Fall is hurtling towards us fast, but we should still be protecting our skin from sun damage, and of course, bug bites. Thankfully, most bug bites are usually harmless, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. At the same time, there’s no denying they can be super frustrating to deal with, especially when they itch or swell so much you can’t sleep at night.
While over-the-counter solutions for bug bites are effective, chances are, you already have some natural remedies inside your kitchen pantry. Ahead, we tapped two board-certified dermatologists to weigh in on the best at-home cures for bites, whether it’s oatmeal, aloe, or witch hazel.
Since some bug bites can cause pain and swelling, it is extremely important to apply a cold compress onto your bites as soon as possible, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marie Hayag, MD. Icing your bites quickly enough helps keep that dreadful itchiness at bay, she explains, making your bites a lot easier to live with.
“To reduce pain and swelling, apply a cold pack (or cloth filled with ice) onto the bite immediately,” Dr. Hayag tells FabFitFun. “The ice constricts the blood vessels, and decreases the body’s natural histamine release, which, therefore, causes less itching.”
Using oatmeal for bug bites may seem like a baseless old wive’s tale at first glance. However, there is research to support its effectiveness in helping tame down itchiness and inflammation of the skin. A 2008 study published in the archives of dermatological research, for example, revealed that oats contain potent anti-inflammatory agents (active phytochemicals), which help relieve itching and skin irritation.
With this in mind, Dr. Hayag suggests creating an oatmeal bath if you have all-over bites from mosquitoes or other swarming bugs. Doing so will help pacify your screaming skin, she adds. “Just toss a couple of cups of dry oatmeal in a warm bath,” she explains. “If you have one particularly itchy area from a spider bite, add water to dry oatmeal to make a paste, put the paste on a warm, wet washcloth, and transfer the cloth to your bite, paste side down.”
Dr. Hayag notes that aloe vera also contains impressive wound-healing capabilities. When it’s applied topically, it treats your skin to anti-inflammatory agents. It may be easier to pick up some prepackaged aloe vera gel at your local drugstore. However, Dr. Hayag suggests that using aloe from a fresh aloe plant helps the skin bounce back faster, as it does not contain alcohol found in some aloe vera gel products. “Aloe vera will soothe your bug bites, and help them heal faster, especially when it’s fresh from the plant,” she adds.
Yes, even tea bags can provide some major relief to bug bites, as Dr. Hyag explains that the compounds (tannins) inside tea help reduce inflammation by drawing the liquid out of the bug bite. To put your tea bags to good use, Dr. Hyag advises keeping a used tea bag in a small plastic bag in your fridge, and using it as a compress immediately after a bug bite.
While witch hazel is found in many skin care products these days, you probably didn’t know that it can also be used to tame itching, irritation, and inflammation associated with bug bites. “I love witch hazel, and it is my go-to ingredient for many things including bug bites,” Dr. Hayag tells FabFitFun. “The polyphenols inside witch hazel (including proanthocyanidins), provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that soothe itching, reduce inflammation, and speed up healing.”
To use witch hazel on your bug bites, she recommends applying a small amount of witch hazel extract directly to the skin with a cotton ball. Similarly, you can also dilute it in a carrier oil (such as coconut or jojoba) to create a cream that can help with itching, irritation, and inflammation, she adds.
Apple cider vinegar
Aside from boasting antibacterial properties, Dr. Allawh suggests that apple cider vinegar also contains antifungal and cooling properties, which can help soothe irritation caused by bug bites. “To use apple cider vinegar on bug bites, add four to five tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water, soak a rag into this solution, and apply the rag directly onto the bite,” she says.
While honey has been used for centuries in various cultural practices in both skin and hair care, this much-beloved food substance also contains natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Dr. Allawh. Just a little drop can hydrate the skin, and keep itchiness at bay, she adds.
Since vitamin E functions as an antioxidant that helps decrease skin inflammation, Dr. Allawh says it’s a good idea to apply the oil from vitamin E capsules directly onto your bug bites. “Utilize the oil in a vitamin E capsule by rubbing it gently into the area affected on the skin,” she advises. “This may help with the burning and itching sensation associated with your bites.”
xx, The FabFitFun Team