The 9 Best Bug Repellents of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Keep ticks away with these effective sprays and lotions
When spending time outdoors, using a tick repellent provides a measure of protection against these crawling insects that can transmit infections like Babesiosis, Lyme’s Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to humans.1
But before you reach for any bug spray to keep ticks away, check the product label. Emily Mader, a public health researcher at the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases (NEVBD), says that the primary factor to consider when picking a product is that “the repellent has been evaluated for efficacy in repelling ticks specifically.” She points out that many insect repellents are only evaluated for the prevention of mosquito or fly bites, and might not necessarily work against ticks. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a search tool on its website, where you can indicate that you’re specifically looking for EPA-registered repellents with effectiveness against ticks.
In the course of testing 11 different bug repellents, we evaluated formulas with active ingredients that are also effective against ticks. We made observations about the effectiveness, odor, and ease of application while using DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 (a DEET-free repellent) products for outdoor activities like hiking, camping in the woods, walking, yard work, or spending time in a grassy backyard. We also compared other popular formulas to those we tested, looking for the best tick repellents to keep you protected during any outdoor occasion.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.