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When it comes to mosquitoes, an effective repellent remains the best line of defense — and the best mosquito repellent lotions are an easy alternative to sprays. When shopping for a mosquito repellent lotion, your best bet is an option formulated with DEET or picaridin. You should also opt for a lotion that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure they’re both effective and safe to slather on your skin.
What to look for when shopping for the best mosquito repellent lotions
A mosquito repellent’s efficacy will depend on its ingredients, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are all effective in warding off mosquitoes.
According to the State of Connecticut Mosquito Management Program, a formula with anywhere from 10% to 35% DEET will provide good coverage for most people, but you should keep in mind how long you will be exposed to mosquitoes (a higher percentage of DEET will offer longer protection). According to the CDC, DEET is safe for pregnant people and children at least two months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using DEET concentrations under 30% on children. (Note: These are broad guidelines and may not take into consideration other ingredients in an insect repellent. For any given product, you should also closely read the manufacturer label and follow its exact usage instructions.)
If you’d prefer to use a DEET-free lotion, consider one that contains at least 20% picaridin, which studies have shown can offer comparable protection. While DEET is more widely studied, picaridin is approved by the CDC as safe and effective to use as well. Unlike DEET, picaridin also has little to no odor and is non-greasy, plus it won’t risk damage to plastic, synthetic fabrics, leather, and painted surfaces. According to the CDC, EPA-registered mosquito repellents with picaridin are safe to use while pregnant and on children two months old and older.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus
While botanical repellents tend not to be as effective, you can opt for a formula that uses oil of lemon eucalyptus (or its synthetic derivative, PMD), which the CDC deems a safe and effective alternative to DEET or picaridin. Just keep in mind that it often lasts just a couple hours and requires frequent reapplication. The CDC also doesn’t recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus for children under three years old — and for all the above reasons, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that pregnant women avoid using repellents with oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD.
Regardless of your preferences, you’ll want a mosquito repellent lotion that’s been registered and approved by the EPA. This will ensure that your chosen product has been evaluated and approved for effectiveness and human safety.
Below, you’ll find five of the best mosquito repellent lotions that are EPA registered and available on Amazon, plus mosquito repellent wipes (one that’s formulated with DEET and the other with PMD) for those who want the targeted protection of a lotion in an even more travel-friendly package.
1. The potent 34% DEET lotion
- Has a long-lasting DEET-based formula that can offer protection for up to 12 hours
- 2-ounce package is carry-on-friendly
- Sticky at first and has an odor
- Higher DEET concentrations not suitable for children
Offering the longest-lasting protection on the list is this DEET insect repellent lotion. Its long-lasting formula repels mosquitoes for up to 12 hours. And one Amazon reviewer wrote, “It lasted well over 12 hours while I was out and didn’t have a terrible smell.” The lotion is scented, and while some reviewers considered the scent as mild, others have found the smell to be a little strong and might not be the best for those who are sensitive to fragrance. One tradeoff: Multiple reviews noted it feels sticky when it’s first applied — but that could be a small price to pay for the protection this option can provide.
Like other options on the list, this lotion is registered with the EPA. Just keep in mind that it contains 34% DEET, which is above the maximum recommended percentage for children under three years old.
One reviewer wrote: “I have always been a magnet for mosquitos. This is the best product I have ever used. The smell is mild. It smells kind of like plastic. I wore this to Yellowstone and Jackson, WY and didn't get one single mosquito bite. We hiked a trail at dusk at Yellowstone and the rest of the people in my group were getting eaten alive and I couldn't believe that I didn't have even one bite. The only downside I would say is that it leaves a sort of film on your skin [...] after time it can rub off and it's a little gross.”
Active ingredient: 34% DEET | Coverage: Up to 12 hours | EPA-registered? Yes
2. The kid-friendly 20% DEET lotion
- Safe for children over two months old
- Not sticky or greasy, according to Amazon reviewers
- Not completely odorless
- Too large to take in a carry-on bag
Sawyer’s mosquito repellent lotion contains 20% DEET, which is a safe concentration for children over two months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Thanks to its slow-release formula, it repels mosquitoes for up to 11 hours. As one Amazon reviewer described, “It keeps the bugs away for hours and the lotion application is very convenient.”
While the manufacturer labels it as “odorless” and doesn’t specify that there are any added fragrances, reviewers have noted that you should expect it to have a scent. One shopper explained, “This uses DEET and of course smells like DEET, though not overpowering.” What many reviewers have agreed on, though, is that it isn’t sticky. “The product is a creamy lotion that largely (though not completely) feels ‘dry’ after applying,” a reviewer stated. In addition to the 4-ounce size featured above, this EPA-registered lotion also comes in a 6-ounce bottle, as well as a 4-and-6-ounce twin pack.
One reviewer wrote: “This is the first time I’ve had lotion bug repellent and I LOVE it. The smell is not super strong and it is very effective against mosquitoes.”
