It’s summertime! You know the drill – lather up with sunscreen before you head outdoors.

But concerns about the Zika virus are making the use of bug spray more common—even during peak sun hours. So it’s a good time to brush up on the best way to use sunscreen and insect repellant together.

Sunscreen and insect repellant work very differently. Sunscreen (and sun block) gets absorbed into the skin while bug spray generally sits on top of the skin’s surface. That’s why a combination product isn’t recommended, according to The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So which should you put on first: Sunscreen or bug spray? Put on sunscreen first, followed by a separate insect repellant containing DEET. That way, the sunscreen gets absorbed into skin, while the repellent sits on the skin’s surface where it can more effectively repel mosquitoes and other insects.

Here are some more sunscreen and insect repellant tips from the CDC, EPA and The American Academy of Dermatology:


  • Use an SPF (sun-protection factor) of 30 or higher
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays
  • Use a water-resistant sunscreen
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going outside to give it enough time to absorb into your skin, so that it’s less likely to rub off when you sweat
  • Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating heavily

Bug Sprays and Lotions

  • Use an insect repellant that contains DEET
  • Apply it only to exposed skin
  • Only reapply if you start seeing insects coming closer (if your repellant is working they should be keeping their distance so it they are not, it’s time to reapply)
  • Keep bug repellant out of your eyes, nose or mouth and away from open wounds such as cuts and scratches
  • Finally, it is a good idea to wash off the insect repellent once you return indoors
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