Natural Bug Spray Options

Take a Hike Outdoor Joose


You want to play outside all summer, but how do you avoid mosquito- and tick-bourne disease? You need to deter those bugs somehow.

Don’t Breed Bugs

Start with the cause: the fact that the bugs breed in numbers. Don’t give them fertile ground—or water.

Do not leave standing water in your yard. After rain, empty plant saucers, shake out pool covers, clean the bird bath, and keep your yard either free from water that can breed mosquitos or keep any water in your yard clean.

Create a Physical Barrier

In order to bite you, the bugs need to get to you. So, create barriers. When you are inside with open windows, make sure the window screens have no holes. When you are outside, wear long sleeves and long pants. Keep your shirt tucked.

Even ankle to wrist coverage outside won’t keep the bugs away completely. You will still need some kind of insect repellent to stay bug free.

That is where the trouble begins.

Health Canada and Natural Bug Sprays

If you look at Health Canada’s recommendations for insect repellents, you will notice that there are none of the familiar brands of natural bug sprays.

And, here is where you find the sad tale of how Health Canada killed DEET-free, natural bug sprays like we have been using and selling for years.

Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic books available at, explained what was essentially a ban on natural bug spray last year. It is still possible to get approval for some ingredients, but few manufacturers can afford the testing. The fact that they have no testing doesn’t mean the products are unsafe, but it does mean they can’t sell anything they call “insect repellent” or “bug spray” or “outdoor spray.” For the full story, read her TorontoNow column “Black Bug Down: How Health Canada Buzzed Natural Insect Repellents off the Shelves.”

Amusing in a very discouraging kind of way is the fact that the ingredients that will deter bugs naturally are still fine to include in many other cosmetics. So, you could search in other cosmetics for those ingredients known to deter bugs, if you can get anyone reliable to tell you what the ingredients are.

Doesn’t that seem like an ineffective way to keep your kids bug free? Yeah. I thought so, too.

Sure, there are still plenty of bug sprays in the stores that include synthetic neurotoxins like DEET, but we find that most eco-aware parents avoid these.

Your new options are:

  1. put DEET insect repellents on clothes only;
  2. make your own bug spray or lotion; or
  3. buy one of the few natural bug sprays left, if you can find any.

I don’t think #1 is a good option, since you are still exposing your child to DEET.

I wouldn’t recommend #2 either, since there is too much misinformation surrounding essential oils. It’s confusing to non-professionals to hear self-appointed professionals giving contradictory advice. Don’t make your own unless you start with a trusted source—a professional herbalist with more than just a degree in Google search or a one-day multi-level-marketing sales pitch.

So, we’re left with buying whatever natural insect repellent you can find.

Take a Hike! Outdoor Joose

At, we usually have several options. Our favorite that is still on the market is Take a Hike Outdoor Joose. This is the bug spray Naturemom and her family use when they go back country camping and canoeing. It comes family size (250ml) and travel size (125ml).

  • Handmade by herbalists.
  • Safe for daily use.
  • Safe to re-apply throughout the day.
  • Essential oils recognized by Health Canada as safe alternatives to DEET.
  • Not sticky! 25% aloe vera mix in a witch hazel base.

Ingredients: Witch hazel extract, Distilled water, Aloe vera juice, Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lemongrass & Lemon Eucalyptus.

All bug sprays have cautions. We like that these cautions are few and easy to follow.

  • Avoid eyes.
  • For babies under 12 months, spray on clothing or carrier.
  • Spray on your dog’s coat, but avoid face and eyes.

Maybe next year we will have more options for you. For now, we are happy to give you the natural bug spray that we love.

Dry Skin Getting You Down?

Woman in the snow


It’s the same story every winter. I am surprised to see that my skin is peeling. I see skin flakes all over my black socks. (Gross, I know.) Even my eyebrows start flaking, and I have to clean skin off my glasses. You get the sad picture. I look like a face-peeling zombie. I dry up in the winter.

