What’s actually in your bug spray?


Days spent beachside. Fireflies at dusk. Roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Boating on the lake. Sunkissed skin.

Summer is almost here, thank goodness. But as you know, with summer days and nights also come some unwanted critters.

Although we all likely grew up spraying ourselves with canned bug sprays in order to prevent pesky insects and the bites they often leave on our skin, we often don’t realize what’s actually in that spray.

Newsflash: Some of it is definitely not good for you. The active ingredients in bug sprays are pesticides, and as such they are regulated that way in the United States.

Should we really be putting pesticides on our skin? Here’s a rundown of ingredients that are often found in the bug sprays you’ve already got on hand for this summer.


This chemical (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) first began being sold in the 1950s after being used in the U.S. Army. Since, the chemical has become the leading insect and tick repellant.

But, be wary of this chemical.

DEET has been known to cause allergic skin reactions, “particularly at concentrations of 50 percent and above,” and eye irritation, according to a 2014 report from the Washington Post.

The report also cited a 2013 analysis that states that of about 4,000 DEET-related calls to poison control centers, 450 people needed medical treatment after applying the chemical and two people died.

Don’t worry too much -- those who suffered from more serious symptoms like seizures, slurred speech and comas mostly occurred when people ingested the chemical, applied it for three days or more or used products with 95 percent DEET or more.

Still, it is unclear if lower doses of DEET pose the same risks, the Washington Post reports.

One thing is clear -- something’s not quite right with this chemical, though it is great for repelling insects.

Cyfluthrin and Permethrin

Both chemicals, which are frequently used in bug sprays, are linked to nerve impulses which may cause seizures, according to a bug repellant report from Made Safe, a nonprofit organization that studies toxins found in products sold in stores across the U.S.

Permethrin specifically also may lead to behavioral and physiological issues, including problems with learning and motor skills, as well as memory loss, the report reads.


According to Made Safe, pyrethroids are the most common chemical class for bug repellent chemicals, and the class contains over 1,000 insecticides.

Pyrethroids have caused dermatitis, asthma-like reactions, nausea, a lack of coordination, burning and itching sensations, according to Made Safe. The chemical is most unsafe for infants, because their systems aren’t able to break it down.

So, what should you do?

Invest in natural bug repellent products.

Try out Melnaturel’s own Bug Spray or Bug Off Roller, which contains natural ingredients that repel bugs like lemongrass and citronella. We promise you’ll not only be protected from bugs and their itchy, stinging bites, but also those unnatural, potentially harmful chemicals.