best insect repellent has
- Long-lasting protection. Unless you only plan on being outside for a few hours, and
aren't in an area heavily infested with ticks and mosquitoes, consider buying a
longer lasting bug repellent so that you don't have to constantly reapply.
- Slow-release formula. When comparing products with the same active ingredient,
you can expect a highly concentrated product or slow-release formula to last
longer. Keep in mind, products containing more than a 30 percent concentration
of DEET aren't recommended for children, and experts say even natural products
with oil of lemon eucalyptus aren't recommended for children under 3 years old.
- Light formulas and scents. Scent and texture are important considerations, though
unfortunately most of the powerful insect repellent formulas (like DEET
products, and most oil of lemon eucalyptus) will have a strong smell or feel
sticky. Try to test a product before using it.
before you go
Do you need wide-ranging
or targeted bug protection? Depending on
the ingredient, some types of insect repellents protect against certain insects
better than others, last for a longer duration, or can cause damage to other
materials that you touch while they're on your skin. If you're heading to a
tick-prone area, get a product that is effective against Lyme disease; if
you're going on safari, a DEET-based mosquito repellent to protect you from
malaria is probably your best bet.
lotion or wipe? Sprays are easy to apply, but may
require reapplying more frequently because they evaporate faster than lotions.
Sprays can also be used on clothing, but should not be aimed at the face
because they can irritate the eyes (instead, spray repellent on your palms, and
then rub it into your face). Applying wipes or lotions can leave a greasy feel
on the palms of the hands.
scent important to you? Most bug
repellents have a scent, some are more tolerable than others. Before buying,
get a good whiff of the repellent to see if it's something you can stand to
wear for several hours
the active ingredient? When choosing a
mosquito repellent, consider the primary active ingredient. Most pesticides
used in bug repellents are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency,
including DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
you buying for children of different ages? Your first thought might be to go for the natural repellent when
looking for something for a baby, but not all repellents (natural or not) are
recommended for small children. Make sure the repellent you go for is suitable
for all family members.
- Use caution when applying bug repellent to
children. Wait until an infant is 2 months old before
applying a DEET product, and never use a concentration of higher than 30
percent. Oil of lemon
eucalyptus isn't recommended for children younger than 3 years old. Don't
apply repellent to children's hands because they may put their fingers in
their mouth or rub their eyes.
- Don't spray aerosols in an enclosed area or near
the face. Instead, spray the bug repellent in a
well-ventilated area onto your hands, and then rub it gently onto the face
(avoiding areas near your eyes).
- Test any new bug repellent on a small area of
skin first. The inside of the elbow is a good testing
- Only apply to exposed skin, not
underneath clothing. The ingredients in some bug repellents may damage synthetic fabrics.
- Don't apply insect repellents
over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Apply sunscreen before using bug
repellent. A 2004 study conducted by University of Florida researchers
determined that using DEET combined with sunscreen could increase DEET's
skin absorption. If you need both sun protection and bug repellent,
reviews say you should apply sunscreen first, wait for it to dry, then
apply repellent. For sunscreen suggestions, see our separate report on sunscreens.
DEET-treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors. Remove and wash treated clothing as