Bug Repellent Lotion Bars

Homemade all natural bug repellent lotion bars

Ever since I discovered how to make my original Lotion Bars, I’ve been experimenting with different variations including Sunscreen Bars, Vapo-Rub Bars, Healing Bars (coming soon), and others. Today’s favorite: Bug Repellent Lotion Bars!

They are as easy to make as the original bars, and the seem even more effective at keeping bugs away than regular homemade bug spray, probably because they actually coat the skin with a protective layer. They are easy to take along and the kids can apply it themselves.

Instead of being filled with chemicals and toxins like conventional bug sprays, this recipe actually nourishes and moisturizes the skin while protecting it.

Items Needed

All ingredients available at Mountain Rose Herbs. I also use silicon molds to set the bars. These are the molds I used but I also love these Sunflower ones and these heart ones, which would both be great for gifts. There are also simple flower molds and actual bar shaped ones.

Lotion Bar Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup shea butter, cocoa butter or mango butter (or a mix of all three equal to 1 part)
  • 1/2 cup beeswax + 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup fresh or dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 cup dried catnip leaf
  • 1 (or more) tablespoons of mint leaf (optional but adds great scent)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil to preserve.
  • Essential Oils (optional but good): Insect Shield blend (contains all of the above), lavender and lemon (10+ drops of each)

Lotion Bar Instructions

  1. This version has an extra step that the original Lotion Bars didn’t have. To save money on essential oils, we actually infuse the herbs into the coconut oil.
  2. Using a double boiler or glass bowl on top of a small saucepan, heat about 1 inch of water (in bottom pan) until starting to boil. Place the dried rosemary, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, catnip and mint in the top part of the double boiler and add the coconut oil (can also use almond, olive or other oil but you will need to add more beeswax later on to get the bars to firm.
  3. Cover the bowl or top part of the double boiler and keep the water at medium/high temperature for at least 30 minutes or until oil has adopted a darker color and smells strongly of rosemary. Alternately, you can fill a crock pot about half full with water, put the coconut oil and herbs in a glass mason jar with a tight lid, cover and keep on lowest setting for several days to make an even stronger infused oil.
  4. Then, strain the dried herbs out of the oil using a small mesh strainer or cheesecloth and pour the oil back into the double boiler. The oil will probably be reduced by almost half and you should have about 1/2 cup of the infused oil. If you have more, save it for next time!
  5. Add the butter(s) and beeswax to the double boiler and stir until all have melted. Remove from heat, add the Vitamin E oil and any other essential oils and pour into molds. T
  6. Leave in the molds until completely set (overnight is best) or you can speed up the process by placing in the fridge.
  7. To use: Rub the bars on exposed areas of DRY skin to protect against mosquitos. If you are pregnant, check to make sure any herbs you use are safe for pregnancy and omit the ones that aren’t.

Don’t Want To Make Them?

If you want to use lotion bars but don’t have the time/ingredients to make them yourself, I found a great small business, Made On, that makes all kinds of lotion bars, soaps, natural baby products and hair products that are up to my standards. Their website is HardLotion.com and they have agreed to give Wellness Mama readers a 15% discount on all orders with the code “wellnessmama” at this link. (Note: Affiliate link… the price is discounted for you and I get a small commission to support my blog!)

How do you keep the bugs away? Share below!

These homemade bug repellent lotion bars have herbs and essential oils to repel insects and bugs while you are outdoors!

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Reader Comments

  1. If you used the Bug off blend, would you still use all the herbs listed and infuse them with the coconut oil?  If not, would you just melt the oils and wax then add the bug off?

    • If you just used the essential oil you wouldn’t need the others though the rosemary smells great if you do use it… If not, melt the oils and wax first, remove from heat and then add the essential oils

      • About how much would you need to add of the bug off blend if that is all you used instead of the herbs?

        • 20-30 drops probably, but add a little at a time and see how it goes. You should be able to smell it but it shouldn’t be overwhelming.

      • I have heard good things about the essential oils but have also heard that they can be really bad for you. How do you know?

