Should You Apply Bug Repellent Or Sunscreen First?

Experts agree that daily sunscreen is a must, not only to minimize the emergence of new wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, but also to help reduce the risk of skin-related cancers, like melanoma (via Skin Cancer Foundation). In addition to SPF, when outdoors, especially in the warmer weather, you might also want to use bug repellent to keep the ticks and mosquitos off of you. The question is, after years of varying information surrounding bug spray use, is it safe to use SPF and bug spray together?

DEET, the main ingredient used in many insect repellents, has been the topic of controversy for many people in regard to its safety. The Cleveland Clinic reports that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has approved DEET as safe to use in those of all ages, but there is evidence that it can cause adverse reactions such as skin irritations and in more rare cases, seizures. Dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD, tells the Cleveland Clinic that DEET has been used for nearly half a century and "DEET is still the gold standard." She goes on to say that when "used correctly, it prevents more health problems than it causes by far."

So, when using sunscreen and bug spray together, which one should you apply first?

Here's why sunscreen before bug spray is the best option

According to World Nomads, insect repellent that contains DEET may decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen, although the CDC reports that there is limited research in that area. The CDC does suggest, however, to apply sunscreen first, and then apply the bug spray after the sunscreen dries. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF should be used liberally and often, every two hours depending on sun and water exposure, and should always be applied first. Bug spray should be applied after the sunscreen and re-applied every two to six hours as necessary, and should not be applied to the face.

Dr. Marc Sanders, dermatologist at Intermountain Healthcare, agrees. He told Select Health more of the same; namely that "insect repellent can be used with sunscreen; the repellent should be applied after the sunscreen."  Plus, Dr. Jennifer Shu revealed to Select Health that bug spray only needs to be used on the skin that is exposed. Dr. Shu also noted that "it is a good idea to wash off the insect repellent once you return indoors."