The Truth About Bug Spray

Mother Jones   By Kiera Butler     May 26, 2014

If you're planning on spending time outdoors this summer, you'll find that the insect repellent aisle of your local pharmacy offers a dazzling array of options to protect you from hungry bugs. Hardcore DEET-based sprays like Off! Deep Woods ($6.79 for 6 oz.) promise to ward off ticks, mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, and gnats for an entire day. Other products—such as Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus ($6.99 for 4 oz.)—contain sunscreen in addition to insect repellent. There are plenty of plant-based potions—Aromaflage ($30 for 8 ml) claims that its proprietary blend of "citrus fruit, warm cedarwood, and silken vanilla" makes for "a sophisticated, uplifting fragrance that also repels insects." So do any of them get the job done? And do they cause problems for more than just bugs?