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, Hope Gillerman, author of Essential Oils Every Day, is here to reveal everything you need to know about preventing and soothing big bites the natural way.

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. 

What are the best essential oils for preventing mosquito bites?

"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. I have had bees chase me while wearing a jasmine blend!

However, these three are the top oils for repelling mosquitoes that are recommended by the CDC for 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.

Other good repellents:

  • Peppermint. 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.
  • Eucalyptus Globulous or Radiata. Do not use around infants up to 2 years.
  • Cedarwood.
  • Tea tree.
  • Rosemary cineole. Do not use around infants up to 2 years.
  • Geranium. Bugs don’t like this super sweet, strong-smelling flower oil.
  • All lemon-smelling oils.
  • And vanilla for gnat season (usually during spring). Maybe it’s NOT a mosquito biting you after all..."

How is it best to apply these oils to the skin? 

"You can dilute essential oils in a carrier oil and apply like body lotion, but natural bug repellent needs to be re-applied throughout the period of exposure for optimal results. Unlike Deet, which stays active longer, essential oils evaporate, and dissipate into the outdoors.

Mosquitoes are happy to bite through the weave of your socks or T-shirt so you need to apply a repellent on your clothes and body oils on clothing don’t work. When you are in a very infested area, reapplying a body oil can make you very uncomfortable, especially if you are outside in the heat and the sun.

I advise 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. Look for the oils I mentioned above in their ingredient list and choose ones that have no more than 5 oils, if possible.

I prefer to dilute essential oils in a hydrosol and/or alcohol (see formula below). A lavender hydrosol has a delicate scent that could match or complement the two to five oils you have selected for your repellent. Avoid rose, chamomile, and cucumber hydrosols, which can attract bugs. With any DIY water-based product, you always need to shake thoroughly before use and store in the refrigerator when not in use.

Since we have COVID-19 and bugs this summer, I suggest you dilute your essential oils in alcohol and hydrosols. This topical application will double as a sanitizer and a repellent and won’t stain your clothes unless you use an oil that has a strong color (like blue chamomile).

About the alcohol—select organic alcohol, any perfumers alcohol, or 190 proof spirits. Note: Isopropyl is harsh and derived from petrochemicals that can irritate the skin and the lungs."

DIY Mosquito Repellant for Body and Clothes

In a 2 oz spray bottle:

  1. Add 3 tablespoons of organic alcohol,
  2. Add your essential oils—no more than 20 drops—but it might vary person-to-person for efficacy.
  3. Finish filling the bottle with your hydrosol, or, if you aren’t going to spray on your clothes, substitute with a natural emulsifier like solubol. If your skin is drying out, you can add some vitamin E and your favorite skin-soothing botanical fatty oil like argan, marula, olive, avocado, almond, meadowfoam seed, etc. My hands are destroyed by most sanitizers, so I like to use a combination of squalene and solubol for a slightly milky spray that keeps my hands comfortable even with many repeat applications.

In addition to sensitive skin, I am one of those people that bugs flock to. I will get 10 bites in five minutes if I am not prepared, while others sit relaxing and enjoying the breeze! So, I have my own personal techniques. When I go through a particularly buggy zone I often spray the repellent directly in front of me so they don’t come at my face! This works."

Can You Burn Essential Oils In Your Home to Deter Mosquitos?

"Yes! Although you don’t want to diffuse clove on its own as it will smell far too strong. I reserve lemony-smelling essential oils for the diffuser because they are good at warding off bugs and but can irritate the skin or cause serious sunburn (they are phototoxic) if applied on the skin before going in the sun. Diffusing gives you a chance to enjoy these beautiful oils!

Lemon eucalyptus, lemon peel, litsea cubeba, lime, lemon-scented tea tree, citronella, or a lemon/rosemary blend work well diffused on a hot summer's day."

Are There Oils That Can Help If a Mosquito Has Got You?

 

"To take down inflammation - redness/lumps:

  • Any kind of blue chamomile (german chamomile, blue tansy, yarrow)
  • Helichrysum
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint

To reduce the itching and pain:

  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Lavender

To prevent scarring:

  • Dilute in a base of calophyllum (tamanu), St. John’s-wort, arnica, or calendula with 1% Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and use a total of 5-20% essential oils, 2% for children or sensitive skin use, and 1% for children two to six-years-old.
  • Helichrysum
  • Lavender

You can see that the above oils are multi-taskers. The simplest one-stop solution for all is lavender. Always have an undiluted bottle of lavender with you when you travel and keep one in your medicine cabinet. You can get away with applying it straight on a bite and the itching stops in 10 minutes. Then dilute in a carrier or natural face oil for wound healing. To speed up and boost the action, combine it with peppermint.

Shop Byrdie's Favorite Essential Oil Buys Below

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.

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