If you are suffering dry winter skin like I am—or, I hope, not quite so much as I am—take a few steps to care for yourself to avoid the worst of it.

Why Is Your Skin Dry Now?

In the winter, the humidity is low outside and even lower inside, if you use dry heat. The normal moisture of your glowing summer skin is being sucked away.

Also, as you get older or as your hormones change, your skin can change. If you have noticed a difference lately, it’s possible this is your new normal.

This is part of the normal cycle of the year.

Steps to Keep Your Skin Moist in the Winter

Remove as little of your own natural skin moisture as possible.

  • Use a mild cleanser. You might want to switch to a milder soap just for winter, if you already have a cleanser that works well for you in the summer.
  • Pat your skin with a towel rather than rubbing.
  • Avoid long exposure to hot water. If you hands are all cracked and dry, use this as a good reason to have a family member help with the dishes.

Use natural moisturizers.

I’ve written before about the ingredients to look for and avoid in moisturizing cosmetics.

  • If the lotion you have been using feels waxy or greasy, switch. The same moisturizers that work for me might not work well for you if we have different type of skin and we’re dealing with different weather.
  • One of my favorite lotion tips: apply body lotion when your skin is still slightly damp.

Make it easy to remember.

When do you think about how dry your skin is? If just before you go to bed, put lotion on your nightstand. I think about it during homeschool, while my children are reading and my hands are idle. I look at them and feel how dry they are, so I reach for the lotion that I keep on the table next to where I sit. Wherever you are most likely to have the thought and the time, keep your lotion there.

Use heavy duty treatment when your daily routine isn’t enough.

Every few days, I just have to use oil on my face. I use mild facial cleanser then oil. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to cover one’s face with oil, but it is the only way I can keep my skin from peeling.

When I was growing up, at night my mother would cover my hands in lotion and put cotton socks over my hands to keep the lotion from rubbing off. It worked, but I have managed to avoid this by using lotion daily, morning and night.

How heavy your treatment needs to be depends on how bad your problem is.

Either avoid wind and water or create a barrier.

Wind won’t just kiss your face—it will bite your face and suck out the moisture. Hot water will remove natural oils and leave your skin tight and uncomfortable until it cracks or peels.

Sound bad? Just create a barrier. Wear a mask when you are out in the wind. Don’t use hot water to wash your face. So simple!

You won’t just avoid one winter of tight, dry skin. You will avoid premature aging caused by overexposure to the elements.

If you are more hearty than I am, I’m very happy for you. My very pale, very sensitive skin just can’t handle the outdoors in winter without a lot of help, so avoidance is my first line of defense.

What Moisturizers Do We Use?

Anointment petit fours soap

Our favorites are two made in Canada brands: Anointment and Cocoon Apothecary. staff members love Anointment skin care products like the handmade soap, lip balm, and ointment. If you haven’t tried it before, start with the gift set of mini soaps, Anointment Petit Fours, to find a scent that you will enjoy.

I am still in love with Cocoon Apothecary. I use Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream when I’m going out. It is thick and rich without being greasy or leaving any kind of film. It absorbs into my skin really well. When I’m staying in, I use Rosehip Oil Facial Serum, which is a golden oil that definitely does not work into the skin all of the way. I rub it in some then let it work its way in over the day. I also use Magic Bean Body Lotion (which smells like sweet cocoa) for my hands and body.

My husband uses a heavy duty hemp lotion on this hands in the winter because his normally soft skin just dries and cracks, leaving his knuckles looking like he’s just been punching trees for sport. I find the lotion too strong and too thick for me, but he is very happy with it. You might need more than one solution for your family.

When I was in bootmaking school, working hard with my hands all day, cutting myself accidentally and often, and washing my hands over and over, my teacher had all of the students rub tea tree oil on our hands at the end of each day. That was my introduction to tea tree oil. I was amazed how quickly my cuts healed. If your hands are so dry that they are cracked or bleeding, tea tree oil or a moisturizer with tea tree oil can help speed the healing process.

Bundle up out there so the wind can’t whip you around.

