The 3 Best Mosquito Repellent Lotions

Mosquito repellent. Man using insect repellent cream outdoors.

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

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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A Strong Mosquito Repellent Lotion With DEET

Originally designed to protect military troops, Ultrathon Insect Repellent with DEET helps keep mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers, gnats, fleas and deer flies at bay and protects against diseases like Zika virus, West Nile virus, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Lyme disease. It has a high amount of DEET — 34.34% DEET — that promises to work for up to 12 hours. This formula is also designed with a polymer that releases DEET slowly over time, helping to create a barrier for longer periods than most competing lotions.

This repellent has 1,500 reviews, with the majority of reviewers raving about how it keeps bugs away, but some noted it does give off a slightly potent smell. It stays put through sweat and water, but reviewers note that also means it’s more difficult to remove. This lotion is ideal for hikers, campers, and trips to areas with prevalent mosquitos and insects.

Helpful Review: "I applied a thin layer, and voila - the bugs buzzed off instantly, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my beach vacation in peace, bite-free. One application was sufficient for an entire day, unless I went for a long swim in the ocean or took a shower ... The small size of the container makes it one of the few bug [repellents] out there that are ok to take in your carry-on. I would highly recommend this to anyone ..."


A Picaridin Mosquito Repellent Lotion That Lasts 14 Hours

If you're searching for a long-lasting insect repellent lotion that doesn't contain DEET, this option relies instead on 20% picaridin. The lotion is capable of protecting against mosquitos and ticks for as long as 14 hours, while providing up to eight hours of protections against biting flies, chiggers, gnats, and sand flies.

Some reviewers say this repellent is less sticky than other brands they've tried, and it features a light fragrance that isn't overpowering. Unlike a lot of repellents, this one is safe on fabrics like hiking gear and backpacks. The lotion also comes in a 2 ounce twin pack and 4 ounce twin pack, with smaller packets that are ideal for travel. You can even use it alongside Sawyer Product's insect repellent for clothing for additional protection when you are outdoors.

Helpful Review: “Sawyer Picaridin is more effective than anything I have ever used! Mosquitoes love me! Yesterday I used Sawyer Picaridin and went out in the afternoon to prune banana trees for several hours and never got a single bite. And it feels so much better on my skin. No oily residue!”


A Water-Resistant Mosquito Repellent With Sunscreen

This insect repellent lotion protects your skin from bugs and from the sun at the same time. It contains SPF 30 for sun protection and natural eugenol as the active ingredient, instead of DEET or picaridin. This product repels mosquitoes, protects from the sun using zinc oxide, is free of common sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone, and is water-resistant up to 80 minutes.

It's worth noting that a sunscreen and repellent combo can lead to problems in terms of reapplication. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours per the Skin Care Foundation, yet you might not need (or want) to do this with an insect repellent lotion. That's why it’s a good idea to have extra sunscreen on hand to reapply throughout the day if you use a two-in-on product like this.

Helpful Review: “Works great for my son. He has super sensitive skin and reacts to mosquito bites differently from others. This lotion doesn't break him out and it does its job. He doesn't get bit every time I put it on him. I highly recommend to anyone."