Beauty and the bug

Summertime and the living is easy – except for those pesky midges and mosquitoes. We all want to enjoy the outdoors, especially at the tail-end of summer. So how to stay glamorously green without the red splotches of being bitten raw or stung silly? BigGreenSmile.com offers its top tips. Jen Marsden writes…

Photo credit: wildturket5300

Whether you're travelling or having a staycation this summer, the chances are you will come into contact with swarming insects, be it mosquitoes that transmit diseases in tropical climes or those irritating midge clouds in Scotland.

These airborne critters just adore good-smelling people due to the kairomones (like human pheromones) that humans give off to insects. Scientists have already isolated the natural chemicals occurring in humans that make some people more unpleasant to insects and so in the future it's expected that there will be an array of products exhibiting these components on the market. In the meantime, don't be the victim and refrain from using floral-scented beauty products such as perfumes, sunscreens or sweet-smelling fabric conditioner on your clothes.

It is, just about, still summer, so relax – avoid too much physical exercise and perspiration as biting insects love the carbon dioxide that this releases. Lots of salt and potassium in your diet is a big no-no too, however eating garlic every day is thought to prevent biting bugs.

Stay away from shady areas, particularly between dusk and dawn as this is when mosquitoes have the most bite. If you do want evening drinks on the terrace make sure you cover up as exposed skin is an open invitation.

Natural insect repellents

Choosing a safe, effective insect repellent and applying it correctly to any exposed skin makes a difference. It's all too tempting to douse ourselves in the common chemical nastie DEET (Diethyl toluamide) yet this smelly insect repellent has a darker side. This synthetic formula was developed in the 1940s by the US Army and is thought to work by stopping insects from locating people. Yet it is known for causing skin irritation and allergic reactions and is absorbed through the skin accumulating in the body's fat tissues, which can lead to problems.

There's an ever-growing case about the potential toxic effect DEET has to mammals and mosquitoes are showing resistance to the many chemical insecticides being used. As a powerful solvent DEET has the ability to melt hard plastics – even your favourite pair of designer sunglasses! Try natural plant oils. Recent research suggests that cinnamon oil is far more potent in killing mosquitoes than DEET – and it's not the only natural ingredient that has this ability.

Photo credit: gina pina

Many traditional natural plant oils, such as rose geranium, cedar, lavender, rosemary citronella, orange and lemon eucalyptus, can do just as good a job at killing or preventing bugs.

The powerful lemon-citrus fragrance of citronella oil works by disguising the natural CO2 and lactic acid that insects love rather than repelling.

From the twigs and leaves of eucalyptus trees, lemon eucalyptus oil not only repels but also kills insects and mites. The wonderfully aromatic woody smell of cedar oil, which is extracted from the bark of cedar trees, has been used for thousands of years to provide insect resistance and is a natural antiseptic.

A blend of these active natural ingredients in your insect repellent creates a more effective product as it wards off different types of mosquitoes, of which there are over 30 species in the UK alone. Incognito - Less Mosquito 100% natural insect spray protection and Jason Quit Bugging Me! Natural Insect Repellent Spray are both fantastic examples of effective combinations - and they smell far better than the chemical alternative!

To avoid getting bitten, apply insect repellent after sunscreen onto any exposed skin. Re-applying regularly at shorter intervals is better at protecting you than one big dousing. Take care to re-apply when you've just been swimming or caught in the rain as mossies just love water – in fact wetter springs and warmer summers is thought to be the cause of more mosquitoes appearing in the UK in recent years. Use your hands to apply repellent to your face, always avoiding the eye area.

Not a bug's life

Burning essential oils of lavender, citronella, eucalyptus or peppermint around the home or garden is a simple homemade repellent. For a hassle-free experience try Incognito organic java citronella oil. If you have sitting water features in your home or garden (such as a bird bath or floating candle feature) then be sure to change the water frequently so it doesn't go stagnant and become a breeding ground.

Wearing a natural balm when you're active in the garden such as Dr. Rose Gardeners Salve (containing lemongrass, lavender and rosemary) can help ward off insects and soothe bitten skin.

Photo credit: Willip Von Roe

You can even use natural hair products to help keep insects away! Faith in Nature Neem & Propolis Shampoo and Incognito Hair & Bodywash both offer the medicinal properties of neem oil. Indigenous neem has been used in Indian Ayurveda for centuries and protects against dermatological insects like head lice and is a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, working its magic on itchy skin. Neem is also known for its anti-malarial benefits.

Bitten?

If you do get bitten then always ensure you have a product on-hand to help soothe the itch immediately. Tea tree oil – a favourite of the Australian Aborigines – is a fantastic pure ingredient with its non-toxic, soothing anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It's also a parasiticide, deflecting the bites and stings of fleas, headlouse and insects to prevent further biting and has the powerful ability to heal wounds quickly. Try Jason Tea Tree Oil Smoothing Gel or Moa - the green balm to see the full effect!

Using natural products that contain the gentle soothing wisdom of aloe vera, chamomile or calendula will also work wonders, such as Organic Surge Super Intensive Moisturiser or Essential Care Organic Calendula Balm for the body and Neal's Yard Remedies Chamomile Cleanser for the face.

With nature's wisdom and fantastic products it's easy to be a green beauty without the bugs!

The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) provides travel health advice for each country and further steps to avoid insect-borne diseases.

Disclaimer: Please take caution when using pure essential oils and seek advice from a professional aromatherapist prior to use. Pregnant or nursing women should seek advice from their General Practitioner before choosing any insect repellent, natural or otherwise.

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