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DEET vs. DEET-free : Which bug repellent is right for you?

Learn about the different active ingredients in insect repellents to make the ideal choice for you and your family.

OFF! has you covered

From Day 1, we've held the belief that prevention is the best protection. That's why we proudly offer a range of repellent options to meet you and your family's needs, no matter the occasion or your preferences. All so you can enjoy your outdoor adventures with the confidence and peace of mind you deserve.

First things first: DEET vs. DEET-free
Collection of OFF! DEET products with a camping tent in the background

DEET-based mosquito repellents have been used by U.S. households since 1957. And over that time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded repeatedly that DEET is an effective mosquito repellent for adults and children when used as directed.

Plus, the CDC recommends EPA-registered active ingredients such as DEET, deeming it effective in repelling mosquitoes which may carry the Zika virus, dengue fever virus, chikungunya, and malaria.

DEET works by confusing the receptors on mosquitoes’ antennae, essentially making it harder for them to “smell” people and land on their skin. The concentration of DEET in your insect repellent basically determines how long mosquitoes are confused for, with higher concentrations offering longer protection.

And while DEET offers long-lasting protection from mosquitoes and other pests, it’s not the only active ingredient available to help repel mosquitoes and ticks from biting exposed skin.

In fact, over the last twenty years, scientists have brought DEET-free solutions to the general public that take cues from plants and other naturally occurring insect repellent materials.

The result: More choice than ever when determining which active ingredient — DEET or otherwise — best fits your specific needs, lifestyle, and outdoor occasions.

Picaridin — a common DEET alternative
Collection of OFF! Picaridin products sitting on a fence with trees in the background

Picaridin has been a common insect repellent ingredient in the U.S. since 2005 and has been identified by the EPA an effective mosquito repellent for adults and kids when used as directed. The active ingredient Picaridin is often compared to a pepper spray for mosquitoes and for good reason: Picaridin is a chemical compound in the piperidine family which can be derived from black pepper plants or made synthetically.

Picaridin blocks and confuses the receptors of biting insects, forming a vapor barrier at the skin surface that deters mosquitoes from biting.

At equivalent levels of active ingredient concentration, Picaridin typically offers the same duration of protection as DEET-based solutions.

People enjoy using Picaridin given it odorless and doesn't feel oily or greasy when applied to skin. It also can be used on fabrics, plastics, and synthetic coatings without damage.

Picaridin can be found across a variety of OFF!® products, from OFF!® Clean Feel to OFF!® Defense solutions.

PMD: A plant-based DEET-free option
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Like Picaridin and DEET, PMD-based insect repellents are also approved by the EPA and have been in widespread use since 2005. PMD is an oil that can be extracted from the leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant or from the distillation of Pine Tree wood chips which when applied provides the skin a layer of protection confusing the mosquito and preventing bites.

Consumers enjoy using PMD repellents given its light, pleasant scent. It's great for shorter outdoor occasions, as a 10% concentration works for up to 2 hours.

OFF!® Botanicals® products are PMD-based and provide effective protection from mosquitoes.

Essential oils — a DEET-free option that’s great for kids
Front of an OFF! Kids bottle with a playground in the background

Insect repellents containing essential oils -- such as rosemary, citronella, geranium, cedarwood, peppermint, lemongrass, cornmint, or clove oils** - - are typically safe for use on kids 6 months and up*.

OFF!® Kids repellent use essential oils to provide a plant-based bug repellent that families can feel great about and offers about 90 minutes of protection from mosquitoes.

**See product label for ingredients