    • Ok, I’m sorry I am really confused. Is the Bug off blend the Bug out repellent? And if I add the bug off then I don’t add the herbs correct? Sorry, this is my first time trying anything like this.

    • One last question, can you use the herbs that you buy at the store for food; like thyme, cinnamon, cloves etc?

    • Do you have beeswax free lotion recipes?

      • you can use soy wax!

    • If I infuse the herbs, and want to add the essential oils, do I use the lavender, lemon AND the insect blend or just one?

  2. About how many standard size bars does this recipe make?

    • It will make about six in the molds I used.

  3. Would this work to keep fleas off of puppies?

    • I have made a very similar recipe before finding this post. I started using on my dog because he had a terrible reaction to commercial flea treatments. I now wash him with Dr. Bronner Baby Mild soap with my own add essential oils that are known flea repellants (clary sage, rosemary, citronella, etc). Then, I make a spray and a bug lotion bar, which I alternate. It helps A LOT!!!

      • Sharla, I found a natural bug repellant for my cat at Petco – it was nothing but essential oils and seems to work!

        • Jennifer, You should be extremely careful using essential oils on cats. cats don’t tolerate essential oils well and they can be very harmful to them. Cats lack an enzyme in their liver that break down the compounds in essential oils so essential oils can be very toxic for them and problems can occur very quickly after exposure.

  4. You said you can use another oil instead of coconut..I have sunflower oil at home, will that work? And if so how much additional beeswax do you reccomend adding? Thanks! I plan on making these tonight for a camping trip this weekend!

    • That will work, and add about 1/3 more beeswax or reduce the amount of oil by 1/2…

  5. can you turn this into a lip balm?  If so, what do you add?  Or perhaps you have a different lip balm recipe, I searched your site for one, but no results.

  6. This recipe is ok for infants as well??

    • I’ve used it on my babies without a problem.

    • Ive used it on both my babies and had no issues. Love it btw

  7. Do you know if the bug off blend is safe to use on toddlers.  Was going to use that to make these bars, but wasn’t sure if I could use it on my little guy.  

    • I have used on my kids as early as 2 weeks.

  8. I have sheets of beeswax, typically used for crafts. Can I use those to make this or is there something different that I need?

    • They should work as long as they are pure beeswax…

  9. I just love your site! I found you through a post someone put on fb and I have been surfing thorugh all you neat recipes. You have a new subscriber!

  10. Would it be ok to use fresh catnip and fresh rosemary on this?

    • Yes, just make sure they are completely covered in oil while infusing.

    • I put all my dried ingredients in a tea bag and place them in a jar of coconut oil and let set in my crockpot on low for a few days. I’ve always had great results.

  11. if i wan’t to have it in liquid form, is it going to have the same performance?

    • Yes, just leave out the beeswax and butters and just use a carrier oil…

  12. Is there a reason lemon grass oil isn’t used? I bought a little spray bottle of bug spray last summer with that as the active ingredient (and the other listed ingredients were natural) and it worked extremely well. The only problem was that the tiny bottle was expensive and I only saw it available for a week and never since. I work in heavily forested areas with dense tick and mosquito populations during the summer so max repelling ability is a must, but I would really love to use a less expensive natural route.

    • I live in the mountains of Colorado and we have issues with ticks. Spring seems to particularly bad. I found that geranium essential oil seems to work well. I orginally put a drop on my dogs collar. The ticks also seem to like my husband who is very allergic to them. I put some in a carrier oil for him. This year I started making the body lotion bars, so am trying a bug bar with cedar and geranium. The season is just beginning so will have to wait and see what happens.

      • I live in Colorado as well and just recently made a spray bottle with water, lemongrass and eucalyptus! Its safe for childeren and easy on the eyes, plus smells great. Needless to say we had no ticks. I for get the exact recipe but it went by the cup. google tick spray if u haven’t already

  13. I’m wondering if you’ve tried mixing the bug-off bars with the sunscreen bars (minus the citrus oils) to come up with one multi-purpose lotion bar that prevents sunburn and bug bites. Seems like a good theory.

