Spending time outdoors means usually coming into contact with bugs. Finding the best mosquito repellent lotions that protect you from itchy bites, but also insect-borne diseases like Zika and Lyme, is key to safely and comfortably enjoying the great outdoors. Choosing a lotion over spray formulas gives you better control during applications, allowing you to more precisely protect exposed skin from insects without inhaling active ingredients.
That said, not all insect repellents are equally effective in fighting off bugs and the diseases they can carry. There are four common active ingredients you'll find in most repellents (DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), but for lotions specifically, you're really choosing between DEET and picaridin. Both have pros and cons.
Active Ingredients, Decoded
- DEET: Long considered the most effective insect repellent ingredient, DEET is used to deter a range of mosquitos, ticks, and other bugs and is one worth considering if you are spending time in a heavily wooded area. While it's considered safe when used as directed, for those seeking a less potent, more natural option for themselves or their children, DEET might not be the best pick. With that said, children older than 2 months old can safely use DEET, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Picaridin: This synthetic compound is as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitos, ticks, and other insects, and was found to have low toxicity concerns. Picaridin evaporates from the skin slower than DEET and doesn’t smell as strong. However, it is relatively new to the market and hasn’t undergone as much testing as DEET.
If you're seeking a more natural option, you can consider eugenol, an ingredient derived from the oil of cloves that many reviewers say can be an effective insecticide, though note that it hasn't received the CDC's backing.
With these facts in mind, here is a list of the best insect repellent lotions — two of which boast more than 1,500 reviews — to help keep you protected.
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