Tick Repellents for the Skin
The use of repellents applied to the skin can reduce your exposure to tick bites. It is important to keep in mind that insect repellents have varying degrees of effectiveness against ticks. Consumer Reports provides effectiveness ratings for both mosquitoes and deer ticks on a number of repellents that contain Picaridin, DEET and essential oils. Though DEET containing products have been shown to be the most effective overall insect repellent for deterring mosquitoes, black flies and gnats; it is only effective at repelling ticks for brief time periods after being applied and then must be re-applied. Some commercial products made with Picaridin, IR3525, as well as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus have shown higher effectiveness against ticks.
DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide). Products containing DEET include, but are not limited to, Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
Picaridin (KBR 3023 [Bayrepel] and icaridin outside the US; chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester). Products containing picaridin include, but are not limited to, Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan (outside the US).
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol), the synthesized version of OLE. Products containing OLE and PMD include, but are not limited to, Repel and Off ! Botanicals. This recommendation refers to EPA-registered products containing the active ingredient OLE (or PMD). “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil not formulated as a repellent) is not recommended; it has not undergone similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy and is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent.
IR3535 (chemical name: 3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester). Products containing IR3535 include, but are not limited to, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.
2-undecanone (chemical name: methyl nonyl ketone). The product BioUD contains 2-undecanone.
EPA characterizes the active ingredients DEET and picaridin as “conventional repellents” and OLE, PMD, IR3535, and 2-undecanone as “biopesticide repellents,” which are either derived from or are synthetic versions of natural materials.
Many products are not recommended on young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines for repellent use in children are found here.
The use of repellents can reduce your exposure to ticks, however daily tick checks should be part of your routine every time you go outdoors.