What are the Best Insect Repellents for Mosquitoes, Ticks, Gnats and Other Insects?
There are so many brands of insect repellent* (bug spray) on the market that it’s difficult to know which one is the best, or if there is even a difference. (Answer: “Yes, there is!”.) In fact, some products are simply ineffective.
When you are trying to protect yourself from insect-borne diseases such as Zika, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus, you want to make sure you use the most effective repellent available.
When reading the list of insects that a bug spray will “protect” you from, keep in mind that the level of protection varies greatly – for example – “Does Skin So Soft Bug Guard plus Picaridin work as well as Deep Woods Off against mosquitoes?”
Answer: Not in our experience – it’s not even close.
The two most important things to pay attention to when choosing an insect repellent are:
- The active ingredient and
- The concentration of the active ingredient.
The Active Ingredient is the part of the bug spray that keeps insects away from you. The concentration tells you how much of the active ingredient is in the insect repellent – shown as a percentage.
The insect repellents we recommend include one of the following Active Ingredients, with the noted concentration:
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (O.L.E.) – with a 30% concentration
- Products containing DEET – Minimum of 25% concentration (and no more than 30% concentration for children*). Maximum of 50% (there is no additional benefit over 50% concentration). Some studies show no additional benefit over 30% concentration of DEET.
- Picaridin – 20% concentration. We recommend using the spray-on formulation. The wipes and lotions that use Picaridin did not work as well as the spray.
Don’t Make this Mistake When Buying Insect Repellent!
I recently saw a bottle containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (O.L.E.) that claimed to work well against mosquitoes. However, the percentage of the O.L.E. was only 3%. For O.L.E. to be effective against mosquitoes, it should have at least a 30% concentration. Relying on a product with only a 3% concentration will provided disappointing results. O.L.E. is a very good product, but it needs to be used with the right concentration.
*Check with a doctor before using any insect repellent on a child. Never use these products at all on babies younger than 3 months old. Check with your veterinarian to find out what products are safe for you pets. Remember to follow all product label instructions.
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