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July 09, 2018
Sunscreen and bug spray are two summer essentials you don’t want to be without if you plan to spend any time at all outdoors. Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer, and bug spray can protect you from harmful bites from flies, mosquitoes and chiggers. Applying bug spray and sunscreen is simple — just follow the directions on the package. But what happens once the fun ends and everybody goes home? Is it necessary to shower? Or can you just go right to bed?
Most pesticides use some sort of chemical that’s lethal to bugs. It may be DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or Picaridin. Regardless, you need to wash it off afterward using plain soap and water. It’s a chemical, after all. And while chemicals like these are safe when used correctly, there’s no need to force your luck by allowing them to remain on skin once you’ve returned indoors.
Other safety tips for using bug screen properly include never spraying it in enclosed spaces where you or someone else could breathe it in, and never spray it on the hands of children because kids are prone to putting their hands and fingers into their mouths.
If you do go to sleep with the remnants of the morning’s bug spray still on your skin, you’ll likely be fine. Making a habit of it, though, is ill-advised. Bug spray is a pesticide, and pesticides can build up inside the human body via the liver. This can lead to a compromised immune system and a number of chronic illnesses, including cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and even birth defects.
Children, especially, should never wear insect repellant any longer than necessary. The longer they wear it, the greater chance they have of getting it on their hands or face and ingesting it.
CNN published the results of a study in 2014 that suggested some of the ingredients in sunscreen could lead to fertility issues in men. It’s not clear exactly how or why, as manufacturers of sunscreen rarely list the chemicals used. But to be safe, it’s always a good idea to shower once you come in from the sun if you’ve used sunscreen, especially if you’re using a combination sunscreen with DEET. Even zinc-oxide sunscreen should be washed off before you go to bed.
Sunscreen that’s left on can also feel unnecessarily oily and may lead to clogged pores and pimples, too. While most sunscreens don’t contain the same, potentially harmful mix of chemicals that you’ll typically find in bug spray, some people can suffer reactions such as dry skin, itching or rash. Washing the lotion off as soon as you no longer need it can help reduce this risk.
In most cases, it’s fine to play outside in the sun as long as you wear sunscreen and insect repellent that’s potent enough to protect you, as long as you and your children wash it off afterward – especially when you consider that the alternatives could be skin cancer, Lyme Disease or West Nile Virus. But if you’re really concerned, try an alternative solution such as an organic bug spray or a natural bug repellent.