How do Mosquito Repellents Work?

Before you buy the most suitable and best mosquito repellent for you, it is important that you know how these things work. First of all, mosquito repellents don’t kill mosquitoes and instead, coats the skin surface with a substance that makes it less attractive to mosquitoes. The ingredients found in many mosquito repellents mask the natural chemicals that the body naturally produces, which makes it more difficult for mosquitoes to detect your luscious skin.

What Differentiates One Mosquito Repellent from Another?

The effectiveness of the best mosquito repellent products in the market is measured by the Complete Protection Time or CPT, which is the length of time it can repel mosquitoes. The longer the CPT, the better.

3 Types of Insect or Mosquito Repellent Active Ingredients to Know

Mosquito repellents are usually composed of synthetic chemicals and botanical or plant based extracts. They are:

  1. Chemical-Based Compound Repellents: DEET and Picaridin

According to EPA, Us Environmental Protection Agency, those two synthetic active ingredients are known to be the most effective mosquito repellent. They are scientificly proven for its effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes and providing longer lasting protection than others.

This synthetic chemical is around in public for use since 1957 and can be the best mosquito repellent in the market until today. The use is usually between 5% until 100% concentration. Basically, the higher the concentration, the longer the protection.

However, under normal conditions, higher concentration isn’t necessary. Only 10 to 35% of DEET is considered enough to repel insects or mosquitoes under most conditions. This will repel them for 3 to 12 hours. Less than that, it will only give a protection for 1 to 3 hours.

Parents however, should take note that products containing more than 10% of DEET should not be used by children since their skin are more susceptible to systemic absorption thus, making them prone to the effects of DEET. For children under 2 years old, it is not recommended to use products with this chemical for their safety. This substance should be used with caution as well among pregnant women.

In the market, this synthetic compound can be found under different brand names and different forms such as lotions, creams, sprays, etc.

Although there have been controversies on its safety, there have been no medical evidence that proves it to be a serious threat to the health. Commercial mosquitoes repellents are deemed safe to use if the instructions are followed properly.

This is a synthetic chemical also known as “Icaridin”, KBR, or Bayrepel has been used worldwide since 1998, and in United States it starts since 2005. As the alternative to DEET, it can be as effective as DEET, but it is odorless, less likely to give a skin irritation, and it won’t melt plastic.

In some studies, the protection provided by Picaridin is shown to last 8 hours compared to DEET that can last for 11 hours. In the market, it is available in aerosols, sprays, pumps, wipes or liquids.

  1. Chemical-Based Compound for Clothing Treatment: Permethrin

Permethrin is actually an EPA approved insecticide and not a repellent. However, it is able to repel and also directly kill mosquitoes and other insects such as ticks and arthropods. It can only be used on shoes, hat, camping gear, bed/mosquito nets and clothing and it should not be used on skin directly.

It can give long lasting protection for minimum 2 weeks, even after several launderings. In Africa where there is a malaria-disease threat, permethrin has been used extensively on mosquito nets to give more protection from mosquito bites.

Combination between skin mosquito repellent and cloth mosquito repellent even brings the best protection towards mosquitoes bites as it is tested in Alaska.

  1. Botanical/Plant-Based/Herbal Insects or Mosquito Repellents (Biopesticide Repellents)

These natural materials or non-chemical-based types of insect or mosquito repellents often become the alternatives when someone wants to avoid some concerns regarding the safety, odor and adverse effects on plastics and synthetic fabrics when they use the chemical ones.

It is important to remember that although they are natural, they may not completely safe as they may bring some effects if they are not used properly as they are suggested. People who use it should also be aware of possible skin reaction when they use it or reapply it more often in a day as it can happen to certain people who have sensitive skin, although this case very rare.