Insect repellent is a summer essential unless of course you want to become bug food within a matter of minutes. Bug bites can damage your skin causing blisters, scars, and some even carry diseases so you want to keep them at bay. While a good repellent can work wonders in keeping insects away, they can be oily, smelly and make you feel greasy and uncomfortable so what do you do? You look for one that repels the bugs, but doesn’t repulse you. Below you will find almost everything you need to know about insect repellent and how to find one with the active ingredients that are right for you.
The strongest and most popular bug spray out on the market is DEET. It is America’s most used repellent a 2008 study showed that more than 200 million people use it worldwide. When used in high concentrations it is likely the most effective repellent on the market. As is the case with most chemicals, too much of a good thing turns out to be bad. If used too frequently, repellents with a high concentration of DEET can cause rashes, scarring and blisters. These conditions are rare and even less likely if you are diligent to wash your skin after you return indoors and the repellent is no longer necessary. If you are in a situation where a quick shower isn’t really possible—like a camping trip or long hike—then a wet wipe or moist toilette should do the trick. Products like Off! Deep Woods Sportsmen,contains 30% DEET and tend to be longer lasting.
Lemon Eucalyptus oil
If you are looking for a natural solution to your bug biting problems then you should certainly consider the oil of lemon eucalyptus. It is one of only three repellents that are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency. It derives from a species of eucalyptus tree and research has shown that it is one of the most effective plant based insect repellents. You can find it in Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus, Bite Blocker Xtreme and Burts Bees All Natural Herbal.
This ingredient derives from pepper and is more widely available in Europe and Australia. In the United States it is used in lower concentrations that may be increased in time after more studies have been conducted. The repellent can irritate your eyes if there is direct contact, but there have been no signs or reports of it damaging or severely irritating anyone’s skin. It has also been shown that Picaridin lasts about 70% as long as DEET making it a close second to the more potent solution. It is the active ingredient in Natrapel 8-hour and Cutter Advanced which promotes having both a light and clean feel, and is fragrance free.
Keep in mind:
Insect repellent is a chemical and like most chemicals it shouldn’t be used on babies. The age limits vary based on the product and the potency, but most are consistent in their warning against the use on babies. When you apply insect repellent to children use your hands to rub it on them and never put it on their hands as they tend to put them in their mouths. Also remember to avoid using too much. Never spray in an enclosed area, and avoid places on the skin where there are wounds or irritated skin. Only apply on the skin that is exposed and not under clothing. Lastly, to properly apply to your face, use your hands instead of spraying your face directly and never forget to wash it off after you are indoors.
Dr. Steven Zimmet is an Austin dermatologist at Zimmet Vein & Dermatology. His practice is dedicated to venous and dermatological advancements including body contouring, acne and sun damage treatment, and skin resurfacing.