Zap! Tips for Preventing Bug Bites + The Best Natural Insect Sprays

Last Update: June 24, 2024

Summer means splashing in pools, hitting the sand, savoring stone fruits, backyard barbecues, and … figuring out how to prevent mosquito bites! Nature’s smallest creatures love to come out and play during the hottest months of the year, which makes bug spray an essential skin-care item for every member of the family.

How to Prevent Bug Bites

Whether it’s gnats, mosquitoes, wasps, or fire ants, keeping bugs away often becomes the focus of any outdoor summer activity. The good news: There are lots of natural bug-bite prevention options to try!

  • Turn on a fan: Since mosquitoes aren’t very strong fliers, a fan helps blow them away and keep them off your outdoor patio. Plus, you get to enjoy the breeze!
  • Plate the cold cuts: Sometimes you need a diversion (and a quick tip for how to prevent bug bites without bug spray). Try setting out a few slices of sandwich meat on a paper plate, in an area away from where you’re eating or playing. Bugs can gather there instead of on your skin.
    Invest in citronella: Citronella is a scent mosquitoes just don’t like. Burning citronella candles in your outdoor area often keeps them away.
  • Scatter coffee grounds: If ants are a problem in your house, LifeHacker recommends scattering coffee grounds in front of your doors and windows to deter them.
  • Make a DIY spray: It’s easy to make homemade bug repellent sprays—keep reading for an easy recipe!

Essential Oils That Repel Bugs

Some of the best essential oils for bug repellent are inside this DIY recipe.

Essential oil bug repellent recipe

3 ounces witch hazel
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
20 drops Thrive Market Organic Cedarwood Essential Oil
20 drops Thrive Market Organic Lemongrass Essential Oil
20 drops Thrive Market Organic Citronella Essential Oil
20 drops geranium essential oil
20 drops Thrive Market Organic Peppermint Essential Oil
20 drops Thrive Market Organic Tea Tree Essential Oil

Blend all ingredients in a small spray bottle and shake to combine.

The Best Natural Bug Bite Spray

We’re pretty fanatical about natural bug bite prevention—no DEET here!—and have a handful of safe picks to keep your whole family covered.

Nantucket Spider Natural Bug Repellent

A host of essential oils (like geranium, cedarwood, rosemary, and peppermint) work together to effectively repel summer’s insects. The water-based formula is non-greasy and can also be sprayed on clothing or gear.

“So happy to have found a natural bug repellent that works! Once I started spraying my son down with this before going outside to play, he stopped coming home covered in bites.”
—Kelly, Tennessee

All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent

Keep your outdoor lifestyle bug-free with All Terrain’s natural insect repellent. This DEET-free option mixes six essential oils and features 26 percent active ingredients to keep pesky insects at bay.

“I used this on a backpacking trip in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. It works! I slept in it and it caused no irritation to my skin or nose.”
—Jenny, Iowa

Quantum Buzz Away Natural Mosquito Repellent

Cruelty- and paraben-free, Quantum Buzz’s mosquito repellent features plant-based oils with soy bean and geranium oil to protect your skin from mosquitoes for up to four hours.

“This kept mosquitoes away from me and I like that it does not have a strong odor or sting.”
—Maria, California

Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Spray

Try this plant-based spray with a refreshing lemon and eucalyptus scent. Made with Citriodiol, a clinically proven plant-based repellent, it’s both good for your family and the planet.

“I bought this after being bitten twice within 15 seconds of standing in my backyard. Once I applied it to all exposed skin on my arms and legs, the back of my neck, and the brim of my hat, I was able to stand still in the same area for five minutes with no bites.”
—Michelle, Massachusetts

How to Prevent Bug Bites From Itching

As much as bug sprays help keep the bites away, sometimes we still get one (or two). When a red bump surfaces, treat it quickly with these natural itch relief creams. (Our Thrive Market members rave about them.)

All Terrain Ditch the Itch Spray

The name says it all—All Terrain helps you ditch the itch with its soothing relief spray formulated with colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and neem oil.

“I keep it in a travel bag for summer trips.”
—Jessica, Maryland

Acure Calming Itch & Irritation Lotion

For bug bites, dry skin, or cracked heels, this vegan lotion from ACURE is formulated with lavender and colloidal oatmeal to hydrate and nourish your skin.

“This has become my new before-bed lotion, thanks to the lovely lavender scent.”
—Rebecca, Arizona

Motherlove Green Salve

This small jar packs a big punch against bug bites, bumps, and scrapes. A little goes a long way—just massage the olive oil and beeswax-infused cream into your skin for instant relief.

“I use this on my kids’ mosquito bites and it’s like magic!”
—Barrett, Texas

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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