In general, protecting your clothing and shoes with products containing permethrin, which can kill ticks, is a best-practice and will remain protective through several washings. However, Permethrin should never be applied to skin; use as directed on the product label.
For topical protection, particularly for exposed skin, the highest performing products when tested contained one of these three active ingredients: 15%-30% DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or 10-20% picaridin.
We have collected some sites that offer information on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from tick bites.
Here are some other helpful resources for choosing a bug repellent.
EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents – The Environmental Working Group’s guide is our favorite and very clear. EWG acknowledges that many people are concerned about the possible drawbacks of common repellent active ingredients, like DEET. EWG researchers have analyzed the science in depth and found that, with proper application and precaution, our recommended active ingredients – Picaridin, DEET, and IR3535 – effectively reduce risk from life-altering disease and have very low toxicity concerns.
Find the Insect Repellent that is Right for You – This is a good tool from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pick the time window you expect to be outside and the “tick” drop-down, you will get a grid of all recommended brands with information on time they will protect and active ingredients.
Choosing and Using Insect Repellents – It can be difficult to decide which product to use when you are planning to be outdoors and want to be protected from ticks. The information you will find here from National Pesticide Information Center and the EPA’s Insect Repellent Locator can be useful when deciding on insect repellents.