Image ©  |

I Am Loving Cocoon Apothecary – Review

Woman looking at rose hips

Natural skincare products are the clear choice, but which ones? To save you trying a bunch of different brands, I want to tell you about Cocoon Apothecary.

Yesterday I spent the evening with a friend I haven’t seen much for a while. When I mentioned my upcoming birthday, she said, “I want to say something, but I don’t want to offend. I just need to ask. You look younger than last time I saw you. How is that possible?”

Wow. How could that possibly offend? I came up with two possibilities: I’ve been working out, and I’ve started using a new line of skincare products. She said, “It’s your skin. Tell me about these products.” So, together we looked up Cocoon Apothecary, and she made me show her the exact products I’m using.

I have noticed a difference. I knew I was going to be writing about it this morning, so I’ve been asking myself each day what I think of each step in my skincare routine. That my friend said what she did yesterday is just happy coincidence, and it convinces me that what I’m seeing isn’t just my own wishful thinking. My skin is smooth and not dry even a full day after applying Cocoon products.

After writing about Cocoon Apothecary and my dry skin a few months ago, Nature Mom sent me samples to try. I wanted to follow up with a review of the products.

I’ve been using Jason Natural C-Effects products for years, and I do quite like them. This is specifically an “anti-aging” line. Do you see where I’m going with this? No one ever told me how young I looked when I used Jason. I haven’t loved the changes to their formulas, but I’ve kept using it. I used to love the smell, but it’s far more chemical now. Still, it worked better with my skin than other products I tried. But, this last winter I had terribly dry skin. Nothing worked to keep it from getting flaky. I resorted to using straight olive oil on my skin for most of the winter.

Until I tried Cocoon Apothecary.

Reading about Cocoon for the March “Winter Dry Skin” post, I just loved their philosophy and their open list of natural ingredients. Now that I’ve tried the products for a while, I love the products as well as the philosophy.

Petal Purity Facial Cleanser

This is my least favorite, because my skin doesn’t feel clean when I use this. It is applied on dry skin then rinsed off. I think I’m using it right, but I just don’t feel clean afterward. I have continued to use my Body Shop soap. I won’t be buying more of this. It was just the product that came in the sample, so I plan to try a different Cocoon Apothecary cleanser.

Rose Dew Facial Toner

After cleaning my skin, I just close my eyes and spritz this on. I go about my business for a few minutes, and the toner has done its work. It tightens without drying, which is a big help when drying is my biggest issue. No more rubbing on. I love that. The smell is rosey. More on that below.

Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream

My favorite product is the moisturizer. My goal is always to find lotion and other moisturizers that give a lot of moisture without leaving a greasy feeling or a waxy film. I get neither with this cream. It is thick, but it absorbs completely without leaving any unpleasant feel.

My one problem is the smell of both the Rose Dew Facial Toner and the Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream. They smell like roses. Some deep down memory tells me that roses smell like old women and funerals. When I’m using anti-aging skin products anyway, the last thing I want is to smell like someone’s grandmother. I asked my family if I smell like roses generally, and they said no. I made each of my children smell my face very closely after I had applied the facial cream about 8 hours before, and they did say they smell roses, but that it is faint. It’s a strong smell when it goes on. I miss the creamsicle smell of Jason, but I’m willing to give it up when my friends tell me I look younger than I did years before.

The most important difference I see between my old skincare products and my new favorites is that one just replaces moisture and the other also nourishes the skin. The Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream includes Rosehip Oil (trans-retinoic acid, which is likely one of the reasons for my younger-looking skin), Rose Absolute (not vodka but an antioxidant), Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, and Green Tea Oil. Intellectually, sure I know this is going to help, but seeing the change is still surprising.

Big thanks to Nature Mom for the Cocoon Apothecary Starter Kit. I’m hooked, and I’m planning my big order for more. I will be trying Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum. I’m actually excited about it. I’m not one to talk about cosmetics usually, but these cosmetics are different. If you are looking for not just natural ingredients but a nourishing skin care routine, try Cocoon Apothecary. Plus, they are Made in Canada, and I know that matters to a lot of our customers.

