The 7 Best Mosquito Repellents To Keep the Bugs Away, Tested and Reviewed

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Enjoy your time outdoors without worrying about itchy bites.

<p>Verywell Health / Kristin Kempa</p>

Verywell Health / Kristin Kempa

Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

Nearly everyone has been bitten by a mosquito at some point in their lives. Not only do these bites cause red itchy bumps, but they also can lead to skin irritations, especially in people with sensitive skin. But the biggest issue with mosquitoes is the risk that they are carrying and transmitting serious diseases and viruses like malaria, dengue virus, Zika, and West Nile virus. If contracted, these diseases can lead to potentially deadly side effects like encephalitis and meningitis.

For this reason, it’s important to find effective ways to repel mosquitos and prevent you and your family from getting bitten. But with so many different products on the market, it can be challenging to know which one is best. To help cut through the clutter and the confusion, we tested and evaluated 11 different mosquito repellents in a variety of scenarios. We looked for products that not only provide extended coverage but also include active ingredients that are approved by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

To select our list of products, we received input from three mosquito experts. Once we settled on our list, we tested each product extensively. In order to select our top products, we looked at everything from how those repellents felt on our skin to how long they worked before re-application was needed.

Best Overall: Off! Family Care Insect Repellent With Picaridin

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  • Provides a barely-there feeling on the skin

  • Travels well and does not leak

  • Highly effective at preventing bites


  • 4 ounces does not last long

If you’re looking for an all-around great mosquito repellent that doesn’t contain DEET, check out the OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent II with picaridin. Not only is this product effective, but it also goes on quickly without feeling sticky or greasy. We felt like we weren’t wearing any repellent—even when we got a little sweaty. Plus, there’s no noticeable scent to contend with.

Despite our staffer who tested this product being a self-proclaimed mosquito magnet, they didn't get a single bite while being outdoors for more than two hours. As an incredibly easy-to-use mosquito repellent, this product has a nice, wide spray that makes it easy to get a fine, even mist on the skin. We appreciated that the bottle was the perfect size to throw in our bag and also that it didn’t leak.

That said, we do wish this repellent came in a larger size. Four ounces doesn’t go far, especially if you are spraying a lot of people. Nevertheless, the repellent’s barely-there feel and extreme effectiveness made it a no-brainer for our top pick.

Price at time of publication: $13 

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Spritz | Active Ingredients: Picaridin | Protection Time: 3 to 4 hours | Best for: Backyard, outdoor activities, short hikes

Best for Sensitive Skin: EarthKind Stay Away Mosquitoes Insect Repellent

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  • Ideal for delicate or sensitive skin

  • Highly effective at preventing bites

  • Fragrance free


  • Not waterproof or sweatproof

If you’re looking for a skin-friendly mosquito repellent that contains picaridin instead of DEET, check out the EarthKind Stay Away Mosquito Repellent. This long-lasting spray is as effective as it is gentle on the skin. We especially appreciated its moisturizing feel, fragrance-free formulation, and lack of greasiness. It absorbed nicely into our skin and didn’t leave any white residue.

Application was a breeze with the product’s spray nozzle that released a wide, consistent spray and left us with evenly dispersed coverage. Plus, because a little goes a long way with this product, it was clear that this mosquito repellent will last a while. But our favorite thing about this product was the ingredient list. It’s safe for all skin types and can be used on little ones, too.

In fact, the only downside to this repellent is that it needs to be reapplied after getting wet or sweating. This was somewhat disappointing since the manufacturer's instructions indicate not to exceed two applications a day. But for general outdoor activities that do not involve water or short hikes, this mosquito repellent will meet your needs.

Price at time of publication: $14 

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Spray | Active Ingredients: Picaridin | Protection Time: 14 hours | Best for: Backyard, outdoor activities, hiking

Best With DEET: OFF! Active Insect Repellent I (15% DEET)

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  • Absorbs easily without leaving a residue

  • Highly effective at preventing bites

  • Light, pleasant scent doesn’t linger


  • May not be ideal for sensitive skin

When you need protection from mosquitoes but don’t require a heavy-duty repellent, OFF Active Insect Repellent is the perfect choice. Lasting around five hours, it offers the perfect amount of protection for those frequent backyard activities like birthday parties, barbecues, and more. Plus, it stays put even when sweating.

We especially appreciated that it absorbs easily into the skin without leaving any residue, white cast, or chemical scent. Plus, we didn’t feel sticky or greasy after applying. This could largely be attributed to the fact that the nozzle allowed us to control how much spray we wanted on our skin.

That said, this product may not be ideal for sensitive skin. The ingredients that make it sweatproof are the very things that can also make it irritating for delicate skin. We didn’t experience any issues with the spray, but the manufacturer does note on the packaging that skin irritation is possible.

