The Best Insect Repellent in 2023 – Best Bug Spray

<h2 class=”body-h2″>What to Consider</h2><h3 class=”body-h3″>DEET</h3><p>DEET, short for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, is a common active ingredient found in insect repellents. Created by the U.S. military in 1946 and introduced to consumers in 1957, DEET is the most effective way to protect against bites from bugs like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and even parasitic worms. </p><p>The way it works is still somewhat of a mystery, but research shows that the chemical prevents insects from detecting humans and animals by emitting an unpleasant odor and causing confusion—and don’t worry about what you might’ve heard regarding the dangers of DEET. The United States Environmental Protection Agency deems <a href=”” target=”_blank”>DEET safe for human use</a>, and it’s totally safe for the environment (though we don’t recommend dumping a bottle into your local pond, and always make sure to avoid your eyes).</p><p>Even though it’s safe and effective, DEET has its drawbacks. It leaves the skin feeling greasy on application and emits a pungent odor when sprayed. It’s also known to stain certain fabrics and damage synthetics and plastics, such as sunglasses, watches, and clothing made of rayon or polyester.</p><p>The percentage of DEET a product has matters when re-applying and warding off certain bugs. The state of Connecticut’s Mosquito Management Program says that concentrations should be <a href=”” target=”_blank”>based on the duration of protection needed</a>. Any repellent with less than 10 percent DEET will ward away bugs for one to two hours, while 20 percent DEET will repel for two to five hours. At least 20 percent is necessary for total tick protection. </p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Permethrin</h3><p class=”body-text”>Permethrin is a synthetic chemical developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1979. It’s used as an insecticide that kills bugs on contact and as a repellent when applied to clothes. <a href=”” target=”_blank”>According to the EPA</a>, it’s the only repellent used for factory clothing treatment and is best used on fabrics. It doesn’t prevent bugs from landing on you. Instead, it kills them on contact before they can bite. If you want those pesky bugs far, far away from your vicinity, stick with DEET protection.</p><p class=”body-text”>Keep in mind that clothes and fabrics sprayed with permethrin will only repel insects over that surface area, meaning you’ll need to apply another form of repellent directly onto your skin, too. <br></p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Picaridin</h3><p>A DEET alternative typically sold as a lotion, picaridin is a synthetic compound that resembles piperine, a compound found in the group of plants that produce black pepper. It doesn’t have the greasy feel <em>or </em>the stink<em></em> of DEET, and instead of killing bugs, it repels insects and makes them less likely to bite. Picaridin also comes in wipes, sprays, and aerosols.</p><h3 class=”body-h3″>Where to Spray</h3><p>To properly use insect repellent, spray six to eight inches away from your skin slowly and sweepingly, and avoid using DEET on synthetic fabrics and materials. Use your hands to spread the spray and ensure your body is moist and evenly applied. To protect your face, neck, and head, spray into your hands and apply. </p><p>It’s best to use repellents over top of your <a href=””>SPF sunscreen</a>. Never spray over open cuts or wounds, and make sure to avoid your eyes. The EPA has full guidelines on <a href=”” target=”_blank”>how to safely and properly apply insect repellents</a>. <br></p><h2 class=”body-h2″>How We Selected</h2><p>To find the best insect repellents, we used a combination of personal testing and research on the best products out there. Some of our picks were field tested by <em>Popular Mechanics</em> Commerce Editor Kevin Cortez, a frequent hiker and outdoor enthusiast, who notes each option’s effectiveness and how each repellent feels on the skin. For products we didn’t test, we sourced user reviews to recommend sprays, candles, and other insect repellents. </p>” />

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