Which Should I Apply First, Sunscreen or Bug Repellent?

January 14, 2017 2 min read

Deciding whether to apply sunscreen or bug repellent first!

Not the sort of a decision to make on the flip of a coin, but from the email queries we get it is still one that people wrestle with on a regular basis!

From our own experience here and throughout the Caribbean, the mosquitoes, noseeums and sand flies, whilst they are around all the time, are normally far less active during maximum sun/heat times (unless you are in the shade!) and are most active, coming out 'to feed', during the cooler periods of dawn and dusk..... so there is a good chance that you won't need to use both products simultaneously; your call on that one.

There have been numerous studies on this dual product application 'conundrum' and they all pretty much reach the same conclusions but only notably all with reference to DEET-based products.  In these DEET related studies, the prime concerns raised have related to the all important question of application sequence, as follows:

  • if you put a deet-based repellent on first, then the sunscreen will effectively trap it next to the skin, and as the sunscreen is absorbed it will increase the body's absorption rate of the deet.
  • if you put the sunscreen on first then you will 'possibly' reduce its effectiveness by covering it with a repellent and also you will have to re-apply the sunscreen more frequently than the bug repellent.

The CDC support the latter method, as described above, as they are erring on the side of caution with regard to the deet factor, you can read their full advice here:

- CDC Bug Bite Prevention Advice

Some useful relevant facts from other knowledgeable sources is also available here and well worth reading:

- World Nomads: Advice On Which To Apply First

- Advice from a Renowned Entomologist: Dr Cameron Webb

There's quite literally 'tons' more out there to read on the subject, but in summation, using the two together generally decreases the effectiveness of both the sunscreen and the DEET-based repellents tested as they can 'chemically' react.

Do You Apply Sunscreen of Repellent Or Both? Advice from The Solid Bar Company

With our natural bug repellent products we tend to use either the repellent or the sunscreen but, if we have to use both, then as sunscreen needs to be applied more frequently than bug repellent it makes sense for our repellent (which is natural and deet-free) to be applied first then sunscreen after.

The other all important matter that tends to get overlooked in the rush is how to actually apply any repellent.  Sounds simple doesn't it?  But a little care is needed to ensure effectiveness; read this short and simple useful repellent application guide here.

Ultimately........the decision is yours based on your circumstances and personal requirements.........is there more sun?......are there more mosquitoes? Which do you perceive as the greater 'threat'?

Before you go, don't forget to read our invaluable blog post on 'How To Apply Bug Repellent Properly'.

Whatever you decide, stay safe and stay protected from the sun and the bugs!

Best wishes from,

The Solid Bar Company Team


  • The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Dr Cameron Webb of the University of Sydney, Australia.
(This blog was updated in August 2021)

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