Ok, this post is kind of scary. I was appalled to learn the ingredients used in the most popular brand of insect repellent in the U.S. I knew it was bad for you, but geez!
Brace yourself, we’re diving in.
Off! FamilyCare Insect Repellent | Smooth and Dry¹
You see the product name “FamilyCare” and think, “ok, it’s safe for the whole family. That’s gotta be ok for us to use.” NOPE! It is touted as a “mosquito repellent you can feel good about” simply because it dries instantly, isn’t sticky, and lasts up to 6 hours. So, you’re not “feeling good” about it because it’s safe, but because it literally feels good on. Nicely played, Off! marketing team. Sneaky.
This product contains 15% DEET; which it what makes it lasts 6 hours (the amount of DEET in a product correlates with how long it lasts²).
So what is DEET? We’ve likely all heard that it is not safe, but why?² ³
The science behind DEET is actually kinda neat. DEET works by confusing mosquitoes’ odor receptors by creating an aromatic barrier making it difficult for the flying vampires to land on us and bite.² ³ So, it doesn’t kill the bugs, it just confuses them so they leave you alone (personally, I’d be fine if the bugs died, but I’m sure it’s environmentally important that we have them…). Great concept.
If only this synthetic chemical didn’t have side effects including rash and other skin irritations, numb or burning lips (my lips have definitely gone numb when I accidentally touched my mouth without washing my hands after applying bug spray), nausea, headaches (the smell alone gives me a headache), dizziness, and difficulty concentrating.³
From 1961 to 2002, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported eight DEET related deaths. Three from deliberate ingestion, and five from DEET exposure in both adults and children.³ Eight deaths over 41 years may not seem like a lot, but why risk it? It seems like kids are the most sensitive to the effects of DEET resulting in headaches, tremors, lethargy, seizures, involuntary movements, and convulsions. Prolonged use may also be linked with brain deficits.³
In addition to the possible side effects listed above, more serious side effects are possible as well:³
Negative impact on the nervous system
Muscle and joint pain
Shortness of breath
All of this, and yet Americans use about 6 million pounds of it per year.³
That is the only active ingredient in this Off! insect repellent, but they have several scary inactive ingredients.† Such as:
Fragrance – the list of chemicals in the “fragrance” alone are a lot to list, but eight of them are listed on SC Johnson’s list of skin allergens. Most “fragrances” are known estrogen disruptions and carcinogens.
Butane – can cause gastrointestinal issues including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Prolonged exposure can cause sudden collapse, coma, respiratory failure, liver and kidney failure, and even death.
Propane – yes you read that correctly; Propane! VERY toxic to inhale. It can cause hypoxia, which is a form of oxygen deprivation that can lead to death. Plus, as we all know, it’s highly flammable. Stay away from open flames, lighters, and torches if using.
Isobutane – extremely flammable and an explosive. Breathing it in can cause shortness of breath and suffocation. If used during cold weather, it can increase your risk of frostbite.
Ethanol – highly flammable. Consuming can result in a coma and even death.
Isopropyl Myristate – while not considered dangerous, it can cause skin irritation, clogged pores, and acne inflammation.
Dimethicone – although it is used to soften the skin, prolonged use can cause skin and eye irritations
Can you believe that?! I knew bug spray was flammable, but seeing Propane as an ingredient really surprised and disgusted me! Plus so many of these ingredients can cause skin irritations yet this is something meant for your skin! Am I the only one baffled at what the FDA allows us to put on our skin, breathe, and ingest?!
If you have this product lying around the house, you definitely want to keep it out of reach of children as ingesting this insect repellent can lead to serious illnesses and even death. Also, don’t use it if you’re going to be around flames. So, if you’re grilling, at a bon fire, smoking (which I am not advocating), lighting candles, around tiki torches, or anything else involving fire, don’t put on this “bug dope” (as my Granddaddy calls it). It’s better to get bitten by a couple of mosquitoes than it is to burst into flames.
“But, Katie Sue, some mosquitoes carry terrible diseases! How I can protect my family without using something toxic?”
Well, I’m glad you asked! Young Living makes a 100% natural insect repellent! Off! brand says it keeps mosquitoes away, but Young Living’s says it keeps ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes away!‡ It’s a powerhouse!
Young Living Insect Repellent‡
Combining essential oils such as Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Geranium, Spearmint, Thyme, and Clove with soft Sesame oil and Vitamin E‡ it is the best way to enjoy your time outside without pesky bugs flying around (while also not worrying about bursting into flames or toxic ingredients being absorbed into your blood stream)!
It is formulated without DEET, parabens, fillers, phthalates, petrochemicals, animal-derived ingredients, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, or synthetic colorants.‡
It rubs easily into skin without being greasy or sticky.‡
It is dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic.‡
I LOVE this insect repellent and take it to every outdoor gathering – it’s a must have! It is very effective, smells wonderful, and is completely safe.* I can apply it and not be bothered by bugs the whole time I am outside. Plus, it is actually beneficial to your skin, and will leave it feeling so soft!
I told you this post was a little scary, but I’m so glad and thankful we have a safe, effective alternative we can use! Do you have this awesome bug dope yet? If not, you can get yours here.
Thank you for learning with me!
Striving for wellness and a chemical-free life, one oil at a time.
¹Basic information for Off! FamilySafe Insect Repellent | Smooth and Dry was found on their website.
²Some information on DEET was found of OFF!’s information page.
³Additional information on DEET was found here.
†The ingredients list for Off! FamilySafe Insect Repellent | Smooth and Dry was found on the “What’s Inside SC Johnson” product page.
‡Information on Young Living’s Insect Repellent was found their product page.
*As always, when using Essential Oils, you want to avoid eye contact. When using with children, do not apply insect repellent or essential oils to their hands in order to protect their eyes from accidentally being rubbed by oiled-up hands.