Image © Cynoclub |

Wind-whipped Winter Dry Skin Cured Naturally

Woman in Winter Wind

Is your skin so dry this winter that it itches, flakes, or just hurts? You can lessen the desiccating effects of winter, but you probably still need to find a natural moisturizer to keep your dry skin soft and healthy.

My skin is so dry this winter that I feel like a fish stretched out to freeze dry in the wind. No amount of my regular lotion is helping. The backs of my hands feel sandpapery. Every winter my husband’s hands get so dry that the skin hardens and splits, leaving him with bleeding sores. We live in the high, snowy desert, so it happens every year, but this is a particularly dry and drying year. Age does make dry skin worse for a lot of people, so maybe this is finally age catching up with me.

So, I’ve been looking for the best, fastest, most natural solution to my dry skin.

Even if your weather isn’t harsh, you may be feeling that combination of winter drying with pregnancy tightness, leaving you scratching until it hurts, then waking up at night to scratch some more.

Just change your winter routine a little and look for a natural moisturizer that won’t cause more damage than the wind alone.

Why Winter Is Tough on Your Skin

In the winter, both temperature and humidity fall. Central heating or a wood-burning fireplace can lower the humidity even more. A long, hot shower feels good in the moment, but it ultimately makes the dry, tight feeling of your skin even worse, especially if you use a harsh soap that strips your skin of moisture then rub yourself hard with a towel when you are done. Stop all of this, and you may notice less dryness in your skin.

Inside the house, you could use a humidifier to keep humidity at about 50%. When you go outside, you could cover up your face and hands to protect them from moisture sucking wind.

You will probably still need to supplement these winter adjustments with moisturizing cosmetics. That brings up the big issue of finding natural cosmetics that don’t do more harm than good.

Natural Cosmetics for Dry Skin

There are several things you want cosmetics to do for your dry skin:

  1. Replace moisture
  2. Nourish skin
  3. Create a barrier between skin and drying elements

As I wrote last week about natural deodorants, there are some ingredients to avoid in general. Among common toxic ingredients used in cosmetics, these include parabens, fragrance, and petrolatum.

Look for natural products with shea butter, avocado oil, sunflower oil, and other plant-derived ingredients. We have collected a few natural cosmetic products for adults, and we want to tell you about one of our favorites.

Cocoon Apothecary

We choose all of our products carefully, and we let you know with our Safe Family Promise icons who stands out in the crowd. Cocoon Apothecary stand out as non-toxic and sustainable products handmade by an ethical company. And, they are Made in Canada.

We love that they are signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics by the Environmental Working Group. We mention the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database often. All of the Cocoon Apothecary products listed below get a toxicity rating of 0 in the database. They actively avoid toxic ingredients, and the ingredients they do use are high quality, almost all organic.

We love that ingredients for each formula are very carefully chosen for their nourishing qualities.

If your skin is especially dry this winter, your best choice for healthy skin is Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream as a moisturizer and Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum to rejuvenate. If your skin is a little oily, but you still want to try Cocoon Apothecary, use Orange Blossom Facial Cream as a moisturizer and Argan Oil Facial Scrum to rejuvenate.

For Driest Skin (Winter)
Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream
Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Rosehip Oil Contains trans-retinoic acid (extremely rejuvenating retinoid),vitamin E, and essential fatty acids.
  • Shea Butter Contains vitamin A, vitamin E, allantoin, phytosterols, oleic acid and antioxidants.
  • Rose Absolute Soothing, cooling and full of antioxidants.
  • Avocado Oil Contains phytosterols, vitamins and minerals.
  • Camellia (Green Tea) Oil Light emollient with polyphenol antioxidants.

Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum
Rosehip Oil Facial Serum from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Rosehip Oil Contains trans-retinoic acid (extremely rejuvenating retinoid),vitamin E, and essential fatty acids.