    • I was going to ask this as well, did you try it yet? How did it turn out?

    • Curious as well. Plz share when someone tries it

    • I’m thinking about adding a couple tbsp of zinc oxide in order to make it more multi-purpose….pretty much its the only difference between this and the sunscreen recipe I’m planning to use.

  14. Fantastic find, these bars (and your website) are great! Question…I couldn’t find vitamin e oil so I made six bars without a ‘preservative’. How long will they last before they ‘spoil’? How will I know when they do? Will storing them in an airtight container and out of direct sunlight help them keep longer?

    • They will still last a really long time since they are all oil based and the individual ingredients have a shelf life of 2+ years…

  15. How do you measure the beeswax? I purchase by weight, but volume is ordered? Do I grate it and then measure the volume?

  16. Where do you get mint leaves from? Thanks!

    • Mountain Rose Herbs carries everything required in most of the recipes on wellness mama.

  17. Hi Wellnesmama, I love your site. How long would you say these last for? Obviously store out of sun if using the essential oils, but would they last for more than 6 months?

    • The ones I have are over a year old and going strong…

  18. Hi WellnessMama, how long do you think these would last? I would guess to keep them out of sunlight if using the essential oils, but if I just infuse?

  19. Would this work as just a lotion with the besswax omitted? My mom is allergic to everything bee related. Thanks!

    • It would, but it would be more of a spreadable lotion than a bar….

  20. I was just wondering, is this greesy at all?

    • Slightly when it first goes on but not after a couple minutes

  21. If I don’t use the bug off blend how much of each separate essential oil should I use? Would I still use the herbs as well? Thank you and thank you for posting your recipe 🙂

    • I”d use the herbs and about 10 drops of each oil that you have…’

      • Thanks!! I can’t wait to try this!

  22. I’m noticing Mosquitos are getting bad….can my 6 month old son use these bars?

  23. And what is the purpose of said “bug off blend”?

    • My kids use them… the bug off blend is just a mix of all the essential oils to make it easier…

  24. Is there something you can suggest to do or use instead of beeswax? I made your original lotion bars and after about a month, started to get a rash on my hands and arms. Turns out it was propolis in the beeswax that I’m allergic to. I’m currently using only coconut oil, but with it being summer, the bugs just seem to flock to me. Some help please : )

    • I made them just omitting the beeswax and it’s a lovely creamy texture that can be applied like a lotion.

      • You can use candellia wax. It takes slightly less than beeswax to set up. Normally .7oz per 1oz of beeswax called for. You can look it up, I love using candellia. I get it from Oregon Trail Soapers Supply. You’ll get much more precise results if you weigh your product instead of measuring.

  25. Thank you for all your sharing, I was wondering do you have a book you recommend with ideas ane recipes for diy nourishing skin care ? I am a book person.
    Your site is awesome.
    Heather Green Blessings from Nova Scotia

  26. How do you buy beeswax? I only know of the sheets you can buy to make into candles.

    • In pastilles… there is a link in the recipe above…

  27. Would it mess up the whole recipe if I added some nutmeg? Pregnancy brain got the best of me and just went with the motions when I was adding cinnamin and cloves…

  28. I’m so excited, I’m infusing my coconut oil right now so I can make these bug repellent bars tonight. I’m going to pour some of the mixture into an old cleaned out deodorant container. I can’t wait to test out the finished product.

  29. I’ve made the bug repellent as a tube and it works awesome and easy to apply. I have had some friends ask how it would work on a horse, as many owners are looking for something other then fly spray. Does anyone have any experience with using the bar on animals and will it work with flys? Also if u have any recommendations for all natural fly repellent recipes I would be very greatful!

  30. Also when making these lotions does the coconut oil being unrefined or refined make much difference? I know refined is processed and isn’t considered as natural but ultimately does it make the lotion less effective?

