How to choose an insect repellent

Things to consider when choosing an insect repellent:

• Look for an EPA registration number on the product. This means it’s been tested, not just for safety but also for its effectiveness as a repellent.

• For alternatives to DEET, Scott Carroll, director of Carroll-Loye Biological Research Consulting, an independent company that does extensive testing on insect repellents, recommends products based on oil of lemon eucalyptus (Citriodiol) or, for conventional synthetic products, Picaridin- or IR3535-based products. Avon and Cutter both sell Picaridin products. Avon and Bullfrog sell IR3535 in various formulations. (These have all been tested and are EPA registered).

•If you’re committed to finding an all-herbal alternative, observe carefully to figure out which product is best for you. The efficacy of herbal repellents varies widely, so if one herbal fails you, give another one a try, Carroll says.


•People will often use a minimum amount of DEET either because of safety concerns or because it feels sticky on the skin. But herbal repellents should be applied generously.

•Pay attention to the labels. Those on synthetic products such as DEET and Picaridin recommend washing skin thoroughly with soap and water after returning indoors.

•Some insect repellents are sold as a sunscreen/repellent combo. With these products, bear in mind that if you’re using the product for sun protection, you may need to apply it more frequently than is appropriate for insect protection.

—Amanda Mascarelli