ESSENTIAL SKILLS

Sunscreen with Bug Spray: Are They Effective as a Combo?

John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

When the nicer weather starts coming around again, people of all ages want to enjoy the outdoors. However, that means the sun is going to be beating down on you, and you need to stay protected. Using a sunscreen with bug spray is one option. This is a mixture of bug spray to keep mosquitoes and nuisance bugs at bay while still using SPF protection to keep the UV rays away from you.

A sunscreen with bug repellent can be a convenient way to apply two things at once to your body. Plus, it is just one bottle so you can save space in your backpack or beach bag and save money at the store by not buying two products. This seems to be a home run, right? You will find out.Some say that you should not use a sunscreen with bug spray because it might not be potent enough on either side to truly protect you from both bugs and the sun’s rays. If you need a great product to ward off these pests, see our list of the top mosquito repellents to protect you from bites.

Sunscreen and Bug Repellents

We are going to dig deep into this subject, including whether or not the combination of both is effective, and features that you should look into when it comes to sunscreen with bug sprays, and some opinions on the subject so that you can make up your own mind after seeing the facts.

Features to Consider

You will want to take into account several features before you head to the store for the cheapest brand of sunscreen with bug spray. You may want to find something that lasts a long time and has a great smell to it.

bug spray sunscreens

Consider the features below.

  1. Sunscreen SPF: SPF is the Sun Protection Factor and it protects you from the Ultra Violet (UV) Rays that the sun emits and are damaging to your skin. Most dermatologists recommend using an SPF 15 or higher to get greater protection. If you have sensitive skin or pale skin, you may need to use a really high SPF number.
  2. How Long It Lasts: You should expect your sunscreen with bug spray to last about 2 hours, unless otherwise directed on the bottle. You should reapply it after that and especially after going swimming or profusely sweating. Read the directions on the bottle for more accurate information.
  3. Absorbency: You sunscreen will reflect the sun’s light from your body, while absorbing the sunscreen itself. The sunscreen is absorbed into your skin by chemical reaction from the lotion and your body’s ability to physically take it in. You will definitely want an absorbent sunscreen.
  4. Greasy: Nobody likes the greasy feeling that lotions and sunscreens can have. This makes things slippery when holding them and leaves a gross feeling on the body. Seek out a sunscreen with bug spray that is not too greasy but will still protect your skin. You do not want to be at the beach, playing in the sand, and have the sand stuck all over you because the greasy sunscreen made it stick to your body.
  5. The Feel and Smell: Sunscreen with bug spray should have a nice feeling going on your body. It should go on smoothly and rub onto your skin with ease, with no leftover greasy feeling. And it should have a nice smell, as you do not want your sunscreen with bug spray to smell like a bunch of chemicals which can be off putting.

A Review of Sunscreen with Bug Spray

Before you buy, let us take a deeper look into sunscreen with bug spray and find out more about it. In this section, we will compare brands, and take a deeper look into whether sunscreen with bug spray is actually better than using the two products separately.

First of all, we will compare some popular brands so that you can get a feel of the most purchased products on the market. Keep in mind the considered features above when you are purchasing a new sunscreen with bug spray.

Popular Brands of Sunscreen w/ Bug Spray and SpecsAvon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Insect Repellent Moisturizing LotionBull Frog Mosquito Coast Spray Sunscreen w/ Insect RepellentAvon Skin So Soft Plus Expedition Unscented Bug Spray SPF 28 Green CanBabyganics Mineral Based Baby Sunscreen Spray Plus Insect RepellentBadger Sunscreen All Natural Insect Repellent CreamCactus Juice Sunscreen and Repellent by Cactus Juice
SPF Amount303030503420
Spray or LotionLotionSpraySpraySprayLotionSpray
ScentGentle BreezeUnscentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscented
Bottle Size4 fl oz6 fl oz4 fl oz6 fl oz2.9 fl oz8 oz
DEET FreeYesYesYesYesYesYes
PABA FreeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Amazon Rating4.4 of 54.4 of 54.1 of 54.1 of 53.1 of 54.5 of 5

While using sunscreen with bug spray may be more simple, experts agree that using a sunscreen with bug spray may not work as well as people think. Experts say to use a separate can for sunscreen and one for bug spray. It is said that using both in one bottle can be less effective because UV radiation prevention is lessened when bug spray is added to the mix, plus the toxicity of the bug spray is heightened by the sun. Also, the SPF can be reduced by more than 30 percent if using both products in the same bottle. For natural products, see our piece on DIY insect repellents that are gentle on the skin.

Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Insect Repellent Moisturizing Lotion

Another thing is that sunscreen needs to be applied more often than bug spray, and bug spray should never be applied to the face, which it is when it comes mixed with sunscreen, because you want your face to be safe from the sun, right? Bug spray should be applied less often than sunscreen, thus making it harder to decide when to reapply. Using two separate products will allow each to work more effectively.

With sunscreen, the active ingredients include:

  • An organic compound for absorbing UV light.
  • Inorganic particulates that are used for scattering, reflecting, and absorbing UV light.
  • Organic particulates that are used for absorption of UV light but also include chromophores.

These active ingredients can be less potent if it is mixed with bug spray. For bug spray, the active ingredients include:

  • A tar made from birch tree bark.
  • DEET (not all bug sprays have DEET)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • Icaridin
  • Nepetalactone

These ingredients work together to keep mosquitoes, and other bugs away. This can prevent you from getting a number of diseases, such as:

  • Lyme disease
  • West Nile fever
  • Malaria
  • Bubonic plague

Keep in mind that a baby’s skin is much more delicate than an adult’s skin. You will want to keep them in a shaded area with a hat on rather than use a lot of sunscreen with bug spray, or using the products separately. Babies and toddlers can burn from the sun very easily. For more tips and guidelines when camping with kids, our article on this topic will give your additional insight.

Keeping them in the shade and giving them protective clothing is the best way to enjoy the outdoors with your baby. Another thing is that babies can dehydrate faster than adults because they are smaller. Be sure to keep your baby hydrated while they are outdoors for extended periods.

We will now look at a table of some of the most popular sunscreens without bug spray. Remember, sunscreen alone is more potent than when mixed with bug spray. You will not have to worry about applying too much bug spray when you need to reapply the sunscreen.

Popular Sunscreens and SpecsNeutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SunscreenBanana Boat Ultra Mist Sport Performance Broad Spectrum SunscreenBanana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen with Power StaySun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen LotionNeutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion Broad SpectrumElta ME UV Clear Sunscreen
SPF Number453030507046
PABA FreeYesUnknownUnknownYesUnknownUnknown
Dimensions6 x 3.5 x 1.6 in4.2 x 2.1 x 7.8 in1.5 x 2.3 x 7.5 inUnknown1.3 x 2.4 x 6.7 in4.8 x 1.5 x 1.5 in
Weight3 fl oz6 oz8 oz8 oz6.7 oz1.7 oz
Water ResistantYesYesYesYesYesUnknown
Amazon Rating4.5 of 54.1 of 54.5 of 54.7 of 54.5 of 54.4 of 5

Since you have now seen some of the top sunscreens without bug spray, we will show you some of the top bug sprays that also do not include sunscreen. Keep in mind that while most bug sprays have DEET included, which can be harmful, some of them do not. If you are wondering if your bug spray has DEET included, simply look at the ingredients on the back of the bottle. The percentage will range wildly, too.

Cutter All Family Insect Repellent

For example, you will see below that the Cutter All Family Insect Repellent has 7 percent DEET included. But if you take another look, the Repel 100 Insect Repellent has 98.11 percent DEET. Always check the level of DEET in your bug spray as it is not a safe chemical.

Popular Bug Sprays and SpecsOFF! Deep Woods Insect RepellentRepel 100 Insect RepellentCutter All Family Insect RepellentRepel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect RepellentSkedattle Natural Insect Repellent Made w/ Essential OilsSawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent w/ 20% Picaridin
Weight6 oz4 oz6 fl oz4 oz2 fl3 oz
Dimensions4.3 x 2.1 x 6.8 in6 x 0.75 x 2.2.5 in8 x 8 x 8 in5.5 x 1 x 2 inUnknown8 x 2 x 2 in
DEET Amount25%98.11%7%NoneNoneNone
Spray or AerosolAerosolSpraySpraySpraySpraySpray
ScentNoneNoneNoneLemonNoneNone
Amazon Rating4.5 of 54.3 of 54.1 of 54.2 of 54.1 of 54.4 of 5

As you can tell, overall, sunscreens with bug spray are nearly all DEET free. The ones included in the first table are all free of DEET. However, those with sensitive skin could find themselves with skin irritation if they have to apply too much of the mixed product. This is due to the fact that bug spray does not need to be applied as often as sunscreen. You will also not want to put this on your face or your kid’s faces because bug spray is not meant to be applied to the face. See our article on homemade mosquito repellents that are safe and natural.