Price at time of publication: $11

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Aerosol spray | Active Ingredients: DEET | Protection Time: 5 hours | Best for: Backyard, outdoor activities, playground

Best Without DEET: Coleman SkinSmart Insect Repellent Spray

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  • Easy to apply

  • Dries quickly without feeling sticky

  • Light, pleasant scent that doesn’t linger


  • Oversized bottle makes it difficult for travel

The Coleman IR3535 SkinSmart Insect Repellent is a stress-free way to get the protection you want. Not only is it easy to apply, but it also offers great coverage—especially because the size of the nozzle disperses the repellent evenly and in the right amounts.

After applying a couple of sprays, we felt adequately protected without that sticky or greasy feeling you can sometimes get with mosquito repellents. Plus, the liquid dried quickly rather than just sitting on our skin. There was also no white cast.

As an added bonus, we didn’t notice any harsh, chemical smells with this spray. The light scent was actually somewhat pleasant, but it didn’t linger too long. The only flaw with this repellent is the size of the bottle, which isn’t very portable. The bottle’s size makes it more suitable for at-home use.

Price at time of publication: $10 

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Aerosol spray | Active Ingredients: IR3535 | Protection Time: 8 hours | Best for: Backyard, outdoor activities, playground

Best With Lotion: Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent

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  • Absorbs easily with no white cast

  • Easy to apply with great coverage

  • Travels well and does not leak


  • Slightly greasy when first applied

As far as lotion mosquito repellents go, the Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent is at the top of our list. Not only does it last 14 hours, but it also doesn’t fade or sweat off with use, making it a great choice for long days outside. Because it’s a lotion, it was easy for us to tell if we missed a spot when we were applying it.

Even though this repellent is white when you apply it, it absorbs quickly and easily without leaving a white cast. That said, it does feel a little greasy at first, but this quickly dissipates as the repellent is absorbed into the skin.

We appreciated that the lotion didn’t leave behind that signature bug spray smell, which was nice when wearing it for a full day outside. We also loved that the bottle fits easily into our hand and was easy to transport when we were headed out for the next adventure.

Price at time of publication: $10 

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Lotion | Active Ingredients: Picaridin | Protection Time: 14 hours | Best for: Camping, hiking

Best With SPF: Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Gentle Breeze SPF 30 Lotion

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  • Easy to apply with great coverage

  • Absorbs easily with no white cast

  • Doubles as a sunscreen


  • Requires frequent reapplication

Having a mosquito repellent that doubles as sunscreen is a plus for any family on the go, and this Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard does not disappoint in that department. Not only is it easy to apply, but it also contains moisturizing vitamin E and aloe and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it an ideal choice for backyard activities that might include a little water play here and there.

We found this mosquito repellent easy to apply and use, and we appreciated the fact that it absorbs well, offers great coverage, and doesn’t leave a white cast. The only downside is that it doesn’t last long before you have to reapply. But for short walks or a backyard barbeque, this is a great choice.

Price at time of publication: $20 

Key Specs: 
Application Type:
Lotion | Active Ingredients: IR3535 | Protection Time: Not listed | Best for: Backyard, outdoor activities, playground

<p>Verywell Health / Stella Yu</p>

Verywell Health / Stella Yu

How We Rated the Best Mosquito Repellents

4.8 to 5 stars: These are the best mosquito repellents we tested. We recommend them without reservation.

4.5 to 4.7 stars: These mosquito repellents are excellent—they might have minor flaws, but we still recommend them.

4.0 to 4.5 stars: We think these are great mosquito repellents, but others are better.

3.5 to 3.9 stars: These mosquito repellents are just average.

3.4 and below: We don't recommend mosquito repellents with this rating; you won't find any on our list.

We Also Tested

  • Sawyer Products Controlled Release Insect Repellent (20% DEET): This mosquito repellent is an easy-to-use lotion that limits the amount of bug spray you get on your clothes. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s marketed as an odorless repellent, we found the lotion had an oily, chemical smell that diminished the experience for us.

  • Natrapel Tick and Insect Repellent (20% Picaridin): When it comes to mosquito repellent, we appreciate a product that travels well and does not leak on clothing or other gear, especially for camping trips. This repellent checked off those boxes, but we had a hard time getting past the scent. In fact, the smell from this repellent lingered on clothes and gave one of our editors a mild headache.

  • 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Aerosol (25% DEET): While this mosquito repellent traveled well, the spray comes out as a mist, which made it hard to keep it from getting on everything. What’s more, this product has a potent chemical smell that caused everyone in our testing group to hold their breath during application. And though the smell did dissipate in about 30 minutes, it lingered on clothing.

How We Tested the Best Mosquito Repellents

To find the seven best mosquito repellents, we tested 11 different products for a minimum of five times each. We tested a variety of scenarios and situations, as well as different family members and friends. Our goal was to determine the product’s effectiveness as well as its ease of use, smell, and longevity.

Throughout the testing, we noted the texture of the spray on our skin, how long it took the repellent to dry, and how well it absorbed into our skin. We also paid attention to whether or not the repellent stayed on throughout the day, whether or not it sweats off easily, and if protection lasted as long as the product claimed.

