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Picaridin vs. DEET (2023 Guide)

Picaridin and DEET are two popular components found in insect repellents. They both repel mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and other biting insects and come in the form of aerosols, creams, and wipes. Keep reading to compare the two repellents and learn about other insect repellent alternatives.

What is picaridin?

Picaridin is a synthetic compound that’s highly effective at repelling mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers, gnats, and other stinging insects. Also known as icaridin, picaridin was created to resemble piperidine, a natural compound found in the plants that produce black pepper. It works by blocking a mosquito's sense of smell and making it harder for it to sense its prey. Picaridin has been commercially available in the United States since 2005.

For maximum protection against insects, consider using products that contain picaridin at concentrations of five to 20 percent. In general, spray repellents that contain picaridin protect against mosquitoes for up to 12 hours, and lotion formulas provide up to 14 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Both types of picaridin repellents protect against flies for eight hours.

What is DEET?

DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most common active ingredient found in insect repellents. It was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1946 to be used by the U.S. Army for protection from insects. Insect repellents containing DEET became commercially available in the U.S. in 1957.

This yellowish oil repels mosquitoes and ticks when applied to your skin or clothing. Though how it works is still sort of a mystery to scientists, some believe that it blocks an insect’s ability to detect human breath and sweat and others believe that it just smells bad to insects.

Concentrations of DEET can range from 4%–100%, and the percentage of DEET in a product will determine how long the product will last—a repellent with a higher concentration of DEET isn’t necessarily indicative of a product that works better, but it will last longer than repellents with a lower concentration of DEET.


Pros and cons of picaridin

If you’re still on the fence about picaridin, compare some of its benefits and drawbacks below.



Doesn’t leave behind a greasy or sticky residue

Has only been around since 2005

Is as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes and ticks

Is a synthetic compound and not a natural repellent

Doesn’t dissolve plastics or synthetic fibers

Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe to use on your skin


Pros and cons of DEET

If you’re still on the fence about picaridin, compare some of its benefits and drawbacks below.



Has been around since 1957, making it one of the oldest insect repellents in the industry

Can leave skin feeling greasy

Offers long-lasting protection against mosquitoes

In some rare cases, high concentrations of DEET can cause skin irritation or a rash

Safe to use on women who are breastfeeding, pregnant women, and children

Is a plasticizer and can dissolve or damage plastics and synthetic fibers and be harmful to gear

Protects against mosquito-borne diseases, such as the West Nile virus and Zika virus

Known to have an overwhelming smell


Picaridin vs. DEET: which is better?

When it comes down to it, picaridin and DEET are both effective insect repellents and can protect against mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. If you prefer to use a product that’s been around for years, DEET may be a viable option. However, if you don’t want your skin to feel greasy after applying insect repellent or don’t want to risk harming your gear, picaridin may be a better choice.

Alternatives to picaridin and DEET

If you’re looking for other natural alternatives to picaridin and DEET, consider the following solutions:

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE): This natural repellent is safe and effective to use against mosquitoes and is the only plant-based ingredient approved by the EPA and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Oil of lemon eucalyptus doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy after application, it has a refreshing scent, and it’s as effective as DEET. Not to mention, it protects against mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika virus and West Nile virus, and illnesses spread by ticks, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Neem oil: According to a 2015 study in the Malaria Journal, a concentration of 20% neem oil provided 70% protection against mosquitoes for three hours. If you want a repellent that lasts a little longer, consider using OLE.
  • Citronella: Citronella is one of the most widely used natural repellents and repels mosquitoes for up to two hours; however, it isn’t regulated for safety or effectiveness by the EPA and can cause skin irritation at higher concentrations.

Why Murphy’s Naturals

Murphy’s Naturals was founded to provide consumers with a natural alternative to DEET. All of the active ingredients in our mosquito repellents are from the EPA’s 25b list, which consists of natural ingredients the EPA has approved to be safely used in natural products. Not to mention, our candles and incense contain proprietary blends of citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, and peppermint to prevent insects from biting you.

Here are a few products that can keep you safe from mosquitoes:

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