If you’re a mosquito magnet, you’ll understand the struggle of finding the right clothes to wear during the hot summer months. Long sleeves and pants can feel stifling, but having itchy bites all over your arms, legs and face doesn’t feel great either.
So how do you strike the perfect balance between covering up and feeling cool? We spoke with experts to get their recommendations.
Look for loose, light-colored clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association, told HuffPost that ideally you want to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when spending time outdoors in order to reduce the amount of skin that’s exposed. Of course, that’s easier said than done during the hot, humid summer months.
If you can’t fully cover up, do your best to avoid wearing dark-colored clothing, clothes with busy patterns, or heavily scented perfume, cologne or lotion ― all of which attract mosquitoes. (Fun fact: Mosquitoes can’t see light colors as easily as they can dark colors.)
David Brown, technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association, agreed that loose, light-colored clothing is preferable, and said to avoid mesh materials, as mosquitoes can bite through loosely woven clothing.
If you can’t cover up, avoid going outside when mosquitoes are most active.
We get it. Covering up during the summer isn’t ideal, not only because of the sweltering temperatures but, hello, cute summer clothes. To help prevent getting eaten up by mosquitoes, Brown recommends avoiding being outside in the early morning and around dusk, when mosquitoes tend to be most active.
Use insect repellent for an added layer of protection … including repellent-infused clothing.
If you can’t fully cover up or avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active (or if mosquitoes are particularly attracted to you and you need all the help you can get), both experts recommended applying an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent. Fredericks said to look for one containing at least 20% DEET (here are the details on DEET, in case you’re worried about its safety), picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Brown highlighted the EPA’s search tool, which can help you find the best repellent for you. You can specify things like how much time you’ll need to be protected from biting insects or whether you want protection from mosquitoes, ticks or both, and you can search for products with a specific active ingredient and more. “EPA requires tests to show both efficacy and safety when it registers a repellent,” Brown said.
Whichever repellent you choose, the EPA recommends reading the product label for safe and effective use. In general with spray repellents, you want to shake well before applying, spray it evenly over exposed skin from about 6-8 inches away, and spray the repellent on your hands to apply it to your face, avoiding your eyes and nostrils.
Note that insect repellent should be applied over sunscreen for maximum efficacy. Like sunscreen, it also needs to be reapplied as detailed on the product label.
“Most repellents require the product to be applied to skin. However, there is some permethrin-impregnated clothing that is very effective at preventing both tick and mosquito bites,” Brown said. Permethrin, like DEET, is an insecticide. They are both incredibly effective at repelling ticks and mosquitoes, and despite health concerns, the EPA says that when used as directed, both are safe.
Shopping for clothes to keep mosquitoes away? Here are some great options.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change.
Insect Shield Men’s UPF Dri-Balance Short Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt
Men’s BugsAway Sandfly Pants
Women’s BugsAway Impervia Leggings
Free Fly Women’s Bamboo Weekender Hoodie
BugsAway Solstice Canyon Crew Socks
30A Protect Our Beaches Women’s Long Sleeve Tee