Forget Deet—These Essential Oils Repel Mosquitos and Soothe Bites

Essential Oils

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Essential oils for mosquito bites? Not as crazy as it sounds. Whether you want to prevent a pesky mosquito or gnat from chowing down on you like you're a hotel buffet, or you need to soothe an itchy, irritated bug bite that you just couldn't prevent, essential oils really do work—you just need to know what you're looking for. Whether you want to create your own DIY bug-beating blend or you're in the market for a pre-made product that will do the job, we tapped the experts to learn how, including Hope Gillerman, an aromatic healer and essential oil formulator, Dr. Stacy Chimento, a board-certified dermatologist, and Adora Winquist, an expert in aromatherapy. Read on to learn the best essential oils to help treat pesky bug bites.

Meet the Expert

  • A member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board, Hope Gillerman is an aromatic healer and essential oil formulator. She is the founder of H.Gillerman Organics, an award-winning, certified organic essential oil line. Hope has written books and taught on the subject of essential oils, and has been working in the wellness space for over 35 years. 
  • Dr. Stacy Chimento is a board-certified Miami dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology.
  • Modern alchemist Adora Winquist is an expert in aromatherapy and vibrational medicine.

Do Essential Oils Work to Soothe or Prevent Bug Bites?

First things first, are essentials oils actually effective for those pesky mosquito bites? The experts say yes. According to Chimento, when used properly, they can be effective for reducing symptoms like itchiness and inflammation. "When someone itches their bug bites, they increase their likelihood of developing an infection because the open wound allows bacteria to enter the body," explains Chimento. Therefore, treating irritation is key in helping you heal quickly and safely. Gillerman adds that oils are "a natural way to help relieve the discomfort and promote faster healing," by relieving annoying symptoms that can cause you to pick at bug bites.

The Best Essential Oils for Bug Bites

Essential oils have a variety of benefits, but when treating itchy and irritating bug bites, there are a few symptoms to target. First, relieving itching, pain, and inflammation is key. "Since itch from bug bites are histamine-induced, we can include an essential oil with anti-histamine properties," says Gillerman. Anti-bacterial and wound healing oils are also helpful to the healing process. Finally, there are a few oils that actually repel bugs in the first place, and can be used topically on your skin and clothes to avoid getting bitten.

Basil Oil

"Basil helps reduce inflammation and irritation and prevents bug bites from becoming infected," says Chimento. This oil also has natural antimicrobial properties, which can help treat and ward off infection.

Chamomile Oil

Chamomile helps to soothe bug bites due to its antimicrobial and healing applications. "Chamomile is known to heal bug bites faster than hydrocortisone cream, the typical method of relieving bug bite symptoms," says Chimento. Plus, this is one of a few key natural anti-inflammatory oils that, when used in low percentage, "can help to reduce the swelling and redness," according to Gillerman.

Tea Tree Oil

The medicinal applications of this essential oil work against infection "by preventing the growth of bacteria," says Chimento. "Tea tree oil also acts as an antihistamine, which relieves bug bite symptoms such as swelling and itching."

Peppermint and Menthol Oils

"These essential oils create a cooling sensation, which can help reduce stinging, burning, and itching caused by bug bites," says Chimento. It's also one of Gillerman's favorite natural repellants. She recommends that "for adults use no more than 1/8 tsp in a 2 oz bottle and do not use around infants or toddlers until at least 2 years old."

Camphor Oil

Camphor oil provides bug bites helps mask itching "with a warming sensation," says Chimento. However, she also notes that if your bug bite burns, avoid this oil because it can worsen the burning sensation.

Lemon Eucalyptus

Lemon Eucalyptus is one of the best mosquito repellents and a natural alternative to Deet says Gillerman. It's also one of Winquist's go-to essential oils for prevention. She recommends "geranium (Geranium, Pelargonium graveolens) and lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora)" as natural topical deterrents for bug bites and mosquitos.

"There are so many essential oils that repel bugs that it is almost more important to note the ones that attract them, like sweet-smelling oils and flower oils," Gillmeran adds.

However, these three are the top oils for repelling mosquitoes that are recommended as a natural alternative to Deet: 

  • Catnip
  • Lemon Eucalyptus (eucalyptus citriodora)
  • Clove, but keep it at a very low percentage in a diluted blend around 1-2 drops per 2 oz bottle.

