Tips for Use of Sunscreen and Insect Repellant by Hikers

The health guidance on whether it is safe to use both sunscreen and insect repellant at the same time is a very relevant topic for MCM hikers, and the recommendations from various sources are not always in full agreement. Below, we’ve provided some suggestions from several web sites for our members’ consideration.

  • Should I apply sunscreen or repellent first? When determining whether to use sunscreen or insect repellent first, always apply sunscreen first, followed by your insect repellent. According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), some insect repellents that contain DEET may reduce the sun protection factor of the sunscreen by one-third if applied over the sunscreen. Because of this, it’s recommended that people reapply their sunscreen more frequently. No need to reapply your insect repellent more than once per day. Insect Repellent and Sunscreen: Which To Apply First (
  • Dermatologists have found that applying the insect repellent DEET together with sunscreen results in greater absorption of both compounds (Journal of Dermatological Treatment, Jan. 2016). According to these scientists, picaridin would be a better choice for repelling insects if you also need sunscreen (which you mostly do during the day). Although DEET is the gold standard, picaridin is about as effective and appears less likely to cause side effects. When you use sunscreen and bug repellent containing picaridin, you absorb less of both the repellent and sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone. Sunscreens based on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are not absorbed and not affected by insect repellent. What Are the Risks of Sunscreen and Bug Repellent Together? | The People’s Pharmacy (
  • You should always apply sunscreen first because it is meant to be absorbed into your skin and provides that protective base, whereas bug spray emits a vapour off your skin and that’s what irritates the insect and keeps them away. If you put on insect repellent first, the sunscreen will keep the vapour in and therefore not provide the same level of protection from the sun. Should You Put On Sunscreen or Bug Repellent First? | Dentec Safety Specialists | Canada
  • The CDC does suggest … to apply sunscreen first, and then apply the bug spray after the sunscreen dries. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF should be used liberally and often, every two hours depending on sun and water exposure, and should always be applied first. Bug spray should be applied after the sunscreen and re-applied every two to six hours as necessary, and should not be applied to the face. Should You Apply Bug Repellent Or Sunscreen First? (