I’m allergic to mosquito bites, so when the bloodsuckers get me, my skin reacts with big, red welts that concealer can’t fully cover. Not only are mosquito bites itchy and painful for me, but they’re not pretty, either. So I’ve begun to consider avoiding them part of my summer beauty routine, just like I avoid a skin-damaging sunburn. Here’s some of the most helpful advice I’ve gotten.
Why Mosquitos Bite
Mosquitos are attracted to our body heat and the carbon dioxide we breathe out, as well as the way we smell. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Dr. L.J. Zwiebel, a molecular biologist who studies skeeters explained that the idea of some people having “sweet blood” is a myth. Instead, it’s about the smell of our skin: “Mosquitoes are attracted to our human odor, and that is largely a consequence of the bacteria on our skin.”
How to Avoid Them
Mosquito repellents made with natural essential oils help to camouflage the scent of skin to keep biters away (washing with antibacterial soap can also help). With a blend of rosemary, geranium, lemongrass and citronella oils, all-natural Malin + Goetz Bug Spray ($20, malinandgoetz.com) repels insects and smells good to boot, plus it’s entirely non-greasy. Another all-natural option, La Fresh Travel Lite Natural Mosquito & Insect Repellent Towelettes ($19.99 for 48, lafreshgroup.com) are easy to keep in a bag or purse and use fresh-smelling peppermint oil as their active ingredient.
If you’re spending time in a heavily infested area or tend to get an especially bad reaction to bites, you’ll want to bring in the big guns. DEET is still the gold standard of repellents, but the chemical can irritate sensitive skin. What’s more, it has an odor and can dissolve the polish on your nails (no!) as well as some plastics. Picaridin is a less irritating alternative, found in formulas such as Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Spray ($14, avon.com).
What to Do if You Get a Mosquito Bite
“Ice is a good way to soothe a mosquito bite because a shock of cold therapy will provide relief for itching and keep you from swelling more,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, cosmetic dermatologist and founder and director of The Fifth Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in New York. “Ice numbs the nerve that conducts itching so you don’t feel either.”
Dr. Frank adds, “An over the counter cortizone cream will also reduce the swelling and itchiness.” I’ve found cortizone does help keep my angry, red welts at bay, but only if I apply it right after being bitten and then again a couple hours later. What do you do for mosquito bites?