For Less Dry Skin (Summer)
Orange Blossom Facial Cream
Orange Blossom Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Argan Oil A dry oil that has high levels of vitamin E.
  • Sunflower Oil Contains high levels of oleic acid (omega 9), vitamin E and minerals.
  • Neroli Essential Oil Regulates oiliness and minimizes pores.

Argan Oil Facial Scrum
Argan Oil skin and Hair Serum from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Argan Oil A dry oil that has high levels of vitamin E.

Image © Jura Vikulin |

Natural Deodorant That Works

Woman applying deodorant

Have you heard that some deodorants have ingredients that put your long-term health at risk? It’s easy to avoid nasty side effects and choose a natural deodorant that works well when you understand how sweat and odor work.

Your underarms have a large concentration of sweat glands. When you work hard or get stressed, you sweat all over, but you probably notice it first under your arms. Sweating cools and detoxifies the body. Blocking the pores with antiperspirants so we don’t sweat robs our body of this natural process.

Then there is the smell. We begin to smell when bacteria feed on sweat. To avoid body odor, kill the bacteria before fermentation begins. A deodorant prevents the smell only.

Go natural for natural’s sake. Go natural because the alternatives can harm us. Or, go natural because it works. Whatever your reasons, you need to know the desired result, ingredients to avoid, and ingredients to accept.

Ingredients to Avoid

As with far too many mainstream cosmetics, there are ingredients in many antiperspirants and deodorants that can harm us.

  • Aluminum is a metal used to block the pores to prevent sweating, and it is absorbed through the skin, contributing to your chemical body burden. This is the active ingredient in many antiperspirants. Unfortunately, it has been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Paraben is a synthetic preservative that is absorbed into the body and acts as a hormone disruptor.
  • Propylene glycol is a petroleum product used for consistency. It makes a product glide onto the skin, but it is suspected to cause damage to the central nervous system.
  • Phthalates are plastic softeners, another petroleum product used for consistency. You may remember that all children’s products in the U.S. must now be certified phthalate-free, but adult products—including cosmetics and medical products—can still contain phthalates.
  • Triclosan is a pesticide and probable carcinogen that kills odor. This is the same ingredient as in antibacterial soaps and gels. Because of the known issues, many companies have removed this ingredient from antiperspirants and deodorants.
  • Synthetic fragrances can be hormone disruptors.

Beyond the harmful ingredients you should also look out for irritating and allergenic ingredients.

Ingredients to Accept

Once you know exactly what the job is that needs to be done, it’s not so difficult to find natural ingredients that will help. Look for natural bacteria inhibitors, bacteria killers, and skin soothers.

  • Mineral salts in crystal deodorants keep bacteria from growing on your skin, so they prevent smell.
  • Some essential oils have antibacterial properties. Kill the bacteria, and you avoid the smell.
  • Witch hazel is a soothing substitute if you are sensitive to alcohol. Both witch hazel and alcohol are astringents that shrink the pores.
  • Aloe vera is another skin soothing ingredient for those with sensitive skin.

Choose a Deodorant

Your current deodorant. Start by evaluating the product you are currently using. Look it up in the Skin Deep cosmetics database. Zero marks the cleanest of clean, and 10 marks the highest hazard products. I looked up my deodorant, and I was relieved to find that it is considered low hazard with an ingredient score of 2.

Natural deodorant. At we carry Lafes Natural Organic Deodorant Spray in lavender scent. This gets a rating of 1 in the Skin Deep database. There are many products in the low hazard range, including several with a rating of 0.

Nothing at all! Another alternative is just to go bare. You don’t need a database to tell you that the lowest exposure to hazards is no exposure at all. My husband has never used deodorant or antiperspirant. He’s fortunate to be a fairly dry person, so he just showers every 2-3 days. Not everyone can get away with this in a society where extreme cleanliness is expected, but it is an option.

There are many natural deodorants that work well. You can find one at a price within your budget that doesn’t put you and your health at risk.

Image © Irina Brinza |