a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Insect repellants and sunscreen

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Insect repellants and sunscreen

SUMMARY:  What works, what doesn't, how to apply; my summary from Consumer Reports July 2015

Tick on my jeans, Sierra Azul, April 2008
I'm active (well... was.  well... sometimes am). I like to be out and about, which puts me into the open air at times of the day and locations where bugaboos (mosquitos and ticks in particular) like to go bitey bitey bitey, and when the sun is high and harsh. The odds of developing dangerous skin cancer (melanoma) are increasing rapidly (about 1 in 50 people will develop it) with all the crap we've wrought upon our atmosphere, and the increasing incidences of West Nile Virus and such also are as a result of our meddling.

So, some useful info (mostly because I can never remember the important bits, so here it is).

Check the issue of the magazine for details.

Insect repellents

(They didn't address whether these are safe for pets.)
  • Apply repellants only to exposed skin and clothing, not underneath. Don't apply directly to face; apply to hands and rub onto face. Use just enough to cover; applying too much chemical does not work better.
  • They say, "At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again." (Emphasis mine; interesting.)
  • My summary of what works:
    • Best: 20% picaridin
    • Best: 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus
    • Good: 15-25% Deet, varied by other ingredients, so sometimes a 15% blend is more effective (see report). Do NOT go over 30%.
    • Good: Sit near a full-power fan, blows away a lot of mosquitos.
  • My summary of what doesn't:
    •  "All-natural" repellants, (The best were effective no more than an hour, and others didn't work at all.
    • Wristbands.  
    • Skin So Soft (despite persistent lore).
    • Citronella candles, portable antimosquito diffusers.


What works:
  • SPF 30 or higher with UVA and UVB (broad-spectrum) protection.
     (UVA rays are present during the day no matter the weather or time of day or year, promote the aging of skin, and increase the likelihood of developing melanoma. UVB are more present from 10 to 4 and on sunny days, and cause redness/burning. Therefore, use a broad spectrum that protects against both (again, claims might be inaccurate).)
  • Hanes Beefy-Ts and Eastbay Evapor long-sleeved compression crew both provided over 100 SPF, so you don't even have to buy special SPF clothing.
What doesn't work:
  • You can't always trust the SPF on the container. Use CR's list of tested items.
    Ouch. March 2008
  • "all natural" or mineral screens don't usually work that well. CU rates only one even Good, but if you have allergies, you could consider that one (California Baby Super Sensitive 30+).
  • You don't have to pay a ton to get good results (see ratings).
  • They don't have to be gross and oily (some might start that way but rub in w/in 30 seconds and then are fine).
  • Apply 15-30 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours even if your skin isn't looking red, because the damage might not be visible until a while after it actually occurs.
  • 1 teaspoon per body part (e.g., neck, arm)
Get out there and be safe!  (That's a note to me just as much as anyone.)


  1. No need to go higher than SPS 30. More than that just puts more chemicals on you and doesn't really add more protection. My pediatrician said no more than 15 for kids.

    1. Thanks. I seemed to remember those guidelines from the past, but I don't believe that the article actually mentioned that.