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To DEET or not to DEET

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:33pm

It's officially summer! And don't the bugs know it. When it comes to repelling insects, DEET has long been the most effective tool. But there is that little problem of DEET being a toxic chemical, harmful to the environment and possibly irritating to your skin. And wouldn't it be fabulous if insect repellent smelled better?

I've been looking into some alternatives to DEET-based insect repellent. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, there are no botanical-based substitutes that last as long as DEET does. However, soybean oil was found to last 94 minutes.

bite blocker.jpg

Bite Blocker uses soybean-oil with coconut and geranium oil. Our editor and mosquito-magnet Adriana has been using Bite Blocker this summer and loves it!

The Centers for Disease Control recommends using insect repellents that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or IR3535 (3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid) as the active ingredient.

So, which insect repellents contain these important ingredients?


Repel(R) uses oil of lemon eucalyptus.


Cutter Advance has picaridin, which is not irritating to skin and also scentless.


Avon's famous Skin-So-Soft line contains IR3535. Their Bug Guard also contains picaridin.

Remember, when using DEET-free insect repellents be sure to reapply frequently!

Consumer Reports has a handy guide to DEET-free repellents.

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