How to Use Essential Oils for Bug Bites

When using oils to treat bug bites, you have to dilute them with a "carrier oil" before applying it as a topical according to Chimento. The following remedies should be used no more than three times a day. Furthermore, Gillerman advises "buying ready-made essential oil-based blends first, to find out what you like and don’t like before making your own."

"A DIY blend probably won’t save you money, but if you don’t like any of the ready-mades, you have no choice. You need something you are comfortable using repeatedly. Your local health food store or Whole Foods or natural baby care supplier will have lots of options," she adds.

When using essential oils make sure to dilute them with a "carrier oil" before applying it as a topical to your skin.

Applying essential oils through a roller bottle:

  • Put 2 teaspoons of fractionated coconut oil into the roller bottle 
  • Add 15-20 drops of essential oils (for example, 10 drops of peppermint oil and 10 drops of lavender oil)
  • Secure the lid and shake 
  • Apply as needed 

Creating an essential oil balm:

  • Using a double boiler, boil the water in the bottom part 
  • Add 3 tablespoons of beeswax to the top compartment of the boiler 
  • Stir the wax constantly and ensure that the wax does not burn 
  • When you see that the wax is transparent and completely melted, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • Add 3 teaspoons of a carrier oil (ex: almond oil) and stir 
  • Add 8-10 drops of your choice of essential oils and thoroughly mix 
  • Fill containers with this mixture, but leave some room at the top, and allow the balm to cool and solidify

According to Gillerman, if you or your child get bitten, following the following steps:

  • Immediately apply ice or cold pack directly on the bite for immediate relief. 
  • Apply the gel over the bite and inflamed skin around it. Cover loosely with a bandage to avoid rubbing it off or scratching, which can lead to infection. 
  • Repeat this sequence as needed but no more than 4 times of the blend in a day. Children have a lower tolerance so you will use fewer applications. 
  • To prevent infection, wash the bite with soap and water before each application. And draw a circle around the area of redness to track if it is getting bigger. 

When to See a Doctor

In some cases, you want to look out for a serious allergic reaction, which would require a doctor's visit. "If you have signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction—like difficulty breathing, swallowing, swelling of lips or tongue—go immediately to the emergency room," says Gillerman. Although rare, anaphylaxis can be caused by a mosquito bite, so it's important to report any concerning symptoms to a doctor.

You should also keep an eye on any infections that might arise from itching, redness, and irritation. "An abscess or sore around the bite, swollen lymph nodes, and a long red line extending out from the bite are other signs you should see a doctor for a bug bite," says Chimento.

The Final Takeaway

Essential oils can help manage and prevent bug bites by harnessing their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Between treating irritation, soothing itchiness, and repelling mosquitos in the first place, there are plenty of options if you're looking for a natural herbal remedy to this issue. However, it's important to always consult a doctor if your symptoms worsen or infection occurs. What's more, with all the over-the-counter formulas available, it's possible to avoid DIY-ing your blend. Read on for some of our picks.

H.Gillerman Tension Remedy
H.Gillerman Tension Remedy $48
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Hope always uses this Clear Mind Tension Remedy dropper bottle, it combines the lavender and peppermint in a powerful combo. It's travel-ready, leak-proof, and pre-labeled,.

Jaw Clenching Remedy
H.Gillerman Jaw Clenching Remedy $48
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Jaw Clenching Remedy doubles as a skin-healing oil and strong anti-inflammatory. Hope also uses it to help her sleep when she has been bitten or feels itchy.

Re.Vityl Re.Lease
Re.Vityl Re.Lease Roll-On Blend $42
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Thanks to the rosemary and lavender, this is will work as a repellant and a skin-soother if you do get bitten. Blended to eliminate fatigue, anxiety, and increase calm, this is a handy roll-on to keep in your handbag.

The Artistry Essential Oils Sleep Well
The Artistry of Essential Oils Sleep Well Rollerball Blend $19 $16
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The lavender and chamomile in this blend will take down inflammation from any pesky mosquito bites, plus keep the blend on your nightstand and it should help you to fall asleep too.

lavender oil
Frankie & Myrrh Lavender Essential Oil $12
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Keep this multi-purpose bottle of neat lavender oil close at hand.

Aesop oil Burner
Aesop Brass Oil Burner $170
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Okay, this isn't cheap but it is seriously chic.

Aesop oil
Aesop Anouk Oil Burner Blend $39
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With lemon rind, this zesty oil should fill your home with a bug-repelling citrus scent.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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