Summer is here—bring on the sunshine and outdoor living! But…no bugs and burns, please!
Two of the most common products used in the summer time are sunscreens and bug sprays; while both are needed to help protect us, they can contain an alarming amount of potentially harmful chemicals and it’s important to select products that are safe and effective.
There are two main ways sunscreens protect against the sun: minerals or chemicals. Mineral-based sunscreens use ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which literally create a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting the sun. Chemical-based sunscreens create a barrier using ingredients like oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, avobenzone, octisalate, and homosalate.
Many of the chemicals mentioned are known endocrine disruptors, and can interfere with reproductive and thyroid hormones. Also, as many as 75% of commercial sunscreens potentially contribute to skin cancer and are not recommended for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.
Nobody wants to be bitten by insects that can potentially be carrying some serious diseases, but you also don’t want to risk your health with harmful chemicals. Many conventional bug repellant for personal use contain N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, Picaridin, and/or IR3535 as the main ingredient. They essentially create a barrier on your skin which prevents the bugs from smelling you, but this barrier also comes with some health risks. DEET has been linked to neurological problems and skin irritation. Both Picaridin and IR3535 have been studied less and have less known side effects, but like DEET, IR3535 can potentially melt plastics.
As with anything, it is important to read labels and only use the product as intended. For sun care, we recommend selecting a mineral-based sunscreen without the harmful chemicals, as well as antioxidant supplements to help protect from the inside out. For bug repellents we recommend essentials oils such as neem, citronella, tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus. They can be found in natural formulas or make yourself, and it is always best to apply them to clothing rather than directly on the skin.
The Environmental Working Group website ewg.org is a great resource to help select products that are safe for you and your family.
DIY Bug Spray
- 30–50 drops of essential oil: choose from citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, and lavender
- natural witch hazel
- distilled or boiled water
- Fill small spray bottle half full with water.
- Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top.
- Add 30–50 drops of essential oils.
- Shake well before each use.