Active ingredient: 20% DEET | Coverage: Up to 11 hours | EPA-registered? Yes
3. The long-lasting mosquito-repellent lotion with picaridin
- The longest-lasting insect repellent on this list
- Doesn’t have a strong odor and isn’t sticky
- While effective and safe, picaridin isn’t quite as well studied as DEET
This DEET-free mosquito repellent lotion from Sawyer relies on 20% picaridin and promises to repel mosquitoes and ticks for up to 14 hours. It offers the longest-lasting protection among the options on the list, and Amazon reviewers have reported that it lives up to its claim. “I love how long it lasts,” one reviewer wrote. “If I use it in the morning before going out, it’s still effective at 6 or 7pm.”
Many reviewers also agreed that the lotion is odorless and non-sticky. This EPA-registered option comes in 4- and 6-ounce bottles. Sawyer also offers picaridin-based repellents in other formats, including carry-on-friendly lotion packets (see the next pick for more details), pump spray bottles, and continuous-spray bottles.
One reviewer wrote: “I used it in Nigeria when I was there. It was great at protecting me from the mosquitoes. I didn't get one [bite] when I had this on. It lasted all day long... Didn't have to reapply... And I would sit outside for long periods of time. I was there for 40 days... I would say that if you have a long trip of a month or more I would take 2 at this size to make sure you have enough. I just about ran out before my 40 days were up. Other than that this product was great!”
Active ingredient: 20% picaridin | Coverage: Up to 14 hours | EPA-registered? Yes
4. The portable lotion packets with picaridin
- Portable, single-use design is ideal for travel
- Package isn’t practical for everyday use
With the same 20% picaridin concentration as the previous option but in an extra- portable format, Sawyer’s packets of mosquito repellent lotion are ideal for those who are on the move and want to pack light. One Amazon reviewer wrote, “These were perfect for travel to Mexico. They are easy to carry and the perfect size for covering me.” The EPA-registered lotion wards off mosquitoes for up to 14 hours and is odorless. What’s more, you can layer it underneath sunscreen. This one comes in a pack of 14, but you can also shop it as a pack of seven or stock up with a pack of 50 for a few more dollars.
One reviewer wrote: “I am loving this product. I bought the lotion packets and love that I can keep 1-2 in my purse for any time I need them. We were at a party last weekend and my son who mosquitos love didn’t get a single bite. My husband got whatever was left in the packet (after I used it and my son) and I was only able to do his legs. I used some other spray for his arms and he had no bites on his legs but lots on his arms! Used it again tonight and my son and I didn’t get a single bite while everyone around us was complaining!”
Active ingredient: 20% picaridin | Coverage: Up to 14 hours | EPA-registered? Yes
Also great: the DEET mosquito-repellent wipes
- An easy-to-apply alternative to lotions
- Has a subtle odor
If you want targeted protection from mosquitoes but want to skip the stickiness, consider using mosquito-repellent wipes. These Repel wipes are infused with 30% DEET to provide up to 10 hours of protection from mosquitoes (though this concentration means that they’re not recommended for kids). The 5-by-7-inch wipes are EPA-registered and come in a resealable pouch, which makes them great for traveling, according to multiple Amazon reviewers. “Very convenient for travel,” one reviewer wrote. “Lightweight, non-leaking, single use towelette packets.”
Just know that the feedback is mixed when it comes to scent: Some reviewers mentioned the scent was undetectable, while others reported that the lotion emits a mild odor. Each order comes with six pouches, and each pouch contains 15 wipes.
One reviewer wrote: “This really works and I’ve tried so many repellents that don’t work. It is easy to hand out one wipe to each of my guests at an outdoor picnic. The repellent is clear and wipes easily. It seems less intrusive than getting a handful of cream or spraying myself.”
Active ingredient: 30% DEET | Coverage: Up to 10 hours | EPA-registered? Yes
Also great: the botanical mosquito-repellent wipes
- Travel-friendly packaging
- Frequent application necessary
- Has a subtle odor
Made with PMD (a synthetic version of oil of lemon eucalyptus), these mosquito-repellent wipes offer targeted protection against mosquitos. There are 10 individually wrapped, 5-by-6-inch wipes to a pack — and you’ll receive three packs with your order, amounting to 30 wipes in total. They only repel mosquitos for up to two hours, but within the timeframe, Amazon reviewers have attested they’re effective. One reviewer wrote, “I was in a national park that is a swamp and it was during a thunderstorm. It smells a bit strong but it worked wonderfully.”
The wipes are fragranced, and while one Amazon reviewer mentioned the scent is overpowering, others found it to be pleasant nonetheless. The wipes are EPA-registered and, as per the CDC, make a suitable alternative to DEET- or picaridin-based formulations. Just keep in mind that PMD — the active ingredient in these wipes — isn’t recommended by the CDC for children under three years of age, and may not be ideal for pregnant women.
One reviewer wrote: “Like that this is plant based. Smells good. Can use the cloths more than once if you keep them sealed in the pouch. Good value.”
Active ingredient: 8% PMD | Coverage: Up to 2 hours | EPA-Registered? Yes
Van Roey, K., Sokny, M., Denis, L., Van den Broeck, N., Heng, S., Siv, S., Sluydts, V., Sochantha, T., Coosemans, M., Durnez, L. (2014). Field Evaluation of Picaridin Repellents Reveals Differences in Repellent Sensitivity between Southeast Asian Vectors of Malaria and Arboviruses, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270489/