  31. Can I add zinc to make this a bug off sunscreen bar? We’re going up into the mountains this weekend and at that elevation sunscreen only protects from a major burn, not from getting color. But there are also mosquitoes a plenty. Thanks!

    • Yep, but I’d probably also use protective clothing to help avoid both…

      • =) Thank you! We both own spf shirts and use those long scarves that middle eastern people wear to cover themselves. Great for dipping in water and making “air conditioning” in the breezes, and great sun covers.

  32. Hey have just made these bars and have a batch of the herb infused oil left. I also added the essential oils that are in bug off (am in uk and they don’t sell it here). I was wondering whether this could be turned into a spray as well- the Mosquitos here will bite through my jeans unless sprayed with deet normally.

  33. Hi there! Thanks for this, I needed a safe alternative for my kids especially since West Nile is crazy here. Is this Pregnancy safe?

    • When pregnant you have to be careful of some essential oils and rosemary unless it is cooked. If you go on mountain rose herbs site it will tell you on all the ingredients if it is safe for pregnant women or not. I would think since the rosemary is being infused it would be safe to use but always check with your doctor or an aromatherapist

  34. Is the citronella essential to this? I have a severe allergy to Citronella.

  35. Can citronella essential oil be added as well?

  36. Does Fractionated Coconut Oil work for this recipe? I have some in stock already.

  37. When you make it do you use a full cup of coconut oil then just use the reduced oil or do you use both the infused and the cup of coconut oil? Sorry I’m a complete newbie to the healthy living make your own world ( but I’m loving it)

  38. What could you substitute for the rosemary. I have always been told not to use it since I have high blood pressure.

  39. can these bug off bars and sunscreen bars be used on babies…would make great gifts if they could!

  40. How much zinc oxide would you recommend adding to these bars? We live next to the coast where sun and mosquitos are terrible! I have a new baby that I will be putting this on…. Thank you for all your help!

  41. Hi Wellness Muma! I just live by your recipes and informative write ups, thank you for sharing your knowledge!
    I’m from the UK and (embarrassingly) I am petrified of wasps (and bees) would this repel them also? x

  42. Will this be ok without catnip if we have everything else? I won’t be ordering anything else from mountain rose herbs and I can’t pay $10 to ship some catnip lol.

    • How did it work without catnip? I forgot to add it & wonder if I just wasted my time :~}


    • I forgot to add Catnip. will this still work or do I need to make it all over again? :~}

  43. I apologize if this has been asked already, I’m wondering if you can add Zinc Oxide to make this a double duty beauty…I ask because I want something I can just slather on before working in my garden and not have a dozen and one bottles of stuff just so I can stay comfy

  44. Hi Katie,
    I know you do your research on products- I am wondering if Young Living oils or DoTerra oils are as good as MRH oils. Is there a reason you specifically chose to get all your oils from MRH? I just wondered if it was price or quality or another reason. I have some Young Living oils but they are about 6-7 years old now. Its just expensive (as you know) to order a ton of oils and butters at one time. I really trust your judgement and thank you for all your work.

    • I’ve found that MRH oils are cheaper and at least as good quality as DT or Yl. Also, despite the claims by both companies, I have a source that verified that most of DT/YL oils are made by the same company so there is really no difference in quality

      • Very helpful information, Katie! Thanks!

      • I have come across the same information regarding YL and DT oils… they are fantastically expensive and no better than MRH AND, MRH is clear about which EO’s you can use when pregnant etc… the others, who promote ingestion often neglect to mention these facts, which scare me 🙁 MRH – great supplier, great quality and reasonable prices.

  45. what is “mint leaf”, and where do I find it?

  46. Ticks also hate tea tree oil. It can be added to the essential oil blend.

  47. I am curious about storage of these. I made them last night, they look and smell wonderful!! But they are very soft already (and it’s not hot out) is this something that you could/should keep in the fridge? closed container?

    thanks so much. having so much fun with your site.
    (already made your boo boo cream!)

  48. Can I infuse my coconut oil with all of the above mentioned herbs and use said coconut oil in the sunscreen bar recipe? I want a sun and bug repellent!