In addition, we consulted with several experts for their insights into what to look for in mosquito repellents. These experts included:

  • Immo A. Hansen, PhD, associate professor of biology at New Mexico State University, who specializes in molecular biology and the physiology of mosquitoes

  • Wizzie Brown, MS, BCE, an entomologist and extension program specialist at Texas AgriLife Extension Service

  • Shannon Harlow-Ellis, ACE, an associate-certified entomologist and technical specialist at Mosquito Joe and a recipient of the 2023 National Pest Management Association Impact Award for Women in Pest Management

What to Look for in a Mosquito Repellent


According to Wizzie Brown, MS, BCE, an entomologist and extension program specialist at Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the first step in selecting a mosquito repellent is to look for one that is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These products are the best ones to protect you against viruses like West Nile and Zika.

You should also look for an EPA-registered insect repellent that has one of six active ingredients (DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone), she says.


When selecting a mosquito repellent, it’s important to consider who will be using the product and whether or not they have any allergies to the ingredients, says Shannon Harlow-Ellis, ACE, an associate-certified entomologist and technical specialist at Mosquito Joe.

You also should consider whether the active ingredients, fragrances, or the inactive ingredients will irritate sensitive skin. Keep in mind that all repellents can also be eye irritants and that aerosols can irritate your respiratory tract, Harlow-Ellis adds. If someone has asthma or another lung condition, exercise caution when applying the aerosols or opt for a lotion instead, like the Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent or the Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard.

Active Ingredients

The EPA has approved six different active ingredients for use in mosquito repellents. These include:

  • DEET

  • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)

  • IR3535

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)

  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)

  • 2-Undecanone

To ensure your safety and the best results, look for a repellent that contains one of these six ingredients. Keep in mind that each repellent will have different levels of concentration, so you need to consider what percentage of ingredients you need, says Immo A. Hansen, PhD, associate professor of biology at New Mexico State University, who specializes in molecular biology and the physiology of mosquitoes.

For instance, you can buy the OFF! Deep Woods Protection or you can buy the OFF! Active Insect Repellent with less DEET. If you want protection for a couple of hours for a backyard party, opt for the low percentage. But, if you’re out fishing or camping, you might want to take the high-percent DEET because it will protect you longer, Hansen says.

Application Type

The most convenient application method is an aerosol spray, which has the ability to cover a large area, says Harlow-Ellis. Although this application method may not be ideal for everyone because the product is also released into the air, studies have shown that the active ingredients break down quickly in sunlight and even faster in the soil due to bacteria and fungi, says Harlow-Ellis.

For children, pump application may be easier because you have better control of product placement. If you’re using an aerosol repellent, Harlow-Ellis suggests applying the product to your hands before rubbing it into your child’s skin.


When considering the protection of your mosquito repellent, Harlow-Ellis says the percentage of concentration does not correspond to how strong the product is, but rather to the length of time it is effective. Consequently, the longer you plan to be exposed to mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects, the higher concentration you need unless you plan to reapply, she says.

Keep in mind that 25% to 30% is a pretty heavy percentage, says Brown. This is the type of coverage you might need for hiking in the woods, but if you’re sitting outside on a patio or deck, a lower percentage is usually a better option.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you reapply mosquito repellent?

While most mosquito repellent instructions suggest how often to reapply, this timeframe may be shorter based on your activity. For instance, if you're sweating or swimming, you may need to reapply more frequently. Likewise, if you notice you are getting bitten by mosquitoes or other insects, you also may need to reapply. Using an insect repellent with a higher concentration of its active ingredient usually means that it may last longer.

Is DEET bad for you?

According to Hansen, DEET is perfectly safe and has a solid safety record that dates back to the 1950s. It’s extremely effective at protecting you from mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria or dengue, which have the potential to cause great harm.

Of course, just like any other chemical, using too much is not recommended. Use it when needed and choose the right protection for the activity you will be doing, Hansen says.

What keeps mosquitoes from biting you?

According to Harlow-Ellis, studies have shown that most insect repellents work by masking body odors like sweat and lactic acid. Some even suggest blood type may be a factor in mosquito bite frequency. By masking these odors, mosquitoes, and other similar insects are not able to recognize the host, she says.

You also can keep mosquitoes from biting you by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Opt to stay indoors if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect.

Why Trust Verywell Health

Sherri Gordon, CLC, has been covering health and social issues for nearly 20 years and has written countless articles with a health focus. Throughout her career, she has interviewed numerous healthcare professionals—including those who deal with preventing skin irritation, insect bites and stings, allergies, and more. Plus, as someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, but has sensitive skin and allergies to bites and stings, Sherri has a special interest in finding the right mosquito repellents that will not only do the job but go easy on her skin. Consequently, she combined her personal experience and healthcare knowledge in this review, to ensure readers have everything they need to make an informed decision.