For years, to avoid looking like a lumpy pillow, I have doused myself with various strong bug sprays. The minute the sun looks like it's going to go down, and I think I might be outside, I dash off to find the can of Deep Woods and liberally spray myself. I'm not typically too worried about things like airborne toxins, but I have a feeling it's not really good for you to inhale a lot of Deep Woods or Muskol or any other really intense bug spray.
Keeping in mind, of course, that most liberal applications of bug spray have been during weeks when I inhale a lot of mould spores from the family house, which is an ancient home that has been uninhabited for the last twenty years. The same family home that is located in an area known for being heavily polluted. So it's not like I have deep concern for what I breathe in - well, I mean, I do, but it's not like I spend a lot of time worrying about it.
Last summer, I took my first foray into natural bug repellents. I ordered Darling Clandestine's Field Shark bug balm (reviewed here). It worked really well. But I feel like I was the only person who bought it and talked about it. It hasn't returned, sadly. But really, it worked and it's awesome for using on your hairline and ears and any place where just spraying isn't a good idea.
The tops of the spray bottles have condensation since I keep them in the fridge. Cool blast of water-like substance in the summer is the best.
This summer, I ended up picking up a couple of indie bug sprays: Blooddrop's Aurevoir and Haus of Gloi's summer refresher in Buzz Off. I really loved my Haus of Gloi summer refresher last year and decided to test out the efficacy of Buzz Off. I ended up with a decant of Aurevoir during my impulse decant spree at the end of June. I thought I would bring them on my camping trip this weekend to give them both a work out - I've used them both before, in situations where there were bugs, but not in the usual places that I would wear bug spray in. There aren't a ton of mosquitoes in the city, so my partner and I often leave our patio door (there is no screen door) wide open and this has not been an issue. So this camping trip was a great (or awful, depending on how you look at it) was a great time to try out these two.
I lie. It was just awful, no great side included. I'm covered in mosquito bites now. And my partner, trooper that he is, has not once complained about the fact that we were eaten alive. While my Darling Clandestine Field Shark balm once again kept the bugs out of my hairline and ears, Buzz Off and Aurevoir were not nearly as successful. Aurevoir seemed to have almost no effect - the first time I wore it was to a bonfire in my partner's parents' backyard. They're up on a hill, with a lot of wind, and so there are generally a few mosquitoes, but not a ton. Aurevoir was no match for them. It was almost completely ineffective on me. I ended up borrowing some (weirdly) watermelon-scented Off and spraying myself. At the campground, I ended up grabbing my other repellents almost immediately after
Buzz Off was a little more effective. I wore it on a walk on evening at Point Pleasant Park, which is a wooded park in Halifax. It's nice. Check it out. Do not, for the love of God, go swimming at Black Rock Beach there. You have been warned. Anyway. This seemed to keep me relatively shielded from any evil bugs that were out to nibble off pieces of me.
However, Buzz Off faltered in at the campground. It seemed to be effective for about half an hour, and then it would taper off and I'd need to redouse myself. And while I got the refresher to refresh myself during this summer (for the record, the summer of 2015 is starting to feel like the summer that never happened), the fact that the bug repelling aspect didn't do all that much to repel bugs is a bit disappointing. My partner and I used it, very liberally. My bottle was almost full when we left on Friday. We got back this morning.
Both are essential oil blends. Ingredients lists as follows:
Haus of Gloi Buzz Off: A 100% essential oil blend to keep those pesky biters away. Cedarwood, clove, lemongrass, the highest grade citronella, a touch of lavender and the secret weapon: catnip oil. We added more catnip this year for more effectiveness.
Distilled water, polysorbate 20, proprietary blend of fragrance and essential oils, phenoxyethanol (and) caprylyl glycol
Blooddrop Aurevoir: Aqua (Distilled water), Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate (and) Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Lavandula officianalis (Lavender), oil, Pelargonium x asperum(Egyptian Geranium) oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (Clove bud) oil, Rosemorinus officinalis L. (Rosemary) oil.
Both of them smell pleasantly herbal, though Aurevoir is lighter and sweeter. Admittedly, I was suspicious of both of them because all previous experiences with bug repellents involved wrinkling of the nose. Field Shark is noxious.
While messing around with natural bug sprays was fun, I'm currently an itchy mess. Not exactly a rave review. I think I'll be returning to my Field Shark + heavy duty spray combo I perfected last summer.
Haus of Gloi's Buzz Off still seems to be available, and so does Blooddrop's Aurevoir. Perhaps you will have better luck! Or at least aren't as sensitive to bug bites as I am. I plan on launching a campaign to bring Field Shark back next summer.
Beach on the Northumberland Strait, attached to the campground we stayed at.