Another thing is, many sunscreens with bug spray come in a lotion that needs to be rubbed in and can seem messy or even greasy when covering yourself or your child. Using a spray, which is what most bug sprays come in, or aerosol, is easily applied and does not require getting your hands messy or getting a child to stand still long enough to rub it in. You can spray and go when it comes to the bug spray.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 50+

While sunscreens with bug spray are effective, they are not as effective as they could be when applied separately. If you are using the sunscreen with bug spray and are not going to be outside long or are not anticipating too many bugs, you should be fine overall. But if you are going to be outdoors all day at the beach, hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities, you will probably want to use two separate products. Keep in mind if you are using 2 products, you should always apply the sunscreen first and then the bug spray. This is for maximum effectiveness.

What Do Others Think of Sunscreen with Bug Spray?

Those who have used sunscreen with bug spray say that it has not only saved them space, but money as well. Buying two separate products can get costly, especially if you want to use great products. Parents have enjoyed using sunscreen with bug spray because they can apply it to their older children easily, even if they are fussing about putting it on and cannot stay still. So, we can see how families would really prefer using a sunscreen with bug spray.

On the flip side, it is true that small children cannot use these products, as shade and protective clothing is better for them. Some users do not like that the sunscreen with bug spray is less effective. Some people are very sensitive to the sun and need to be fully protected. That is why having this mixture would not work as well. The sun’s rays will still be penetrating the skin more than you would want them to. While using a sunscreen and bug spray separately may be more costly, you are getting more protection that way.

Avon Bug Guard is DEET free

Many users were united in saying that they could use this type of product for short term periods outdoors or in areas where there are not a lot of bugs or too much sun exposure, due to the product being less effective than buying both sunscreen and bug spray. Some users stated that they preferred using separate sunscreen and bug spray when enjoying the outdoors by camping, hiking, mountaineering, or going to the beach for the day.

Pros and Cons of Sunscreen with Bug Spray

Sunscreens with bug spray are going to have their pros and cons.

Bull Frog Mosquito Coast Spray Sunscreen Insect Repellent

Let us take a look at the list below to give you the good and the bad when it comes to this product.

Pros:

  • It is cheaper than buying 2 separate products.
  • Space saving
  • Still does the job
  • Comes in sprays and lotions

Cons:

  • Not as effective as using two separate products
  • Reapplying can irritate the skin because the bug spray does not need to be applied as much as sunscreen.
  • Not all stores carry sunscreens with bug spray included.
  • May not keep all bugs away.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, it is more effective to use separate sunscreens and bug sprays, applying the sunscreen first, then the bug spray for the most effective mixture. As we have said, it is less effective to use a sunscreen with bug spray included, even if it is more efficient. Plus, the reapplying of the mixture maybe too often for bug spray than sunscreen. However, if you must save money and space, you can use a sunscreen with bug spray and it will work.

If you are going to be outdoors a lot camping, or in the mountains hiking, or even spending the day with friends and family at the beach in the summer, you should really look into buying sunscreen and bug spray in two different bottles. You want as much protection from the sun as possible when you are outdoors for extended periods. Another thing is that being outdoors in the heat will cause you to sweat. You need to be sure to stay hydrated while you are outdoors, as well as protected from the sun and bugs.

Elta ME UV Clear Sunscreen

Thank you for checking us out! Did we miss anything? What are your experiences with sunscreen with bug spray? Let us know in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

  • John C. Porter

    It is always good to learn new out-of-doors ideas, and using sunscreen with bug spray is such a wonderful idea. Most users highly recommend the use of this product.

  • John C. Porter

    DEET’s effects on the skin are certainly questionable. But I think you shouldn’t be worried if you don’t manifest any allergic reactions. We will definitely stop using bug sprays when they are officially ruled out.

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