Suitable for people with sensitive skin. Protects against a number of insects, including mosquitoes. Safe for children 6 months and older with no DEET. Uses picaridin instead. Dries quickly.
Won't prevent mosquitoes from flying near you. Towelettes are very moist.
Feels nice on the skin; no greasy or oily residue. Mild scent. Lower price per wipe than most other options. Great for all ages. Wipes remain moist for hours if you don't use the entire one initially.
Only a 7% DEET concentration. Short protection window of 2 hours.
30% DEET concentration. Works against mosquitoes and several other insects. Time-release formula provides protection over a long stretch of time. Lotion-like repellent lasts longer than sprays. 3-oz. bottle convenient for air travel.
Doesn't provide waterproof capabilities. Has some odor that's noticeable.
Resists sweat and water for long-lasting protection. Stable in all kinds of temperatures. Formula developed by military for use all over world. DEET concentration of 33% delivers good results.
Lotion has a sticky consistency which can be off-putting. Only 2 ounces per bottle.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Pesky mosquitoes can easily ruin outdoor fun. But whether you’re enjoying a family barbecue or working up a sweat on a weekend hike, mosquito repellent can keep the bugs away so you can spend time breathing fresh air and having a blast with your loved ones, itch-free.
There are a lot of mosquito repellents on the market, however, and finding the right one for you can be challenging. You have to consider the safety of the ingredients, the easiest application method, and how long the repellent will be effective.
Are you wondering why you need mosquito repellent? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should protect yourself from these insects.
Mosquito bites itch. For those with sensitive skin, the bites can become inflamed and very uncomfortable.
Because they consume blood, many species of mosquitoes spread blood-borne viruses and other pathogens. Some examples of diseases spread by mosquitoes include West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria.
In rare cases, mosquito bites can cause severe allergic reactions.
Mosquito repellents are available in various formulations.
Mosquito repellents in spray bottles make applying repellent quick and easy. It’s easy to apply repellent to clothing with a spray bottle, too. However, it’s difficult to get even coverage with spray mosquito repellents, and they are easily inhaled, so they’re not ideal for use by or around those with respiratory illnesses. Spray repellents are best applied outdoors or in an open area.
Mosquito repellent in cream form is good for direct use on the skin because the application is easier to control than with a spray bottle. Not everyone likes the feeling of a cream, however, which can leave a residue on the skin.
Roll-on or towelettes
Mosquito repellent can also come in roll-on bottles like deodorant or individual towelettes, which are wiped over the skin. These types of repellents are great for camping, hiking, and travel because of their ultra-portable nature.
When shopping for mosquito repellent, consider these features.
The active ingredient is the primary substance in a product that produces the intended effect. With mosquito repellents, a higher concentration of the active ingredient means a longer protection period from bites.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective mosquito deterrents.
DEET: DEET is registered with the EPA and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is a highly effective mosquito repellent, but there are some concerns about its toxicity. Though many studies have determined that DEET is safe for human use, it’s not a good choice for young children. In high doses, it may cause skin reactions. It’s also harmful if ingested. DEET effectiveness does not increase with a concentration higher than 50%.
Picaridin: Like DEET, this synthetic repellent is very effective against mosquitoes. It’s also odorless and not likely to irritate the skin.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus: This mosquito repellent is a synthetic derivative of eucalyptus plant oil. It’s nearly as effective as the chemical DEET, and it is not suitable for use on young children.
Permethrin: This mosquito repellent is meant to be applied to clothing, not directly on the skin. It’s a biodegradable substance, but it’s been known to cause irritation in some cases. It can also be applied to gear, such as tents. You can purchase clothing that’s already treated with permethrin. One cause for concern is that it’s toxic to many insects other than mosquitoes, including bees. It’s also harmful to fish, so it’s a poor repellent choice around bodies of water.
IR3535: IR3535 is a synthetic plant oil that is commonly used in Europe as a mosquito repellent. Studies have not shown it to be harmful or toxic to humans.
Different active ingredients and concentrations will protect you from mosquito bites for varying lengths of time. Usually, the higher the percentage of the active ingredient, the longer the repellent will protect you, though some active ingredients plateau above certain concentrations. Mosquito repellents with natural ingredients don’t protect you for as long as synthetic repellents, and they need to be reapplied.
Permethrin, which is applied to clothes, is the longest-lasting option. It doesn’t wash out when clothes are washed and can remain for up to 20 washings. Some clothing comes pre-treated with permethrin.
DEET lasts the longest of the mosquito repellents that are applied to the skin. DEET can last for over eight hours.
Of the other mosquito repellents, picaridin lasts for a maximum of eight hours, oil of lemon eucalyptus lasts for a maximum of six hours, and plant-based ingredients last for a maximum of two hours.
Because they are pesticides, most mosquito repellents need to be registered with the EPA before they can be brought to market. That said, many active ingredients in repellents are considered safe for human use but are not recognized as effective by the EPA. These ingredients are non-registered.
Registered mosquito repellents
Effectiveness of active ingredients backed by independent studies.
Safe for human use.
Feature an EPA registration number.
Endorsed by the CDC.
Non-registered mosquito repellents
Include plant-based pesticides deemed safe for human use.
Effectiveness data not backed by the EPA.
Do not include an EPA registration number.
Are not endorsed by the CDC.
When buying mosquito repellent, consider how easy the application method is for you. Does the repellent quickly absorb into the skin, or does it leave a greasy film? Creams may leave a residue on the skin, while sprays, roll-ons, and towelettes are fast and easy to apply.
Many mosquito repellents have a chemical scent. Plant-based mosquito repellents have the strong scent of the oil they contain that repels mosquitoes. For those with sensitivity to scent, odorless mosquito repellents are the best choice.
Most mosquito repellents won’t set you back more than $10. When buying repellent towelettes, make sure to check how many individual wipes are included in the package, as the number varies.
Here are some tips on how to safely and effectively apply mosquito repellent.
Unlike sunscreen, mosquito repellent should be applied only on skin that’s exposed and on top of clothing, not underneath.
Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you’re using the repellent safely.
Avoid spraying or applying mosquito repellent on any open wounds.
Be careful not to apply repellent too close to your eyes or mouth. If you’re using a spray, spray the product on your hands and apply to your face.
An adult should apply mosquito repellent on children. Don’t let children handle repellent alone. These products can be harmful if ingested.
You don’t need to thickly apply mosquito repellent, a thin layer is fine. If you still experience issues with mosquitoes, apply another layer.
When using a spray formulation, don’t apply mosquito repellent near food.
Wash your hands post-application to prevent contaminating food or water.
Reapply mosquito repellent after swimming or sweating intensely.
Wash yourself thoroughly after returning indoors. Throw your clothes in the wash as well.
Q. What about citronella candles? Are they a good mosquito repellent?
A. If you are sitting outside for a little bit enjoying a book or eating dinner, a citronella candle might be effective but not for long. If the weather gets windy, the smoke might change directions, and it won’t be long before the mosquitoes descend. Citronella is safe for use on the skin, though, and a cream containing this ingredient is much more useful than a candle.
Q. Will mosquito repellent also repel other insects?
A. It’s possible. Products containing DEET are effective against ticks, gnats, and some species of flies. Most repellents will let you know on the packaging what insects they’re effective against.