8 DEET-Free Insect Repellents with Proven Ingredients

Summer vacation has been a blast but I could really do without the mosquitoes! August is particularly itchy here in the northeast and we haven’t been fairing well this year at all. Tiger mosquitoes? Whaaa?! I take solace in knowing the season is winding down for us. *Sad face* to those of you that are mid-season or deal with these relentless critters year-round. Part of my personal mosquito problem is that I never knew which insect repellents were “safe” to use, especially for my children. When I saw “DEET-free” popping up on labels, I assumed DEET was bad and should be avoided. I decided to research the subject should you be wondering the same.

Insect protection is legitimately complicated, much like sun protection. The problem simply is that chemicals, such as DEET, are the most effective and long-lasting way to repel insects. While the EPAThe American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health, and the CDC have all concluded that products containing some level of DEET are safe when used correctly for brief periods of time, no definitive studies exist about what concentration of DEET is safe for children or what the long term consequences of exposure are. CDC recommends DEET with maximum concentrations of 20-30% for children’s protection from Lyme disease borne by ticks. Health Canada recommends DEET with concentrations no greater than 5-10% for children, as does the Environmental Working Group. As a result, many parents, including myself, are conflicted about which products — the all-natural ones or those that contain DEET — are best for our families.

It is always a good idea to consult your pediatrician or family physician about product decisions, especially if you or your children have any special medical concerns that may be exasperated by topical treatments. It’s especially important to note that insect repellents are NOT recommended for infants under 6 months old. If exposed, they should be protected by fine netting. Also, no insect repellent, regardless of ingredients, is 100% effective. If ticks are a concern, take extra precaution by wearing pants, socks, and shoes, and checking for ticks daily.

If you live in an area plagued by the West Nile virus and/or Lyme disease, the general recommendation is to use a repellent with DEET because the benefits outweigh the risks. This article from Slate does a great job of explaining why you may want to choose a product with DEET over natural formulas. If you do, here are 10 EPA-approved insect repellents with varying concentrations of DEET to choose from and the Environment Working Group’s recommended concentration levels for children.

There are several proven alternatives to DEET that have been reported to be just as effective at controlling some insect bites, with less risks and potential for irritation: PicaridinIR3535lemon eucalyptus oil, and PMDCDC advises not to use oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3. Picaridin is most recommended for those with sensitive skin. *All other natural repellents like catnip, peppermint oil, and citronella have been disproved as effective, particularly for long wear. As with sunscreen, aerosol spray repellents are discouraged due to the risk of inhalation.

In an effort to guide you in your search for the right insect repellent for your family, I’ve rounded up 8 affordable DEET-free insect repellents with proven ingredients at recommended levels, to help limit your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals for use in areas with low risk of disease-carrying insects. Again, if you need added protection and are unsure which formula to choose, consult your physician or pediatrician for recommendations!

  • 8 Highly Effective DEET-Free Insect Repellents 1 of 9

    Click through for 8 affordable DEET-free insect repellents with proven ingredients at recommended levels --->

  • SKIN SO SOFT Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Pump Spray, $14 2 of 9

    This is what I use. It has Picaridin 10.0% and smells great. Works like a charm when I remember to put it on.

    Get it here.

  • Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent, $4 3 of 9

    Effective, dependable insect protection without any odor. I like that, especially for kids. Picaridin 7.0%.

    Get it here.

  • Off! Skintastic Insect Repellent $6 4 of 9

    Not oily or greasy like all-natural formulas with oils. Contains 5% Picaridin.

    Get it here.

  • Sawyer Picaridin Premium Insect Repellent Spray, $8 5 of 9

    A similar effect to DEET, yet safer chemically. 20% Picaridin. It's virtually odorless with a mild citrus scent that quickly evaporates when dry.

    Get it here.

  • Natrapel 1oz Pump, $4 6 of 9

    1oz. size is great for packs, purses, or pockets. 20% Picaridin formula.

    Get it here.

  • Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray, $13 7 of 9

    Not for children under 3 years of age. Effective, plant-based insect protection won't stain or damage fabrics or surfaces. Contains 40% oil of lemon eucalyptus. Beware of strong odor.

    Get it here.

  • OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent, $13 8 of 9

    Not for children under 3 years of age. Plant-based repellent lotion that contains 10% PMD. Great if you don't like sprays.

    Get it here.

  • Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray, $5 9 of 9

    Not for children under 3 years of age. Contains 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus. Highly-rated by Amazon users.

    Get it here.


More from Jill Seiman of Glamamom on Babble Beauty this month:



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