  49. When it says 1/4 cup rosemary is this the amount used for fresh or dried? I know typically in cooking you’d use 1/3 the amount of dried to sub for fresh.

    Also has anyone tried making these bars in metal muffin tins? I have many pans of these, but no silicone ones. I don’t want to make it and have it stick and ruin the batch.

    • Jess, try using greaseproof muffin cup liners. I’ve read in a few places that they work quite well for lotion bars and the like. I’m about to embark on lotion bar making and that’s what I got to use. 🙂

  50. Hi Wellness Mama,

    We are being relocated to Tanzania, Africa, which is a Malaria-risk area. I want to keep whole family safe but esspecially my 1yr old and 3yr old. Would you feel confident enough to use this product alone (with Mosquito nets at night), or because of the seriousness of Maleria, would you be inclined to double up with locally used commercial products? Sorry, I realise its at its tricky question I’m asking

    • I don’t have any personal experience with it but I’d definitely make avoiding malaria a top priority and try local products if needed too…

  51. Do you know if the herbs and essential oils used in this recipe are considered safe to use while nursing? I have a hard time finding good info about safety while nursing; everything seems to focus on pregnancy. Thanks!

  52. Hi, love your site! We are going to a lake house in the woods in a week and I wanted to make these for myself and my family, however I am pregnant. I started checking the herbs on MRH, but the first two (catnip and rosemary) said no during pregnancy. Would they be as bad if put on skin? Less safe than commercial bug spray? Any substitute recipe for a prego? Thanks!

  53. If I want to put this in the deodorant containers will I follow this recipe or the lotion bar stick recipe and just add the oils? I noticed there is no vitamin e oil in the lotion bar stick recipe. Can I add vitamin e to the stick recipe? Also, will the bars melt if left in the car? Thank you so much!!!

    • I say try it all! You can keep the same recipe, or add e. As for melting… Well, it can do that sometimes.

  54. Hello, thanks for the great looking recipe! Just so I’m clear, if I plan to use just the bug off blend essential oil and no other essential oils or herbs, how many drops of the bug off oil would I use ? Thanks!

  55. I’m very interested in the bug-off lotion bars. Where can I buy the ingredients? Are they available at a craft store? Or on line? Health food store?

  56. Just wondering if I could infuse it with citronella leaves? And how much would you use?

  57. Great stuff; but I am vegan and most of the ingredients call for beeswax. What do you suggest in place of the beeswax? I am always looking for cruelty free, animal free products.

  58. Can I use more coconut oil in place of Shea/cocoa butter? Iv searched high and low for them here in Uruguay and I’m not able to make online purchases.

    • You can if you want but the texture will be less firm.

  59. Found your blog on another I follow, which cited yours multiple times (Lifehack). After bookmarking a half-dozen pages, I gave up and subscribed. This is only one of many excellent recipes for self-care I’ve found on your site; thank you.

  60. My friend purchased the ingredients for me to make the lotion and got Shea body butter. I used it and found it doesn’t want to firm up on the bottom. Do you think adding more beeswax would help? Or would it still work ok not firmed up?

  61. Would this work on “bed bugs” … or can you come up with a recipe that would? I have spent over $100 on commercial sprays for home and yard and still seem to have them in the yard. They get on the dog who brings them inside. Thanks.

  62. Hello 🙂 Do you have a recipe for a bug repellent stick?

    • Not specifically, but you could make them in old, clean deodorant tubes. I would be careful, though… Essential oils can corrode plastic, and these have a lot of essential oils in them! I personally would advise against it.

  63. I just made this bug repellent lotion bar. I FORGOT to put in the vitamin E. What should I do?

    • Use it fast-ish? The E oil is a preservative.

  64. Are the ingredients safe to use on babies?

  65. I am having a DIY and one of the DIY item is bug spray in a 15ml reuse a essential oil bottle. Do you have a formula, Terrashied, purify, lemongrass, melaueca, with FCO or Witch hazel. It is for 12 people so I didn’t want to use straigh EO. Thank you. It is next on my list to do bug lotion bars, but I am ready with my oil bottles and labels for May 9th,.

