11 Best Anti-Itch Creams for Mosquito Bites, According to Experts
Itchy, scratchy, red, swollen, and unsightly, mosquitos bites can be unbearable. Here are the best anti-itch creams on Amazon.
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How to manage mosquito bites
They may seem mostly annoying, but mosquito bites itch like crazy and we’re in the height of the season. And while there are mosquito-borne illnesses to worry about, the risk of actual infection is fairly low, according to disease experts. But a mosquito bite almost guarantees that you will be itching like crazy.
Why? When a female mosquito (and it’s always the females—they need the blood to generate eggs) sinks her proboscis into you, she releases proteins to keep your blood from clotting. Your immune system panics, recognizing the proteins as foreign, and releases immune cells known as histamines to do battle. The result is an itchy, red bump that can last up to 10 days, says Amanda Wendel, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. (The more serious reaction to a mosquito bite, an allergic reaction and known as skeeter syndrome, is rare).
“The problem with scratching is you’re actually causing the skin cells you’re scratching to release even more histamine,” warns Charles E. Crutchfield, MD, an Eagan, Minnesota-based dermatologist. That makes your skin even more inflamed and itchy. You’re also risking a more serious allergic reaction, especially if your scratching breaks the skin—or even an infection.
Luckily, there are plenty of great products that can make you feel better almost instantly. Here’s what our experts recommend.
Benadryl Extra Strength Itch-Stopping Gel
$4.80 for 3.5 fl oz
Benadryl brand anti-itch creams and gels were recommended by nearly all the experts we spoke with. Benadryl is the brand name for a number of products containing diphenhydramine hydrochloride, which is one of the most commonly used and commonly prescribed histamine blockers. This particular strength, 2 percent, is the maximum available over the counter and is Benadryl’s “Extra Strength” offering. Our experts recommend it because it works immediately to help block the histamines that cause the itching: Interfering with the urge to scratch is a first step in avoiding causing further damage to the skin, says Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, general practitioner based in Los Angeles, and founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA, Drip Hydration, and Elite Home Detox. (This is how you can prevent mosquito bites while sleeping.)
Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion
$9.98 for 7.5 oz
Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion is also recommended by several of our experts. New York City dermatologist, Marie Hayag, MD, explains that it contains 0.5 percent camphor and 0.05 percent menthol, both of which stimulate nerves in the area with sensations that compete—and help drown out—that itchy feeling and urge to scratch, which is can help avoid doing damage to the skin. (Also, find out the difference between a chigger bite and mosquito bite.)
$5.59 for 2 oz
To put a stop to the inflammation that gets the histamines flowing (which causes the itch), our experts were pretty much unanimous that the anti-inflammatory, hydrocortisone, is the first thing you should turn to. Hydrocortisone constricts your blood vessels to reduce inflammation, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City dermatologist. Cortizone brand skin-remedies deliver hydrocortisone, and this particular cream contains 1 percent hydrocortisone—the highest strength you can get in an over-the-counter product. It also contains aloe, which soothes skin discomfort and supports the skin’s ability to heal, explains Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale-New Haven Hospital and West Haven VA Medical Center. Vitamin E helps reduce swelling, she says.
Kirkland Hydrocortisone 1% Plus Anti-Itch Cream
$15.47 for four 2-oz tubes
If you like hydrocortisone but not the price, check out a generic formulation such as Kirkland’s. Like Cortizone-10, this product contains 1 percent hydrocortisone and aloe, but it costs about $1.93 per ounce, whereas Cortizone’s equivalent product costs about $2.80 per ounce. (Here’s something else you can use hydrocortisone cream for.)
Basic Care Hydrocortisone 1% Cream
$6.46 per 2 oz tube
Basic Care’s hydrocortisone cream is a bit more expensive per ounce than the other two mentioned above ($3.23 per ounce), but it also offers more of what our experts are looking for in an anti-itch cream. Not only does it contain 1 percent hydrocortisone as well as aloe and vitamin E, but it also contains eight other moisturizing elements designed to soothe skin, including vitamins A and D. (Here are healthy foods for dry skin.)
