California Baby Bug Blend Collection: Send the Skeeters Scurrying!

07/16/2009 at 10:00 AM ET

Even though it’s the most effective at deterring mosquitoes and other nasty bugs, I’m adamant about not using bug repellent products that contain DEET (it’s been shown to cause neurological damage when absorbed int the bloodstream which it obviously is when applied to the skin). With that in mind, I checked out California Baby’s new Bug Blend Collection which uses natural repellents like lemon eucalyptus, citronella, cedarwood atlas and lemongrass to send the skeeters scurrying!

The Citronella Summer Lotion ($13.50/6.5 oz.) and Citronella Bug Repellant Spray ($13.50/6.5 oz and $4.15/2 oz) both contain natural ingredients like lemon eucalyptus, plus California Baby’s own “Citronella Bug Blend” which includes citronella, cedarwood atlas and lemongrass, to natural deter mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and biting flies, plus Vitamin E, organic aloe vera and yucca to soothe itchiness and heal the bites you and your kids may have gotten prior to using the lotion or spray. Because of their ingredients, they have that telltale citronella scent which may be repellent to you — I personally cannot stand the scent of citronella candles — but it’s on the mild side and the lemongrass makes it more citrusy while the lemon eucalyptus gives it a slightly herbal scent. Also, as the company points out, natural citronella has a much more pleasant scent than the synthetic stuff. The lotion is very light and not sticky; the spray also goes on lightly and is good if you don’t want to get it on your hands when you apply it.

If you’re looking for a combination sun/bug protection product, try the SPF 30+ Sunscreen Citronella Bug Blend ($20/2.9 oz). In addition to the natural bug repellents in the Repellent Lotion and Spray, the Sunscreen also provides protection from UVA and UVB rays using the physical sunblock agent titanium dioxide. Since it’s not a chemical sunscreen, it’s safe to use with babies under six months old but as always, ask your pediatrician. It’s highly water-resistant, meaning it withstands exposure to water or perspiration up to 80 minutes after application (no sunscreen is 100% waterproof). It’s pricey but it also saves you the extra step of applying a second product plus the ingredients are non-toxic.

Other bonuses about California Baby products (and part of why the prices are higher than drugstore products) are that the ingredients are organic, not tested on animals (they carry the PETA Cruelty-Free seal), and are gluten-, soy-, oat- and dairy-free (which may be important to some people). In general, their products are extremely gentle and have mild and pleasant scents.

— Danielle

A note about DEET: While DEET is extremely effective at repelling mosquitoes and ticks, its toxicity is a controversial subject in the United States. I think it’s pretty telling that it’s been banned in Canada and Europe.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says exposure to DEET is ok as long as it’s not long-term, but doesn’t define “long-term.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it should not be used on babies under two months old and recommends no more than one application per day; keep in mind that, according to, a high 30% concentration needs to be reapplied after 4-5 hours.

It’s also quite telling that the EPA advises you wash your skin with soap and water after returning indoors and washing your clothes before wearing them again.

For the EPA’s advice on DEET and safer active ingredient alternatives, read their sheet on “Active Ingredients found in Insect Repellents.”

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Showing 9 comments

Calimom on

Thank you so much for reviewing this product. I try to be aware of the impact that products have on my children AND the enviroment. Bug spray was a huge area of concern for me and now I have a solution. Thanks again CBB.

MiMom on

I have the SPF 30+ with citronella product and did not find it to be very effective as far as sunscreen goes. Since we used it during the day when mosquitos are less likely to be out in full force I am not sure how effective it is as a bug repellant. Just thought I would share my experience.

MZ on

Thanks for reviewing this! Is it safe for kids under 6 months old, then? My 5 month old and I are going to visit my mom in the heart of mosquito country and I want to make sure he’s protected, but don’t want DEET going near him.

brook on

kids need stronger than 30 spf sunscreen for midday sun.

Danielle on

@brook, Actually, studies show that SPFs over 30 aren’t that much more protective. High SPFs are merely a marketing ploy that raise the price of product. The best thing is to reapply after a period, especially when your kid is sweating or wet, even if the sunscreen is “waterproof.”

brook on

As a mother with skin cancer, I am merely going on the advice of my doctors..take it for what its worth

Brittany on

I use these products on myself.

The bugspray is effective, but I’ve found that depending on how thick the bugs are (such as camping in the backwoods of Maine) it does need to be reappiled every 30 minutes to 2 hours.

The sunscreen is great…used it most recently for a long weekend oceanside camping and despite being in and out of the water all day I only needed to reapply once. It is VERY water resistant!

Brielle on

I live in Miami Beach and bought this bug repellent spray for my 11 month old daughter. I agree that it smells great and goes on easily, but it is not at all effective in keeping away the very aggressive mosquitoes that we have here in this tropical jungle! I’m not sure what’s worse – a bugspray such as Off! Skintastic for kids which has less than 5% DEET, or zillions of mosquito bites.

MZ on

brook is right, at least for cancer survivors. my mother’s oncologist said she needs to wear SPF 75 if she is going to be out in the sun. however, for people without a history of cancer, or who aren’t on meds that make them sensitive to the sun, my doc told me SPF 30 or 50 should suffice.

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