance.


Masha Samoilova
Past Member 6 years ago


Megan S.
Megan S8 years ago

I wish there was a recipe here for sunblock..
oh well, thanks anyway :)

I get burned so darn easy, and I need to find some good sunblock that I don't have to order online, hmmm

Monica D.
Monica D8 years ago

Thank you for this article!

Lawrence C.
Lawrence C8 years ago

Green Home is featuring a special this week on a bug repellent patch http://www.greenhome.com/products/pest_control/personal_insect_repellants/116564/ they also have the Bug Band that is featured above and Shoo Tags for pets, which send out electronic signals to keep pests off your pets - Cool and chemical free!

c W.
Chris W8 years ago

Sorry to hear that, Paul. Indigenous People's used it before we 'discovered' it. Has many uses if you're not allergic:
Thanks for the heads up.

Paul Smith
Past Member 8 years ago

c/W... sounds like a good recipe, however; I would caution about using witch hazel if you have skin disorders. Test a very small amount on your forearm, and see if there is a reaction... I have contact dermatitis, and I'll break out in a heart beat...

c W.
Chris W8 years ago

Bug Spray Recipe

1/3 c cider vinegar

1/3 c witch hazel

few drops citronella essential oil(health store)

Add these together mis and funnel into a spray bottle. Will not harm you and keeps the bugs off.

Holley H.
holley Humphrey8 years ago

i recently read that rubbing your skin with basil leaf works for insect repellent..

Alice Diane Celebre
Alice C8 years ago

We wear wide brimed hats while planting in the field...and enjoy walks with our kitties to the brook....roast marshmellows at night over a wood fire....most of our best times are hear....at our farm...now a wildlife sanctuary....Nothing better than homegrown....organic....fresh picked berries in the mornings pancakes !

Sheri Reilly
Sheri R8 years ago

As far as a natural mosquito repellent that has worked for us - I have a baby stroller attachment that looks like a cute plastic frog, it has a clip so you can wear it on you too - the best thing is that it emits the sound of dragonflies - mosquitoes natural enemy. no chemicals only batteries.