Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture's Research Service posted a bulletin with a surprising headline: Coconut Oil Compounds Repel Insects Better than DEET. This announcement followed the results from a study by USDA researchers published in the journal Scientific Reports, stating that fatty acids derived from coconut oil had long-lasting repellency against certain insects—an even better effect than the most widely-used insect repellent in the world.
DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active liquid ingredient in a variety of bug-repellent sprays, lotions, sticks, roll-ons and other consumer products. According to the EPA, as many as one-third of the US-population routinely applies DEET products, with concentrations of the chemical ranging from as low as 5% to as high as 99%. Developed in the 1940s by the US Army to protect soldiers in bug-infested areas, DEET was first introduced to consumer markets in the late-1950s and is currently listed with the EPA as a key ingredient in around 120 products.