8 DEET-Free Bug Sprays for Outdoor Entertaining

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Be it cocktail hour on the patio with a few friends or a rowdy backyard clambake with the entire neighborhood, nothing can ruin a food-centric summertime fête like dozens — maybe even hundreds! — of uninvited guests who rudely show up unannounced and proceed to buzz in your ear before digging in … to your exposed flesh.

Given that mosquitoes and other biting insects have long been a scourge of summer hosts and hostesses (and anyone else with a pulse) everywhere, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared and serve up some all-natural protection along with the rest of your offerings. Here are a few DEET-free repellent options to have on hand — and on table — that are effective and don’t smell offensive.

  1. APOTHEC Bug Spray, $14 at Goose Barnacle: While the handsome packaging of APOTHEC’s handcrafted-in-Virginia insect repellent initially won us over, the skin-hydrating formula itself is no joke. Not only does the spray effectively ward off mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and ticks, but ingredients such as chamomile, lavender, and eucalyptus also soothe and heal any bites that you may have gotten prior to application.
  2. Bug Repellent Spray, $10 at Beekman 1802: Purveyors Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge make a damn-fine goat milk soap — and their bug repellent isn’t too shabby either. Made in New York from witch hazel, organic aloe vera, and an essential oil blend containing all the good stuff (lemongrass, tea tree, citronella, and more), this spray is guaranteed to work “from Texas to Alaska to California.”
  3. Anti-Bug Balm, from $6 at Badger: Just like the namesake critter of this beloved New Hampshire-based skin care line, Badger’s Anti-Bug Balm is both powerful and tenacious. A blend of certified organic essential oils, including citronella, rosemary, and cedar, this balm has prevented our skin from becoming a veritable mosquito buffet on more than one occasion.
  4. Coleman SkinSmart Insect Repellent Pen Spray, $7 at Walmart: While sweet-smelling insect repellents are fine and good, this odorless formula from a heritage brand synonymous with tailgating, picnicking, and campfire cookouts also does the trick. Coleman’s DEET-free insect repellent comes in a discreet, handy-dandy spray pump pen, making it a shoo-in for both wilderness hikes and al fresco soirées.
  5. Jao Patio Oil, $34 at Terrain: A luxurious summertime multi-tasker, this all-over “backyard formula” body oil is packed with moisturizing jojoba and hemp oils, along with soothing calendula and chamomile oils — a godsend for parched skin that’s had a bit too much fun in the sun. At the same time, the “powerfully scented” formula harnesses the insect-repelling power of lemon eucalyptus oil.
  6. All Natural Bug Spray, $14 at Cold Spring Apothecary: Handcrafted in New York’s Hudson Valley (a region that knows a thing or two about both outdoor entertaining and pesky summertime insects), this pleasant-smelling insect repellent combines soothing witch-hazel with a blend of essential oils sure to keep bite-happy interlopers at bay.
  7. All Natural Mosquito Repellent Lotion, $10 at Manready Mercantile: For those don’t love a spray, this creamy mosquito repellent lotion should do the trick. It features a highly refined blend of essential oils that are pleasing to you but not to buggies.
  8. Smart Armor Perfume Spray, $31 at Intelligent Nutrients: Sometimes you might not want your person reeking like eau de bug candle. Understandable. While this certified organic perfume-cum-bug spray does contain tried-and-true natural repellents like citronella and rosemary, its alluring proprietary blend with top notes of geranium and peppermint won’t drive away dinner guests as well.
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