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Natural Insect Repellent on Monday Night Travel

Did anyone catch the name of the insect repellent Lisa mentioned on last week's MNT? She said it was all natural, but I couldn't hear the name.

We're going to Florence and Venice, so I wouldn't mind having a tiny bottle or moistened pads of mosquito repellent. I can't use DEET, and the "Buzz Off" that I have occasionally used has a very strong scent. Years ago I used one called "Herbal Armor" that I liked, but I can't remember what it smelled like.

Does anyone have a favorite un- or low scented herbal product? I'll head to Tulsa later this week and check a couple of the natural foods stores, but I'd be glad of recommendations.

Posted by
7346 posts

You would have to check the ingredients, but I brought these “Avon - Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Towelettes - Resealable Bag Holds 8 Packets - DEET-Free Oil-Free.” The mosquitoes love to bite me, and I only had one bite during my trip in the Adriatic last year. Another lady on the RS tour appreciated that I had some extra wipes for her, too, and it kept them off of her. The scent is very mild; I’m sensitive to many fragrances & chemical smells.

I just bought these from Amazon. Expensive but effective!

Posted by
1661 posts

Is it picardin/icardin? It's technically not natural, but it is a synthetic version of a substance that occurs naturally in some plants. It is supposed to be comparable to DEET in its effectiveness, without some of the negative effects of DEET (e.g. damaging plastic and nylon).

There are a number of different picardin options now, but for travel, we always look for the wipes.

Lemon eucalyptus oil is also supposed to be good.

""Picaridin is a little more effective than DEET and seems to keep mosquitoes at a greater distance," he says. When people use DEET, mosquitoes may land on them but not bite. When they use a product containing picaridin, mosquitoes are less likely to even land. Repellents with IR 3535 are slightly less effective, Strickman says, but they don't have the strong smell of other products."

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/30/623865454/a-guide-to-mosquito-repellents-from-deet-to-gin-and-tonic

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/insect-repellents.html

https://www.acs.org/pressroom/presspacs/2023/january/new-mosquito-repellents-that-work-better-than-deet.html

Posted by
6342 posts

Thanks, Jean and BB. I must say that we've never had much of a mosquito problem in either Venice or Florence, but I have heard that some people do. I'd rather have something with me, should I need it, than try to find a product there.

I can't use DEET; it brings up big red blotches on my skin. Jean, I remember when people discovered that Skin-So-Soft helped repel mosquitos; I may still have some of that buried in the depths of our linen closet.

Posted by
16414 posts

I like Repel brand Lemon Eucalyptus, which I buy from REI.

Here is a good article on finding the right “lemon eucalyptus” ( it is an extract from the leaves of a tree called lemon eucalyptus, not a mix of lemon and eucalyptus oils). It also covers the research on its effectiveness compared to DEET and picardin. It compares quite favorably in tests, and that matches my personal experience.

And it has a pleasant lemony scent. I cannot stand the smell of Skin So Soft!

https://www.health.com/home/oil-of-lemon-eucalyptus-extract-natural-mosquito-repellent

Posted by
416 posts

I'll add another vote for Repel. It works better for me than any of the DEET products, and I'm more comfortable with its ingredients. It's available in most stores in southern California (Target, Wally, groceries).

Posted by
6342 posts

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm heading over to Tulsa tomorrow, so I'll drop in on a couple of places that should have the lemon eucalyptus products, or the Herbal Armor that I used to use.

My dad was also sensitive to DEET, but he was a hunter, so almost had to use it. He found that spraying his clothes with it a few days before a hunting trip, then hanging them outside for a couple of days (!) worked well. Not very practical on a Rick Steves tour, though!

He also used permethrins, following the same protocol. That was more for ticks, though.

Thanks again, everyone. If I find something else amazing, I'll report back.