So you’re looking for the best mosquito repellent—but it gets trickier. You’re looking for the best mosquito repellent—for baby. That means you’re probably eager to find the best bug spray for babies that also happen to be all-natural, as you don’t want baby absorbing any potentially harmful chemicals.
Well, look no further! The Bump has compiled a definitive list of the best bug spray for babies, including natural, organic and waterproof options, all DEET-free. (More on DEET in a minute.)
But before we get into that, let’s talk safety when it comes to bug spray for babies, and how to avoid mosquito bites in the first place. Read the Dos and Don’ts of Baby Bug Spray , courtesy of pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann, official medical advocate for Baby Dove.
Dos and Don’ts of Baby Bug Spray
- DO keep your infant and young child’s skin covered in lightweight clothing as much as possible, and try to cover exposed skin—for example, tucking pants into socks.
- DON’T use fragranced products such as scented laundry detergent or lotions, which can attract biting insects.
- DO consider using a mosquito net over your stroller or infant carrier.
- DON’T use insect repellent on babies under 2-months-old.
- DO choose insect repellents approved for use on children and follow directions on the package.
- DON’T use sunscreen and insect repellent combination products. (Or at least avoid them.) This is because sunscreen should be reapplied frequently, but insect repellent should not, as you don’t want to overexpose baby to the components of insect repellent.
- DO apply insect repellent to clothing—instead of directly to the skin—when possible. Spritz the ends of sleeves, pant hems and socks, and the insects will avoid nearby skin. Only apply bug spray for babies onto baby skin when absolutely necessary.
- DON’T apply insect repellent near the eyes and mouth, and, in the case of small children, hands, as they may put their hands in their mouth.
- DO spray repellents in open areas, then quickly move away. This will help you avoid inhaling the products.
- DON’T store products within children’s reach or let them apply their own repellent. Apply it for them, then make sure to wash your hands.
- DO wash off the insect repellent with a hypoallergenic baby wash designed to moisturize, like Baby Dove Rich Moisture Tip to Toe Wash, once you come back inside. Also make sure to throw those clothes in the wash.
- DON'T use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
DEET Bug Spray
Let’s get the biggest question out of the way first: What is DEET, anyway? DEET is the common name for N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide. Developed by the United States Army in 1946, DEET is the most common ingredient in bug spray and, according to most research, the most effective. (Though some ingredients are believed to be nearly as effective, as of yet, nothing has proven to be more effective.)
An important note: DEET does not actually kill mosquitos. Instead, as advertised, DEET bug repellent truly repels. By messing with the neurons on their antennae and mouths, DEET forces mosquitos to back up—and not just mosquitos. The chemical mixture is effective on flies, gnats and chiggers too.
Of course, while DEET sprays may be the best bet, they certainly aren't your only options. Many people prefer picaridin, a synthetic created in the ‘80s by Bayer. According to research, picaridin is nearly if not just as effective—and safe—as DEET. Plus, it’s odorless and non-greasy—two points that make it preferable to many (especially moms with sensitive kids!). Moreover, it’s picaridin-based formulas are the best-selling bug repellents in Europe and Australia. So what’s the catch? The snag is that picaridin was only approved for sale in the U.S. in 2005, so while it may indeed be the superior choice, there isn’t enough long-term research to prove that picaridin isn’t harmful years down the line.
Which brings us back to DEET, and probably the top bug spray-related question: Is DEET safe for babies? While rumors about potential DEET dangers have been circulating for years, after much research, the conclusion is that DEET is indeed safe for babies—and everyone else, for that matter. (Though, in the case of young children, Dr. Altmann recommends keeping the DEET count at no more than 30 percent.) The key? Applying appropriately. Spray the DEET bug spray on your hands before rubbing it onto baby. That way, it’s only going on baby’s skin, and not in the air where you’ll both breathe it in.
But if you’re still worried even after reading this, we certainly won’t fault you. Plenty of parents are on the hunt for a more natural bug spray for babies. That's why The Bump rounded up a bunch of options, including natural mosquito repellent for babies, organic mosquito repellent for babies and waterproof mosquito repellent for babies, all free of DEET.
Scroll to see The Bump best bets when it comes to Deet-free bug spray for babies!
Best Natural Mosquito Repellent for Babies
If you like your food organic and your sunscreen zinc-based—you can never be too healthy!—then natural bug spray for babies if what you need. A natural mosquito repellent should be made out of, primarily, ingredients you can recognize—something especially important when shopping for young, delicate baby skin. If you go with a natural repellent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends choosing one that's registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Otherwise, there's no guarantee it's actually effective.
