MarketWatch has highlighted these products and services because we think readers will find them useful. We may earn a commission if you buy products through our links, but our recommendations are independent of any compensation that we may receive.
Don’t let insects bug you too much this summer.
You can prevent that from happening by picking the right insect repellent – one that’s both safe and effective. The nonprofit research organization Environmental Working Group notes that their top picks for bug repellents include those with ingredients like Picaridin (a 20% concentration can protect against ticks and mosquitoes all day) and DEET (a 20% to 30% concentration can protect against ticks and mosquitoes all day) – though they do have downsides (see below). We cross-checked these ingredients with repellents rated excellent by Consumer Reports to figure out some of the best repellents you can buy. Here are three stand-outs, including Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, which has nearly 3,000 5-star reviews on Amazon and costs $9.
Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, about $9 for a 4 oz bottle on Amazon
Consumer Reports gave this repellent a thumbs up, and Amazon consumers like it too. It’s garnered more than 3,900 reviews (72% of them are five stars) with one reviewer – who notes that “my body is like a 3-star Michelin restaurant for mosquitoes. In a party of lots of people, I will be the first to get bitten. Repeatedly.” – saying this one is simply “the best.” Another writes that it’s “more effective than anything I have ever used,” and another that “this is the absolute best bug repellent out there.”
Ben’s 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent Pump Spray, about $17 for a pack of three 3.4 oz bottles on Amazon
Consumer Reports named this one of its best insect repellents this year, and it gets 4.5 stars on Amazon. One consumer simply notes: “I was looking for a hard core but not harsh tick repellant. When our home in eastern Massachusetts was getting its quarterly inspection and spraying I asked the pesticide guy what he used to keep himself free of insects and especially ticks which are very prevalent in the area. He opened his truck door to show me what he carried around for his own protection. It was BEN’S.”
Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent Vlll Dry, about $6 for a 4 oz bottle
This inexpensive Consumer Reports-recommended product, which uses DEET, is easy to find in most drugstores, Amazon, Target or Walmart . One customer writes on Amazon: “Living in the country in South Central Texas, we are often bothered by skeeters and chiggers. I have never liked using insect repellent, but often we have no choice. After using this spray for several weeks, I have found it to be both effective and almost pleasant to use … No more irritating, oily mess.”
Of course, insect repellents have downsides. The Environmental Working Group notes that while DEET is “widely used with few serious adverse reactions,” it is a strong eye irritant, you need to limit concentration in children and there have been a few cases of neurological symptoms. And Picaridin has been on the market for less time than other repellents so there is less extensive safety testing on it. In short: It’s worth calling your doctor to get his or her opinion on insect repellents.