Being in the great outdoors provides us with fresh air, Vitamin D, and plenty of room for activities. But it also comes with a price: pesky bugs, strong overhead sun, and various smells from bug sprays and sunscreens. With plenty of options on the market for sun protection and insect repellant, it’s tough to find a brand that’s helpful for you and doesn’t harm the environment.

Bug sprays that contain DEET consists of intense chemicals and pesticides that may be harmful to you and the environment. The effects of the exposure to DEET depend on how much and how long you’re exposed to the chemical. Pesticides are endocrine disruptors, meaning they have the potential to cause central nervous system issues, including physiological and behavioral problems. There have been a number of studies that observe physical reactions to DEET, but the findings are mixed. As for the environment, DEET that’s soaked up in the soil may contaminate groundwater and drinking water.

Some ingredients that are used in sunscreen (including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate) are not exactly the safest things to put on your skin or expose to the environment. Oxybenzone is the most common ultraviolet-blocking chemical in sunscreen, but also the most concerning. The FDA is worried about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone and its potential to affect hormone levels. Hawaii has banned sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate in an effort to protect its coral reefs as research finds that sunscreen that washes off of swimmers is toxic to marine life.

Being eco-friendly nowadays is a way of life as we’re fighting to keep our planet green. Natural remedies for bug spray and sunscreen are a wise option because they don’t contain harmful chemicals. It’s better for your skin, it’s better for the environment, and it holds a less intense smell. Plus, at least you know what’s in it when you make your own insect repellant and sun protection!

natural remedies for sunscreen and bug spray
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Here are nine natural remedies to use as bug spray and sunscreen this summer:

1. Tea tree oil and coconut oil

Styclecraze came up with a huge list of homemade mosquito repellent options, including tea tree oil and coconut oil. For this remedy, you’ll need to mix 10 drops of tea tree oil and 30 mL of coconut oil. After thoroughly mixing the ingredients, apply the oil directly to your skin as if applying lotion after taking a shower. Stylecraze explains that tea tree oil contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties are meant to prevent and heal mosquito bites. It’s mixed with coconut oil because the smell is very intense (which also helps repel mosquitos).

2. Essential oil bug spray recipe

A popular blog called Wellness Mama created a homemade natural bug spray that’s inexpensive and easy to make. The ingredients include a combination of these essential oils: citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, cajeput, eucalyptus, cedar, catnip, geranium, lavender, and mint. The recipe includes 100 drops total of the combined oils. Then, it’s poured in a spray bottle, mixed with alcohol and shaken well. Wellness Mama explains that each of those oils contains insect and mosquito-repelling qualities.

3. Citronella oil or candles

Healthline reports that using citronella as a natural remedy is just as effective as DEET. It’s a plant-based essential oil that’s used as a bug repellent. Citronella can be applied to the skin, but it’s most effective in the form of a candle. When the formula is right, it can protect you for up to two hours.

citronella, natural remedies, bug spray
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4. Cinnamon oil

If you like the smell of cinnamon, you’ll love this natural remedy. Healthline suggests using cinnamon oil as an insect repellent. The recipe requires you to mix 24 drops of cinnamon oil for every four ounces of water. Then spray the concoction on clothing or skin. It’s also safe to spray on plants and furniture. Healthline warns that applying cinnamon oil directly, without diluting it with water, may irritate your skin.

5. Apple cider vinegar and essential oils

We know all about the benefits of apple cider vinegar. It’s like a one-stop-shop for cleaning, weight loss, hair, skin, blood sugar, and insect repellent. It’s important to dilute ACV before use. Stylecraze invented a natural bug spray in which you mix 50 mL of apple cider vinegar with 50 mL of water. Then add a few drops of clove, citronella, or eucalyptus oil. Store it in a bottle with a pump, shake, and you’re good to go. ACV creates a slightly acidic pH on your skin, which mosquitos hate.

6. DIY sunscreen balm

Making homemade sunscreen will feel a little more like being a scientist in a lab. In an effort to avoid the negative effects of the chemicals used in commercial sunscreen, this wellness blog called The Inspired Little Pot created a DIY sunscreen balm. For this recipe, you’ll need coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, and zinc oxide. Combine the first three ingredients and do the double boiler method to heat it up. Then, add zinc and mix until combined. Transfer to a container and let it set before applying to your skin as you normally would.

7. Natural sun protection

DIY Natural created a homemade sunscreen protector that combines essential oils with non-nano zinc oxide, which is a non-toxic, effective, broad-spectrum sunblock. It’s advised to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when you handle zinc. Mix and heat coconut oil, shea butter, and sunflower oil. Measure out and add the zinc oxide, Vitamin E, and a few drops of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender oil. Stir until you feel it in your biceps! DIY Natural suggests storing it in a dark container in the refrigerator.

8. Bug repellent lotion bars

One Essential Community blog created a bug repellent lotion bar that’s a creative alternative to spray. Gather beeswax, kokum butter, mango butter, babassu oil, apricot kernel oil, arrowroot powder, and essential oils. Mix and melt the ingredients using the double boiler method, then pour the lotion mixture into a silicone mold. After it sets and hardens in the refrigerator, you can rub the bug repellent bars over your skin for protection from mosquitos. One Essential Community says these bars aren’t oily, waxy, or greasy.

9. All-natural sunscreen

Sweet Simple Living encourages you to get out in the sun with safe and chemical-free protection. This blog’s all-natural sunscreen recipe includes beeswax pellets, coconut oil, shea butter, raspberry seed oil, non-nano zinc oxide, and lavender essential oil. With the non-nano zinc oxide, you need to measure it out depending on how high you want the SPF to be. After melting and mixing these ingredients, let it set before applying to your skin.

It’s important to remember that DIY sunscreens and bug sprays won’t be as strong as its chemical and pesticide counterparts, but it is a natural solution that’s better for you and the environment. Especially with the sunscreen, re-apply every two hours as these natural remedies might not pack a high SPF.