Comparing Picaridin, DEET and Permethrin

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Ticks are a nuisance for any nature lover and outdoor enthusiast. And the risk of illnesses caused by a tick bite is worse than ever as tick populations grow, making exposure to ticks increasingly common. Repellents help protect people and pets from nasty bites by these parasites. Three of the most popular insect repellents are DEET, Permethrin, and Picaridin. But when you’re comparing a Picaridin vs. DEET vs. Permethrin, how can you be sure which is the best to use?

Comparing DEET, Picaridin and Permethrin

Products containing any of these three active ingredients are undoubtedly among the most effective in repelling insects and biting parasites. Which one is best to use depends on the environment you are going to and how high the risk of bug bites is.

But Permethrin vs Picaridin vs DEET cannot be directly compared because the products differ in their protective properties and types of application.

DEET or Picaridin are applied directly to the user’s skin and protect against biting insects by scenting the wearer.

Permethrin is applied to equipment such as boots, pant legs, gaiters, shirts, jackets, sleeping bags, tents, mosquito nets, etc., where it creates a barrier that can be deadly to biting parasites.


(N, N diethyl-3-methyl benzamide), is a very common and reliable chemical used in insect repellent. DEET is highly effective, the smell of it is irritating to mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and ticks and makes it difficult for the parasites to find their victim. Its effectiveness depends on its concentration in the repellent, the type of application, the ambient temperature, and the physical activity of the user.

Products containing DEET are available in a variety of liquids, lotions, and sprays and can be directly applied on the skin or indirectly on clothing and bedding. Products for direct use on the skin contain between 5 to 100 percent DEET. 100 % of DEET was found to offer protection of up to 12 hours while lower concentrations offered protection between 3 to 6 hours. When applied as recommended, DEET can provide a safe and long-lasting effect against insects.

But like everything that works, it can also have side effects that are undesirable. Products containing DEET must not be applied on damaged skin or under clothing as DEET can be irritating. In the event of an overdose, incorrect use, or in rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions can occur, including difficulty breathing, burning eyes, and headaches.


(2 hydroxyethyl 1- piperidine carboxylic acid 1- methylpropyl ester) also known as Icaridin is an odorless and colorless compound used in insect repellent. Like DEET it can be applied directly onto the human skin or clothing to repel ticks and mosquitoes. Picaridin and DEET are very effective in repelling insects but Picaridin is not as easily absorbed through the skin as DEET. It also has less aggressive properties and does not act as strongly on plastic surfaces.

Picaridin is sold in pump sprays, aerosols, liquids, or wipes. The efficacy against insects lasts between 4 to 8 hours depending on the concentration of Picaridin as well as the amount applied. Factors such as wind, humidity, and temperature also play a significant role. Picaridin does not necessarily have any side effects unless you are hypersensitive to the active substance.


Permethrin is not a repellent but an insecticide. It is neurotoxic to the metabolism of insects and arachnids and kills them on contact. Permethrin belongs to the family of Pyrethroids, an organic compound derived from the flowers of pyrethrum plants. It works well against ticks and is generally harmless for humans if used correctly.

Unlike DEET and Picaridin, Permethrin is to be applied to surfaces such as clothing, bedding, or mosquito screens. Bugs that come in contact with those surfaces die. You can buy permethrin in spray bottles. Many permethrin sprays (Sawyer’s Permethrin Spray) are already pre-mixed to a concentration that you can apply on clothes without any preparation. The insect repellent does not harm the fabric and is odorless once dried. Permethrin binds to the fabric getting rid of the risk of over-exposure to the skin. Permethrin is not only used in insecticides, but also in preparations that are used in cases of scabies and lice infestations. If not used correctly permethrin can cause mild irritation and burning.

SO Picaridin Vs DEET Vs Permethrin, what’s best?

All three products are very effective in repelling ticks and other biting insects. Millions of users have, and regularly use, these products with no significant side effects.

If you’re looking for effective tick repellent to apply topically directly onto the skin, then you might resort to products containing DEET or Picaridin. Though DEET has the advantage of lasting longer, Picaridin is less likely to cause skin irritation.

If you have concerns and want to avoid applying repellent directly to the skin, Permethrin might be the better choice. It is available in pump sprays to apply directly to clothing before wearing, or ready to wear factory treated clothing can be purchased