As beautiful as summertime is, there are always two key concerns lovers of the outdoors must contend with: the sweltering sun and swarms of bugs searching for a bloodmeal. So, how can you simultaneously protect yourself from the sun and potentially harmful  bites from ticks and other bugs?

Dr. Pierre George, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, explains that although combining bug repellent and sunscreen may sound like an appealing idea, “it is better to use two different products rather than a single combination formulation”. This is because if products are combined, the sunscreen’s ability to screen out ultraviolet radiation may be decreased by the repellent and likewise, the toxicity of the repellent may be increased by the sunscreen. Sunscreens are also believed to enhance the absorption of DEET into the skin, potentially increasing toxicity, especially in children. Moreover, studies show that some sunscreen preparations can lose efficacy (up to 30% reduction in SPF) when combined with DEET, giving more credence to the idea that combination formulas are an issue.

Additionally, there are differences in how each product should be applied. For one, sunscreen should be applied generously and frequently (approximately every two hours is recommended), and it is important to apply sunscreen on your face. Meanwhile, insect repellants such as DEET should be applied no more frequently than every two to six hours, and applying it on the face should be avoided at all costs. Therefore, it makes little logical sense to use combination formulas due to the complications that may arise.


One must also keep in mind the importance of applying bug spray and suncreen correctly. As Joan Muratore, leader of insect repellent testing at Consumer Reports notes, “even the best bug spray won’t help much if you don’t apply it properly – a quick absent minded spray won’t provide enough protection, but too much, or applying bug spray in the wrong way may pose risks, especially for young children”. Here are a few tips for using sunscreen and bug repellents together, provided by experts on the matter:

-Apply sunscreen first and put it on smoothly and evenly, but don’t overdo it. Mosquitoes can find and bite an exposed section of the skin the size of a dime, so every inch of skin should be covered.
-Use your hands for sensitive, hard to reach spots. Do not spray repellent directly onto your face or ears. Additionally, bug sprays can aggravate open cuts and wounds, so avoid areas with broken or irritated skin
-Don’t forget to apply bug spray on your ankles and knees, as ticks and mosquitoes  tend to be attracted to these spots of the body. Ticks are known to hop onto people from plants on the ground, so the ankles are a primary target.
-Insect repellent of any kind should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age
-Insect repellents can wash off in the water, so if swimming or sweating heavily, think about reapplying

Remember that bug bites are not only annoying, they can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases. So make sure you keep yourself covered during the summer!