As with all products—even those that are specifically designed for babies and children—it’s important that you discuss any new products with your pediatrician. He or she can advise you on the best mosquito repellents for babies. Shop the best natural mosquito repellent for babies below.
Does baby oil repel mosquitos? According to moms around the country—and on the internet!—the answer’s very much a yes. The thought is that mosquitos don’t like landing on oily surfaces (possibly because they may suffocate on them). Babyganics’ natural, DEET-free insect repellent is one of a few bug sprays for babies that rely on natural essential oils—and from a trusted name in baby skin care to boot.
Babyganics 6 oz. Natural Insect Repellent, $10, Bedbathandbeyond.com
California Baby’s repellent spray is another that ditches DEET for oil—specifically cedar pure essential oil mixed with Citronella and lemongrass. It also won one of the Eco Excellence Awards’ Best Skincare for Baby awards in 2014.
California Baby Natural Bug Blend Bug Repellent Spray, $13 for 2 oz., Amazon.com
While Johnson’s Baby Creamy Oil isn’t advertised as one of the best mosquito repellents, that’s exactly what moms across the web have said they’ve used it for, and with great success! As an added bonus, it also helps keep baby’s skin soft, as it’s aloe-based. Mom-approved, and it does double duty!
Johnson’s Baby Creamy Oil Aloe Vera & Vitamin E, $5, Target.com
Cutter’s Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent not only has a refreshing scent, it also won’t aggravate your clothes—something DEET has been sometimes known to do.
Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, $5, Amazon.com
EcoSmart’s quick-dry formula boasts a fresh, natural scent, making it tolerable for kids. The pump bottle makes it easy to apply the non-toxic, DEET-free mosquito repellent, which lasts for hours. It’s even safe around pets!
EcoSmart Insect Repellent Spray, $6, Target.com
Best Organic Mosquito Repellent for Babies
Natural mosquito repellents for babies brought to the next level? That would be the organic mosquito repellents for babies. We found three organic—not to mention gluten-free and cruelty-free—bug sprays for babies, each with its own benefits.
As is true of almost all of its products, Honest’s bug spray for babies is organic, as it relies on plant-based organic essential oils. The hypoallergenic mix includes rosemary, Citronella and wintergreen essential oils, and it comes in a recycled aluminum bottle.
The Honest Co. Bug Spray, $19 for 2, Honest.com
Badger’s bug spray for babies ditches the DEET—and all other chemicals—in favor of organic Citronella, cedar and lemongrass essential oils, the mix of which has been used for centuries to defend against bug bites. Badger’s best mosquito repellent has another benefit too: the balm comes in a twist-up stick, making it easy to apply when and where you want it.
Badger Balm Anti-Bug Balm Stick, $12, Amazon.com
While a bit pricier than the others, Zoe Organics vegan, sulfate-free bug spray for babies is blended from 100 percent organic botanical oils. That means baby stays safe from bug bites while also getting an extra dose of nutrient-rich hydration.
Zoe Organics Insect Repellent, $20, Dermstore.com
Waterproof Mosquito Repellent for Babies
While there are plenty of waterproof baby sunscreens, you’ll be harder pressed to find a quality, natural waterproof bug spray for babies. But that’s not to say they’re impossible to find! You simply need to know where to look—and be willing to embrace the unexpected (like. bracelets that also act as insect repellents). Read on!
Another bracelet option, Simba Baby recommends looping one of these bracelets near baby to keep pests away. You can secure it to a baby bed, a baby carriage, anywhere really! Pop it in a ziplock foil bag when not in use, and you’ll be able to reuse it again and again.
Simba Baby/Kids Natural Mosquito Repellent Bracelet-Natural Citronella and Lemon Extract, $12, Amazon.com
Another from Badger, this anti-bug sunscreen fends off mosquitoes and other bugs while also protecting your little love from the sun. And if you’re heeding Altmann’s note above, you can rest easy: As this sunscreen is all-natural, you can keep applying it without worrying about exposing your child to harmful chemicals.
Badger Anti Bug Sunscreen SPF 34, $14, Jet.com
The best part of Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard? Not only is it DEET-free and PABA-free with SPF 30, it appears blue where it's applied, so you can be absolutely sure that you didn’t miss a spot when it comes to protecting baby. It’ll also last you 80 minutes in water.
Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus SPF 30 Cool ’N Fabulous Disappearing Color Lotion, $14, Avon.com
Plus more from The Bump, Bug Spray Safety Chart: