When you’re trying to protect your skin during the summer, there are two key elements to keep in mind: sunshine and insects. Sunburns are painful and potentially dangerous, since the UV exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. Similarly, insect bites are itchy and can transmit potentially life-threatening illnesses.
But the solution may not be as simple as applying both bug spray and sunscreen. In fact, some researchers caution against doing this when the bug spray includes DEET. Studies have shown that combining sunscreen and DEET can increase the skin’s absorption of DEET.
Best Sunscreen Mosquito Repellents
|#1. Mosquito Coast|
Our Best Pick
|SPF 30||4.7 ounces|
|#2. Mosquito Coast with Wipes|
|SPF 50||5.5 ounces|
|SPF 34||2.9 ounces|
The Studies on Mixing Sunscreen and DEET
DEET is the most effective insect repellent on the market. It has an excellent safety record and more than fifty years of proven results. However, though the chemical poses few side effect risks by itself, there is the potential for harm when DEET is combined with substances that increase its overall potency.
Though some researchers say that you shouldn’t ever mix DEET and sunscreen, others contest this. They believe that DEET is safe with sunscreen as long as you’re sensible. You should get products with low concentrations of DEET, especially if you’re combining them with sunscreen or using them around young children. Only people going into dangerously infested areas need pure DEET concentrations.
One study was done on the skin of hairless mice. Some mice had a 20 percent DEET solution applied to their skin. Others had a 10 percent solution and sunscreen applied to the skin. With the 20 percent solution, it took thirty minutes for the chemical to penetrate the skin’s barriers. But the 10 percent solution took just five minutes to be detectable, even though the concentration was half as potent.
In addition, the study indicated that after DEET penetrated the mice’s skin, those who combined DEET with sunscreen absorbed it 3.4 times faster than those with the standard solution. Though DEET is safe enough that this extra absorption probably won’t cause ill health effects, it is significant for individuals with allergies and skin sensitivities.
One of the concerns that researchers raise is that manufacturers test bug sprays and sunscreens individually, but they don’t often test how the ingredients combine. Because sunscreen can increase the potency of DEET, you should be cautious.
It’s recommended that children use low concentrations of DEET when picking a DEET-based insect repellent. Though DEET is approved for use in everyone over the age of two months, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that DEET sprays shouldn’t be applied to the skin of children more than once daily.
Because sunscreen needs to be reapplied periodically throughout the day, it’s not recommended that children use DEET-infused sunblock. Failing to reapply it can cause sunburn, and reapplying it might cause other potential health issues.
You might be concerned about DEET bug sprays affecting your child. But the good news is, there are a number of alternatives on the market. When picking a lotion or spray, always make sure to follow the guidelines. If it’s not recommended for use in children, don’t use it as a replacement for DEET sprays in your young ones.
Many natural DEET alternatives use minerals to create a protective barrier on the skin. They also use essential oils to ward off mosquitoes and other insects. Essential oils mask your scent so mosquitoes can’t find you, but they have a much more pleasant aroma than DEET.
#1. Bull Frog Mosquito Coast SPF 30 Sunblock
This is a DEET-free insect repellent and sunscreen option available from Bull Frog. It’s formulated with SPF 30 and comes in bottles of 4.7 fluid ounces. The repellent has been tested and shown to work for up to eight hours, and the formula also provides a mix of UVA and UVB protection to keep you from getting sunburned.
One of the selling points of this sunblock is that it is water resistant for up to eighty total minutes. You can use it at the beach, lake, or pool. Whether you’re swimming, kayaking, canoeing, or engaging in other waterfront activities, you won’t have to worry about constantly reapplying the spray.
It’s recommended that you reapply the spray after every eighty minutes of sweating or swimming. You should also reapply it after you towel dry, and add another layer every two hours or so. Though the repellent and sunscreen can protect you for up to eight hours, they will be most potent if you reapply frequently.
#2. Bull Frog Extra Strength Mosquito Coast with Wipes
This is another offering from Bull Frog. Like the other Mosquito Coast formula, this spray offers DEET-free insect protection and protection from harmful sunlight. But unlike the other formula, this sunblock is created with an extra strength of SPF 50.
Each of the spray cans has 5.5 ounces. You can buy them in single packs, but a good option is to get a three-pack that includes wipes. Also available are four-packs alone and four-packs containing wipes. If you need a stronger SPF because you have fair skin or live in an area that gets strong direct sunlight, this is a great option.
Like the other Mosquito Coast insect repellent and sunblock, this formula offers water resistance for up to eighty minutes. It’s designed to spray onto your skin evenly and lightly, and it doesn’t have a greasy or oily texture. In addition, the formula has been enriched with vitamin E and aloe leaf extract to moisturize and soothe the skin.
The included towelettes aren’t infused with insect repellent or sunblock. However, they are extremely convenient when you need to clean your hands or get rid of excess spray. If you have repellent on your hands before a meal, the wipes can help remove it.
Getting three cans of the spray is a good choice if you’re planning to have outdoor fun with multiple friends or family members. Even if you’re adventuring on your own, it’s always good to have spares around.
#3. Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen SPF 34
This SPF 34 sunscreen is slightly more powerful than the original Mosquito Coast formula, but it doesn’t near the SPF 50 of the extra-strength option. The sunscreen also doesn’t last as long as the Bull Frog sprays. But with that said, it’s available in lotion form, so those who dislike bug sprays will prefer it. A 2.9 ounce tube can go a long way, and it’s also small and compact enough to be good for travel.
This is another DEET-free option, so it’s good for people with sensitive skin and those concerned about their health. The sun-blocking mineral is zinc oxide. The formula utilizes organic ingredients including moisturizing and soothing substances like castor oil, beeswax, and extra virgin olive oil.
If you want an environmentally-friendly option, this is among the best choices. It’s both biodegradable and reef friendly. Every bottle has been certified cruelty free and also certified non-GMO. The formula uses natural essential oils to repel insects, so there’s a pleasant scent rather than the bitter smell of traditional bug spray. You get an aroma of lemongrass, cedar, and citronella.
In laboratory testing, the sunscreen was shown to repel mosquitoes for more than four hours at a time. It’s also proven water-resistant and sweat-resistant for a maximum of forty minutes. While these times are about half of the Bull Frog’s times, they’re still significant.
There are some concerns about mixing DEET with sunscreen because the sunscreen can increase the skin’s absorption of the chemical. Though most people should be able to use it without issue, alternative options are good for young children and individuals with sensitive skin.
Bull Frog has a number of good DEET-free offerings to repel mosquitoes and other insects. The original Mosquito Coast repellent has an SPF of 30 and can repel insects for a maximum of eight hours. There’s a stronger formulation of the Mosquito Coast spray with an SPF of 50, which is ideal for people with fair skin or those in very heavily sunlit areas. This package includes wipes to help remove excess spray from your hands and body.
Another of the DEET-free options on the market is the Badger sunscreen. It has an SPF of 34, so it will protect against most sun conditions. It’s also both sweat and water resistant for up to forty minutes, so you can spend ample time in the pool or lake before you need to reapply. It repels insects for up to four hours and blocks harmful rays with zinc oxide. By using essential oils as insect repellent, this lotion manages to be one of the best natural choices available.