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The Mosquito Repellent Test: Do Natural Products Actually Work or Should You Stick to DEET?

Plus which mosquito repellents best remedy pesky bites

Summer is great for relaxing and spending time with family and friends, but unfortunately, the hotter weather also brings out the bugs. Pesky mosquitos are especially prominent during this time of year, prompting most of us to reach for the bug spray – but have you ever wondered if a natural repellent could replace commonly used DEET-based products? Consumer Reports recently tested out various natural mosquito repellents, proving that some could be useful alternatives. Keep reading to find out more about the ingredients in natural products and which ones will work the best.

Natural mosquito repellent is proving to be more effective

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active ingredient in many repellent products.” You’ll often see it in commercial bug sprays and popular mass-marketed brands. While it is the most effective, natural mosquito repellents are proving to work against these pesky creatures as well.

In a new study from Consumer Reports, where a normal dose of repellent is sprayed on the arms of subjects, results show that repellents with specific ingredients can help prevent mosquito bites. Testers placed their arms in a cage with 200 disease-free mosquitos and watched to see if the mosquitos would bite or not based on the types of repellents used.

One active ingredient in those repellents is picaridin, a synthetic compound made to resemble the natural compound piperine, per the National Pesticide Information Center. The second popular ingredient is lemon eucalyptus oil. These repellents lasted the longest against mosquitos and didn’t have to be reapplied as often.

Other plant oils including citronella oil, peppermint oil and soybean oil were tested, but didn’t stop subjects from getting bit.

Look for mosquito repellent products with picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil

Lemons and Eucalyptus

Both picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil can be directly applied to the skin or sprayed on clothes to protect yourself from mosquitoes. Consumer Reports points out that the most important factors in terms of effectiveness were the type and concentration of the active ingredient in the repellent.

Consumer Reports say sprays and products with picaridin as the main ingredient were the most effective with concentrations of 10% and 20%. Lemon eucalyptus oil also worked well because it’s not an essential oil, but rather it’s “refined and concentrated (or sometimes synthesized chemically) for use in commercial bug repellents.” Products with 30% concentration did well throughout the tests.

The effectiveness of these ingredients varies in the product as well. Sprays typically work best, but you can also apply lotions or use wipes.

Other mosquito repellents don’t work as well

It might be instinctual to grab a citronella candle or bracelet, or use a bug zapper or fan, but unfortunately, these mosquito repellents don’t work nearly as well as sprays. If you need something for the short term, go for it, but if you’re outside for a long time, it’s not recommended.

Keep in mind that standing water attracts mosquitoes. Make sure there are no excessive puddles in your yard or area, and clean up any spills that may bring them out. Also, stay cool! Mosquitos are more likely to bite sweatier skin and you don’t want to be their next victim.

Lastly, the colors you wear can impact whether you’ll attract them or not. According to Terminix, you should avoid wearing red, black and orange and wear lighter colors including blues, greens or white.

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