We looked at the hard evidence to see if coconut oil or its derivatives were effective as a natural mosquito repellent and/or mosquito killer.
Summary of Scientific Research
Coconut oil is a widely-available edible oil that derives from the meat of coconuts, themselves the fruit of the coconut palm tree (though the coconut is categorically a drupe). Coconut oil already possesses a wide variety of applications, from cooking to energy production. Current research shows that “mosquito repellant” could be among those practical uses, though its standalone effectiveness has not been conclusively demonstrated in lab or field testing.
As it stands, coconut oil is often used either as an emulsion (that is, to apply an essential oil with known insect repellant qualities to a user’s skin) or as an ingredient in a more complex insect repellant solution (such as “Bite Blocker” brand sprays, which use coconut oil as well glycerin, lecithin, vanillin, geranium, and soybean oil). That is not to say that this latter method is without its own productivity, with one solution providing blocking ratings comparable to DEET-based sprays for around 7 hours (1).
Those few studies conducted on coconut oil alone don’t hold the most promising results overall. One 2002 study, for example, found coconut oil (as well as palm nut oil) to be far less effective than DEET when applied as a dermal pomade (2).
Even so, this and other similar studies concluded that even though coconut oil was not an effective mosquito deterrent in its own right, it held potential for use in the insecticide field its ability to cheaply and efficiently carry an active insect repellant across a broad surface (such as human skin). Coconut oil’s high saturated fat content causes it to evaporate slowly, allowing even volatile essential oils to remain productively effective for longer when exposed to air (3).
On its own, coconut oil does not pose any noteworthy safety risk beyond its high saturated fat content, which may be harmful to personal health if ingested regularly. However, emulsions or pomades made from coconut oil and an essential oil may cause dermal irritation, depending on the concentration of active ingredients in the final solution.
Those looking for a one-ingredient natural mosquito repellant option will have to look elsewhere because the current body of research on the topic shows that coconut oil cannot perform alone. That being said, few other fat-based oils hold as much versatility as coconut oil when it comes to providing a safe vector for active ingredient application. The fats in coconut oil are less likely to denature these active ingredients, making it a great option when compared to water-based dilution.
Broadly speaking, individuals looking for a safe and effective method of applying their favorite essential oil-based insect repellant should keep a jar of coconut oil readily available. Alternatively, spray-based insect repellants that include coconut oil are also available to provide a similar degree of convenience.
Coconut Oil Forms and Where to Get it
- Coconuts and Palm Trees– Coconuts proper derive from the coconut palm tree, a native of tropical and subtropical regions. While these trees can be grown from saplings in these regions, those looking to acquire this oil from scratch can do so from coconuts bought in store or online. Several methods are available for procuring this drupe’s oil, including wet, dry, and hydrogenated processes.
- Hydrogenated Oil – Those using coconut oil for mixing with an essential oil to make a dermal pomade should the oil’s hydrogenated variant. This fatty white substance is available in jars in store or online. This form tends to carry a respectable shelf life and can be used for other purposes including cooking and baking.
- Sprays with Coconut Oil – Some commercial insect repellant sprays also contain coconut oil. Despite its noted ineffectiveness alone, this oil’s use in conjunction with other active ingredients has been anecdotally accepted. One brand of this spray, Bite Blocker, can be readily purchased online.
1 – Barnard DR, Xue RD. Laboratory evaluation of mosquito repellents against Aedes albopictus, Culex nigripalpus, and Ochierotatus triseriatus (Diptera: Culicidae) J Med Entomol. 2004;41:726–730. doi: 10.1603/0022-2585-41.4.726
2 – Konan YL, Sylla MS, Doannio JM, Traoré S. Comparison of the effect of two excipients (karite nut butter and vaseline) on the efficacy of Cocos nucifera, Elaeis guineensis and Carapa procera oil-based repellents formulations against mosquitoes biting in Ivory Coast. Parasite. 2003;10:181–184.
Other Household Items as Mosquito Repellents
Checkout our analysis of other household items as natural mosquito repellents: