How to choose an insect repellent that works

Bikinis, sun screen and wayfarers aside, making sure you’ve got the right insect repellent for protection against biting insects on holiday is another suitcase essential. The right insect repellent can reduce the risk of being bitten so you can relax and enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer.

But faced with row upon row of insect repellent products in the pharmacy aisle, how do you know which one is best for you? Here’s our guide on what to look for when buying an insect repellent.

Mosi-guard roll-on is a travel friendly insect repellent 

Mosi-guard Natural® Roll-on
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EC Oil (H/C)The insect repellent for home and away

Mosquitoes are often the main biters associated with sunnier climes and trips overseas. But do remember that there are other biting insects, like ticks, which can also pose a serious health risk such as Lyme Disease. Although small, tick bites from a tick infected with Lyme Borreliosis (Lyme Disease) can have serious and debilitating consequences on our health.

So make sure you select an insect repellent that is proven to provide protection against a wide range of biting insects. Picking an effective yet versatile insect repellent means you don’t have to spend a fortune on protection against a host of biting bugs.

Does the insect repellent actually do what is says on the tin?

Look for insect repellent products that can back up the claims they make. This means choosing an insect repellent that can be supported by efficacy data that proves the product has been rigorously tested, ideally in field conditions.

Check the insect repellents’ active ingredient and its concentration

There is a huge amount of choice out there when it comes to active ingredients in insect repellents. There’s DEET, Eucalyptus citriodora oil hydrated, cyclized EC Oil (H/C), Picaridin, IR3535, Citronella, the list can be mind-boggling. And besides what the active ingredient is, you should also look for the percent concentration. The higher the active ingredient amount, the longer it will last without having to be re-applied. Here is a summary of active ingredients available on the market.

  1. DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
    Although many experts maintain DEET is an effective insect repellent against mosquitoes in high-risk malaria areas, there are health concerns associated with its use, especially in young children. Due to its powerful solvent content, it is also known to damage plastics and clothing. Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has also suggested that mosquitoes may be becoming de-sensitized to DEET repellents after initial exposure. While arguably an effective insect repellent, there are more natural alternatives available.
     
  2. Eucalyptus citriodora oil hydrated, cyclized EC Oil (H/C)
    Eucalyptus citriodora oil hydrated, cyclized is also known as EC Oil (H/C) and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. It is derived from eucalyptus citriodora oil and is sold under the brand name Citriodiol®. It is the active ingredient in the Mosi-guard range. For those seeking an effective natural alternative, Citriodiol is arguably one of nature’s most effective insect repellents. Citriodiol based insect repellents have been tested for effectiveness in more than 35 laboratory and field studies around the world, against 26 different species of biting insects. It also contains the only naturally sourced active ingredient recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so you can trust the fact that it really works. And Citriodiol will not damage plastics and clothes like DEET and some other insect repellents will.

    These studies prove the long lasting effectiveness (up to eight hours) of the Mosi-guard Natural range (which contains Citriodiol) and reflect a level of efficacy that far exceeds that of citronella or any other plant-based insect repellent and is even on par with synthetic repellents like DEET. Being made from a natural and renewable essential oil, this insect repellent is   environmentally friendly, has a clean fresh scent, is kind to skin and deemed suitable for use on adults and children from the age of three months.
  3. Picaridin (KBR 3023)

Picaridin is another synthetic option and generally works as well as similar concentrations of DEET, but unlike DEET it will not damage plastic. Picaridin does not carry the same neurotoxicity concerns as DEET but has not been tested as much over the long term.

Although Picaridin has been shown to be effective against most mosquitoes, in various studies it has not done well against biting midges or ticks. Also, certain malaria mosquitoes appear to be more sensitive than others to Picaridin based repellents.
 

  1. IR3535
    IR3535 can be irritating to the eyes but appears to have few other safety risks. It is similar to DEET in efficacy, however it has not done well against malaria mosquitoes in lower concentrations (20% and less). Also like DEET, it may damage plastics and clothing.
     
  2. Citronella
    Citronella is one of the oldest and better-known natural insect repellents on the market. Despite the fact that many people have heard of and trust citronella to help protect them against biting insects, studies have shown that Citronella is not the best choice of natural insect repellent.

Stick, spray or roll-on insect repellent?

This really comes down to personal preference and how you want to apply your body care products. What you’ll want to be sure of is that you have a travel friendly insect repellent if you are taking it as carry on luggage.

Check the insect repellent protection time

To avoid having to constantly reapply your insect repellent, check the directions of the product you are using. It is generally advised to apply a thin even layer. Bear in mind if you’re hopping in and out of a swimming pool or perspiring you might need to reapply more often.

5 point summary of how to choose an effective insect repellent

Choose an insect repellent that

  1. Protects against a wide range of biting insects
  2. Has strong efficacy data and does what it says on the tin
  3. Has the right active ingredient and concentration for you
  4. Comes in your preferred application mode
  5. Has the protection time that suits your needs and activities