Benadryl Extra Strength Itch-Stopping Cream
$4.28 for 1 oz
This formulation of the popular anti-itch medication, Benadryl’s Extra Strength Itch-Stopping Cream, offers everything the gel offers, plus 0.1 percent zinc (in the form of zinc acetate) which helps soothe inflamed skin, according to Dr. Hayag. (Please note these times when you should never scratch your itchy skin.)
Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
$9.78 for two 1-oz tubes
The most expensive of the hydrocortisone anti-itch creams on this list, Aveeno’s runs about $4.89 per ounce. But what makes it different from the others is that in addition to 1 percent hydrocortisone, aloe, and vitamin E, it also contains colloidal oatmeal: Dr. Zeichner explains that this forms a protective seal over the skin to hydrate and protect the skin barrier. Dr. Klein underscores the value of colloidal oatmeal for itchy skin—another option for relief from mosquito bites is a colloidal oatmeal bath.
Swan Calamine Lotion
$13.75 for two 6-oz bottles
Calamine is a combination of zinc oxide (which helps soothe the skin) and iron oxide (which gives it its distinctive pink color). It also happens to be among the very best home remedies for skin rashes in general, The combination not only dries almost instantly on the skin, but it has a cooling and drying effect that helps reduce the swelling from inflammation, explains Autumn Postell, a certified physician’s assistant working in internal and emergency medicine in San Antonio, Texas. Swan brand calamine lotion, which contains 8 percent calamine and 8 percent zinc, is particularly soothing.
Caladryl Calamine Plus Itch Reliever Lotion
$5.47 for a 6-oz bottle
Caladryl combines calamine plus the pain-and-itch reliever, pramoxine (1 percent), which many of our experts recommend as an ingredient to look for in anti-itch creams. Dr. Hayag, who describes pramoxine as a topical “numbing medicine” explains that it works by interfering with pain signals sent from the nerves to the brain, thus blocking both pain and itching. (Learn more about ant bites and insect bites.)
Caladryl Clear Lotion
$9.18 for 6 oz
For those who don’t like the dry film calamine lotion leaves on the skin, there’s Caladyl Clear. Despite the name, the lotion doesn’t contain calamine; instead, the lotion relies on the topical pain medication pramoxine (1 percent), plus zinc, which as noted above, offers soothing properties for the skin. (Beware of the bug bites that need medical attention.)
CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream
$19.93 for 12 oz
For a super-moisturizing anti-itch cream, you’ll want to try CeraVE’s, which is one of the few true moisturizing creams we could find that contains one percent pramoxine. That’s among the reasons Dr. Hayag recommends it so highly. In addition, and despite its super-moisturizing properties, CeraVe is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. Not a concern? (Well, here are the best facial moisturizers for your particular skin type.)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "Mosquito Bites"
- Amanda Wendel, MD, dermatlogist with Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group in St. Charles, Illinois
- Charles E. Crutchfield, MD, dermatologist in Eagan, Minnesota
- NPR: "Mosquito Proboscis"
- Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, a dermatologist in Westport Connecticut and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale-New Haven Hospital and West Haven VA Medical Center
- Michael Billet, MD, emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, and Assistant Professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine
- Tania Elliot, MD, internal medicine physician and allergist in telehealth practice
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, "Inflammation"
- Sabina A Rebis MD, Internal Medicine Doctor at Yale-New Haven Health - Bridgeport Hospital and founder of The Model of Health.
- Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, general practitioner based in Los Angeles, California, and founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA, Drip Hydration, and Elite Home Detox.
- Autumn Postell, PA-C, a Certified Physician's Assistant in San Antonio, Texas and with FetchMD
- Esta Kronberg, MD, dermatologist in Houston, Texas
- Marie Hayag, MD, Dermatologist and Founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics in New York, New York
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City