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The 10 Best Bug Sprays to Use This Summer

Top picks against any pest.

As the weather gets warmer, you may have plans to spend more time outside hiking, camping or just taking a jog around the neighborhood. But as we get ready to enjoy the outdoors, mosquitoes and ticks will be back in full force, too. There’s an overwhelming number of bug repellents to sort through, and it’s hard to know which to choose. And while all repellents deter mosquitoes, not all are effective against ticks.

Don’t throw up your hands. First, take a look at the breakdown of common repellent ingredients and their ideal concentrations, below. Then check out some great products that deliver whichever ingredient you need.

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus: Research suggests that oil of lemon eucalyptus products at 30% work well against mosquitoes. However, not every product had information on repelling ticks. Just be aware of this: The CDC says oil of lemon eucalyptus provides protection against mosquitoes as long as its formulated into a repellent product; the essential oil itself is not registered with the EPA as an insect repellent.
  • Picaridin: This ingredient is modeled after a compound in the black pepper plant. Concentration matters here: Tests by Consumer Reports say that products containing lower concentrations were much less effective than higher concentrations. Some tests have found a 20% concentration works better than 5%.
  • DEET: This popular repellent has been around for decades. Although the ingredient has been a cause of concern for many, the CDC has deemed DEET safe. It works on both skin and on top of clothes, according to Consumer Reports. Some people do complain of its `smell or that it makes skin feel oily, but there are products on the market that seek to improve how it dries on the skin. DEET is equally effective at any concentration, although higher concentrations can last longer. For those who still prefer to avoid DEET, there are DEET-free repellents that are also effective.
  • Permethrin: The compound is sprayed on your clothes rather than your skin and is most effective against ticks.


For more information on products and ingredients, the EPA also has its own search tool to find government registered products and their individual concentrations. To make your outings as bug-free as possible, here are the 10 bug repellents we recommend written by Marty Munson and Milan Polk.

LAST UPDATED

December 3, 2023

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Men's Health

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With 25 print editions in 35 countries and more than 21 million readers across its social and digital platforms, Men’s Health is the world’s largest men’s magazine brand, and the number one source of information for and about men. It’s the brand for active, successful, professional men who want greater control over their physical, mental, and emotional lives. We give men the tools they need to make their lives better through in-depth and expert-backed reporting, covering everything from fashion and grooming to health, nutrition, fitness, weight loss, as well as cutting-edge gear, the latest in entertainment, science, and more.

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