CR tests insect repellents by having volunteers put their repellent-covered arms in cages filled with healthy mosquitoes and see how long it takes for the insects to start biting. Our current reviews include 13 products that use picaridin as an active ingredient. Of these, four performed well enough to earn our recommendation.
“Our testing cannot determine precisely why some picaridin-based repellents last long while others do not,” says Chris Regan, who leads CR’s insect repellent testing. But some patterns are emerging. For example, all of our recommended picaridin repellents are pump or aerosol sprays. None of those that come in lotion or wipe form offered comparable protection in our tests (though some picaridin sprays fell short too).
When it comes to the concentration of the active ingredient, the picture gets a little murkier. Three of the four recommended picaridin repellents use a 20% concentration, while one has a 10% concentration. So if you want to use a picaridin-based insect repellent, it’s probably best to stick with a spray that contains 20 percent picaridin, Regan says. Yet several other products with these same concentrations didn’t last long enough to earn our recommendation, so you can’t rely on concentration alone.
The effectiveness of picaridin as a repellent is supported by published research as well as CR testing. In a 2018 analysis of studies testing the effectiveness of picaridin against mosquitoes, the researchers concluded that the evidence seems to suggest that picaridin-based repellents offer about the same protection as deet-based repellents.
And what about ticks? Picaridin is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a tick and mosquito repellent. CR’s tests only assess how long a repellent keeps mosquitoes away, and although tests in years past have found that a repellent that works well against mosquitoes also works well against ticks, we can’t say. with certainty how long a given product would repel ticks.
Other outside evidence suggests that picaridin may provide strong protection against ticks. The Wilderness Medical Society, for example, says evidence suggests picaridin has comparable efficacy against ticks to deet. Check product labels to see how long manufacturers suggest they should last.