The best essential oils for insect repellents and itchy bug bites

The best essential oils for insect repellents and itchy bug bites

You wore your cutest leather sandals with your new beige capris to the office picnic. Your hair is pinned up in a loose bun. You feel great. Ten minutes into a delicious potato salad (you’ll have to ask for the recipe) and the juiciest watermelon you’ve ever had, your legs begin to itch. Slowly wiping your hands on a paper napkin, you carefully pull one leg up to investigate. There are several tiny red itchy bumps around your ankles and a few more traveling up your leg. 

Just that morning, you’d been reading an article about what essential oils are good for bug bites. You now wish that you’d taken a few minutes to make one of the recipes.

What are essential oils?


Essential oils are highly concentrated non-water soluble compounds that are distilled from various parts of a plant—leaves, roots, flowers, and other parts.

These parts are manufactured, either through water or steam distillation or cold pressing, to extract the essence of the scent or flavor of the plant. Steam distillation is the most common process, but heavier materials, such as citrus peels, are cold-pressed.

It’s important to note that, as essential oils are extremely potent, more is not always better. Use as little as needed, not as much as possible. A few drops will go a long way.

How do essential oils work topically?

Essential oils contain tiny molecules. These tiny molecules, when applied to the skin, are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, traveling around the body, including its systems and organs.

Because one’s body so rapidly obtains the benefits of the oil, it is important to follow safe usage guidelines and dilute oils used on the skin with a safe carrier oil. This is especially important for use on toddlers and children.

How do I know what essential oils to purchase?

Look for essential oils that are naturally derived. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing anything made from chemicals, as these are less pure. Also, look for oils that come from organic plants that are grown in their natural environment and growing region. Lastly, ensure that precautions and contraindications (medications, pregnancy, etc.) are listed for each oil.

In terms of carrier oils, look for oils (either coconut, jojoba, or avocado) that are 100% pure, cold-pressed and free of additives and preservatives.

What are the best essential oils for bug bites?

This may be a matter of personal preference. It may also depend on your skin’s sensitivity to different oils. Because there is such a vast variety of oils on the market, I have chosen five for their fantastic and differing benefits. 

Tea tree oil, mosquito bites, & toddlers

Tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial, anti-pain, anti-swelling, and anti-itching properties. Can it get any better? It can also be used as an itchy skin treatment for dogs and may have a greater ability to repel mosquitoes than DEET.

  • Description: Tea tree oil, with its woody, medicinal aroma, is one of the world’s best known essential oils. Native to Australia, it has remarkable effects on irritated skin by helping to ease redness and restore smoothness. Because tea tree oil is antimicrobial—which helps prevent bacteria and other microbes from growing, reducing the risk of infection—it is especially popular for children who can’t resist that urge to itch! 
  • Application: Create a salve by combining 9 drops of tea tree oil with 9 drops of lavender oil and 2 tablespoons of your favorite carrier oil. Apply to the area of concern.
  • Bug bites: Aids with mosquito bites.
  • Repels: Ants, bed bugs, bees, dust mites, flies, lice, mosquitoes, spiders, and ticks.

Lavender oil, bee stings, & ant bites

Lavender essential oil is gentle—safe for your baby and toddler. It works great as an insect repellent and for bug bites. It also has a soothing, calming effect on mood, stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s one essential oil that is pretty fantastic for the whole family!

  • Description: Lavender oil—with its sweet, dry, herbal smell and many beneficial properties—is a popular essential oil. It helps to reduce the itchiness from bug bites, soothe the skin, and is pain-relieving. 
  • Application: Dilute to 2-5% with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to skin.
  • Bug bites: Aids with mosquito bites, spider bites, fire ant bites, and bee stings. 
  • Repels: Fleas, flies, pantry moths, clothing moths, and mosquitoes.

Peppermint oil & repellent recipe 

Peppermint oil is great for its natural cooling properties. The next time you feel your head beginning to throb, rub a drop of diluted peppermint oil (mix 1-2 drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil) on your forehead and temples. It can also be used in the same manner for joint pain or muscle aches, along with skin irritation.

  • Description: Peppermint oil, with its grassy-minty, fresh scent, originates in India and is known for its revitalizing properties. Due to its menthol content, it has a cooling effect on the skin.
  • Application: Use as a preventative. Create a peppermint oil insect repellent to repel bugs. Combine 1 part peppermint oil with 4 parts rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or white vinegar. Place it in a spray bottle. Shake it. Spray it. 
  • Repels: Ants, aphids, beetles, caterpillars, fleas, flies, lice, mice, moths, cockroaches, spiders, and other pests.

Chamomile oil & soothing relief

Chamomile oil, because of its soothing emollient effects, has been added to many skin products and lotions. It also helps to speed up healing and recovery and is comparable to 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for skin irritation.

  • Description: Chamomile oil, with its strong, warm, slightly fruity, herbal smell is a powerful essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties, thus assisting with mild allergic reactions and the pain, itching, redness, and burning associated with insect bites and stings. 
  • Application: Dilute to 1-3% with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to skin.
  • Bug bites: Aids with most insects that bite or sting.
  • Repels: Flies, mosquitoes, ticks.

Clove bud oil & Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under with Clove Oil and buds

Clove oil is renowned for its effectiveness for easing toothaches. This is due to its powerful molecule, eugenol, which is a natural anesthetic. It’s a brilliant essential oil to have around if you’re experiencing the pain of a sore tooth. It has also been known as an effective bug repellent against mosquitoes.

  • Description: Clove bud oil, with its warm, spicy, clove scent, is created from the dried flower buds of the clove plant. It is a natural anesthetic and antiseptic, highly valuable to have around for a mosquito itch or bug bite. 
  • Application: Dilute to a maximum of .5% with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to skin. 
  • Bug bites: Aids with bee and wasp stings and ant bites. Note: Do not use on broken skin, as it may aggravate or burn it. 
  • Repels: Mosquitoes, spiders, ants, and bees

One of the main ingredients of Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under—an all-natural insect killer spray—is clove oil. The eugenol content in clove oil can be used to effectively control grain pests, mosquitoes, and roaches.

The other main ingredients in Dr. Killigan's Six Feet Under are soybean oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, and cinnamon oil. Each of these ingredients has a very specific purpose that aids in killing your unwanted house guests on-contact. Soybean oil suffocates small soft-bodied insects. Sodium lauryl sulfate, which in our case is plant-derived from coconut trees (we never use the petroleum version), allows the essential oils to mix and remain stable with water. Cinnamon oil repels bed bugs, carpenter ants, cockroaches, earwigs, fruit flies, mosquitoes, silverfish, spiders, and wasps, to name a few, and is toxic to beetles and ticks.

Final word on essential oils for bug bites & to repel bugs

In terms of what’s available concerning essential oils and their uses for insect bites, this information is just the tip of the iceberg. Let us know, in the comments, what your favorite essential oils are for bug bites and insect repellents.

Too, don't forget to check out Six Feet Under. It's a non-toxic, kill-on-contact spray made with two very important essential oils—clove oil and cinnamon oil. We at Dr. Killigan’s strive to use the purest form of ingredients that are safe for you, your family, and your pets.

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