Ease of use: 8 (out of 10)
Practicality: 12 (out of 20)
Effectiveness: 2.1 (out of 70)
Total: 22.1 (out of 100)
Cutter Advanced Spray
Price: $5.95 at rei.com
Category: chemical agent
Active ingredient: picaridin
Cutter Advanced depends on 7 percent picaridin, not DEET, to repel mosquitoes. What does that mean for you? Well, for starters, it's odorless, and it glides onto your skin without any stickiness. It can cause eye irritation, however, so you have to wash your hands after application. And although the instructions on the back of the pump bottle recommend spraying yourself every three or four hours, our testers found that gnats were immediately attracted to the area, and mosquitoes flocked back after a mere 90 minutes. Given this short-term protection, Cutter failed to make the cut.
Ease of use: 7
Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Spray
Price: $10 at avon.com
Category: chemical agent
Active ingredient: beta-alanine, carboxylic acid, and IR3535
When Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion first came on the market, housewives in the know quickly recognized a fringe benefit: The lotion's perfuming agent, called coumarin, also wards off mosquitoes. As Skin-So-Soft's "underground" reputation grew, Avon developed its Bug Guard Plus formula. The new recipe relies on IR3535, a water-resistant coumarin compound that, unlike DEET, doesn't have to be washed off after use.
Testers were initially pleased with Avon's results; the odorless spray has a cooling effect with no greasy residue, and Skin-So-Soft boasts an SPF of 15, additional vitamin E, and a water-resistant formula. But within an hour (Avon promises four-hour protection), bites welled up on arms and feet. And after repeated applications, the aerosol sprayer went on strike, squirting tiny bits of gummed-up repellent. Nonetheless, a few testers remained impressed with Skin-So-Soft's scentless, sunscreen-boosted formula, and vowed to buy their own can, despite the need for repeated application.
Ease of use: 6
Bite Blocker Herbal Spray
Price: $8.99 at homs.com
Category: natural treatment
Active ingredient: soybean oil
Bite Blocker has flower power going for it: This nontoxic spray is made from coconuts, geraniums, and soybeans, giving it a more pleasant scent than other products on the market. And it feels cool going on—an important factor for sultry summer nights. That's the good news. Testers also reported that Bite Blocker is sticky and has a tendency to burn superficial cuts. And although it promises to be as effective as DEET, those pesky bloodsuckers were biting 90 minutes after application.
Ease of use: 8
Natural ingredient bonus: 5
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