Regulation of Skin-Applied Repellents
Before they can be marketed, most skin-applied repellents must be registered by EPA. 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.
You will see an EPA Registration Number on the product label (for example, 123456-1) of any EPA-registered product.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of products containing EPA-registered active ingredients.
Some insect repellent products for sale in the United States do not currently require EPA registration. In the 1990s, EPA evaluated the active ingredients in these unregistered products for safety. We determined that the active ingredients posed minimal risk to human health in the percentages found in products on the market. Based on this minimal risk determination, we decided that products made from these ingredients should be exempt from registration. Note that products made from these ingredients have not been evaluated for effectiveness.
Examples of ingredients used in unregistered repellents are:
- Citronella oil.
- Cedar oil.
- Geranium oil.
- Peppermint and peppermint oil.
- Soybean oil.
Learn more about unregistered products (Minimum Risk Pesticides).
Be aware that there are illegal products in the market that do not qualify for the exemption, nor are they registered. Repellents that do not bear an EPA registration number have not been evaluated by EPA, and EPA cannot advise consumers about the effectiveness of these products. If you find products without an EPA registration number and want to see if they might qualify as products that don't require registration, check the minimum risk pesticide website to see the criteria for such products. However, be aware that it is not simple to determine the status of products in many cases.