What Is Picaridin? The New Standard for Mosquito and Tick Protection

Katie Curnan

The rising risk of vector-borne diseases and the desire for a more friendly body-worn insect repellent experience have led many consumers to seek protection from repellents containing Picaridin. It is the active ingredient in Ranger Ready Repellent and is globally recognized as the leading alternative to DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide).

Compared to DEET, Picaridin has been proven to provide equal protection against mosquitos and superior protection against ticks in similar concentrations without the same health concerns. Picaridin insect repellent is already the most popular repellent in Europe and Australia, and demand in the US is growing exponentially.

Picaridin vs DEET

When comparing Picaridin to a long-trusted repellent like DEET, the first thing people want to know is...will it work? How effective is Picaridin at protecting me against mosquitos, ticks and other biting insects?

Picaridin vs DEET

The efficacy of any repellent is solely dependent upon the concentration of the active ingredient. Ranger Ready uses Picaridin 20%, anything less is not effective. More than 25 years of clinical research conducted in the US and Europe has demonstrated Picaridin 20% offers a superior level of protection for up to 12 hours from a wide variety of pests including ticks, mosquitos, biting flies, sand flies, gnats, chiggers, no-see-ums and midges.

DEET at 30% concentration only provides 8-10 hours of protection against ticks and mosquitos. In other words, repellents that include Picaridin 20%, like Ranger Ready, provide longer-lasting protection than similar concentrations of DEET, without the same drawbacks.

Is Picaridin Safe?

Yes, Picaridin is safe. It is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a body-worn repellent for use by adults (including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding) and children aged 1-year and older. Unlike DEET, Picaridin is not a neurotoxin and is non-corrosive to clothing and materials including plastic, rubber, leather, latex, vinyl, rayon, elastic, spandex and auto paint.

Picaridin Is EPA Registered

Picaridin was officially registered with the EPA in May of 2005. In the US, EPA registration is the best evidence that a repellent is safe for use and actually effective. In the EPA’s words:

“EPA registration of skin-applied repellent products indicates that they have been evaluated and approved for human safety and effectiveness when applied according to instructions on the label. Our evaluation includes assuring that the product does not pose risks to vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women.”

As the EPA has stated, Picaridin is safe for use on children. EPA registration also means Picaridin is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women as well, making it the perfect choice for protection against mosquitos who might carry the Zika virus. Young children should not not apply repellents themselves, and should always seek help from an adult.

Picaridin Is CDC-Recommended

The CDC recommends Picaridin as a safe and effective repellent, as stated in their official travel documentation regarding “Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks & Other Arthropods.” This decision was based on evaluations of a wide variety of scientific literature and data, as well Picaridin’s EPA registration.

Studies Have Found No Serious Health Concerns Related to Picaridin

An April 2016 study, published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, focusing on National Poison Data System data, found almost no instances of toxic effects stemming from exposure to Picaridin over a 15-year period. Exposures to DEET, meanwhile, led to over 52,000 issues in the same period. The EPA’s own evaluation of Picaridin found, when used as directed, Picaridin has extremely low levels of toxicity, is easy on the skin and is “nearly odorless.”

How Does Picaridin Work?

Picaridin, like most repellents, works by disrupting the insect’s sense of smell. Derived from the naturally occurring organic compound piperine — the alkaloid that gives black pepper its hot flavor — Picaridin is the first synthetic repellent to clear modern efficacy and safety tests. It is odorless, non-greasy, easy on the skin, does not damage plastic or clothing, and is not a neurotoxin.

In the early stages of development, scientists modeled a variety of different three-dimensional molecules that would interfere with the olfactory receptors biting insects use to find food. Out of the more than 800 substances synthesized and tested, Picaridin was the clear winner.

Picaridin History and Scientific Development

Since DEET’s invention in 1946 for the US military, and its subsequent commercialization in the late 1950’s, DEET has been the standard repellent for effective bite prevention. However, concerns around the long-term health implications of DEET and many of its characteristics — unpleasant smell, sticky feeling on skin and corrosiveness to certain materials — prompted scientists to seek an equally effective alternative.

German scientists at Bayer AG took up the challenge and developed Picaridin in the 1980s. The repellent was first released under the trade name Bayrepel and was available for consumer use in Australia in 1998 and in Europe in 2001. Picaridin was registered with the EPA in 2001 before becoming available to US consumers in 2005. Owned by the LANXESS Corporation since its split from Bayer in 2008, Picaridin is also marketed under the names Icaridin and Saltidin. Picaridin should not be confused with Permethrin — an insect repellent used since the 1970s to treat clothing and fabrics, but not worn on the skin.

In Conclusion

Picaridin may be new to many of us here in the US. However, an established and proven history of effective protection against vector-borne diseases and biting insects across the globe, and a more enjoyable product experience, make it a safe and effective alternative to DEET.  

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