  66. Hi!
    I’ve tried it and it was great for mosquitos. Does it also work with ticks?
    Thank, you,

    • I like using lemon eucalyptus oil for ticks and flies.

  67. I love your website with all the useful tips and information! I wanted to let you know that I was pleasantly surprised today to find you listed in the CareSpot Immediate Care/Walk in Clinic article for DIY: Natural Repellents from the Kitchen. That’s amazing! Coming from one mother of five to another, you should be very proud! Keep at it; your doing great!

  68. I didn’t have any catnip, how about fresh Lemongrass in place of catnip? Also I added 2 tbsp of ground epsom salt (didn’t have any magnesium flakes either) and a couple fresh chocolate mint leaves. I really love your site! I have the Brady bunch plus one, 9 mo. old through 20, and we live in Florida where the mosquitos resemble thick walls of vampire pterodactyls! Looking for safe chemical free ways to keep them off, especially for the babies.

  69. Will the lotion bars melts? I know coconut oil melted 75° so I’m just curious to know if those will stay solid or not. I have a three-month-old that I want to take camping and me and this sounds like a good idea

    • I have taken them camping many times and never had them melt. They work wonderful! My daughter has very sensitive skin and gets eaten alive every time she steps out the door, except when she’s wearing this!

  70. Hi Katie!
    Thanks again for another wonderful recipe! How do you store these?

  71. I made bug repellent bars last night.
    used coconut oil, Crisco, natural raw beeswax, citronella, tea tree and lavender. Love the fragrance and color. However it is a bit sticky, drags on skin. Once on, it is nice. Is there something I can do for the drag?
    I live on a small island off the coast of Honduras in western Caribbean.
    I am a soap maker and branched out with lip balm and now bug bars!
    Thanks in advance!

  72. So if I’m getting this right, if you have a bug off blend like terra shield from Doterra, then you don’t need to use the herbs right? Instead of the herbs, what about using clove, thyme, peppermint and Rosemary essential oils? This might make it stronger. This a be easier for me because I already have lemon and lavender essential oil’s, so I wouldn’t have to buy the bug off blend. I have all the oils right now!

  73. Could you use this recipe, but put it into a stick? The stick would be a lot easier to apply, and he wouldn’t get it all over your hands! Plus it would be easy to pack, and if it did start to melt it wouldn’t matter.

  74. I clicked on the link in the recipe for the Bug Off blend, and it took me to Amazon where the product was called by a different name and had a different blend of essential oils. Some were the same, and there were some not listed in the recipe. I also tried searching the Mountain Rose Herbs site and didn’t come up with anything by that name, not even a bug repellant blend.

    So…..where and what would I look for to find the Bug Off essential oil blend?

    Love your lotion and deodorant recipes, by the way!

  75. Can I substitute catnip with citronella or that works better?? I really do not like cats!! 🙂 I know this sound silly but don’t want them around me!

  76. Hey Katie,
    Thank you so much for all you share, research, and experiment; I know I am one of many that appreciate and benefit from it! I was wondering how I could make rollers out of this recipie (omitting beeswax and butters) or if their is a different blend of eo you would recommend. NPR published an article about natural vs traditional mosquito repellents and a lemon and eucalyptus seemed to work almost as well as DEET. Would a blend of eucalyptus, lemon, and maybe citronella with fractionated coconut oil be safe for a roller? Thanks!

  77. Thanks so much for all the great info! This is my new favorite blog 🙂 I am new to using essential oils, but have been researching a good diy bug repellant option safe for babies. Think I have hopefully found a good blend ( citronella, rosalina, geranium, cedarwood, sweet orange) for a roll on application I am supposed to put 4 drops into 1tbls of carrier oil. But I love the idea of these lotion bars. Any idea how many drops I would put into the bars considering it would be for a baby 6+ months old? Thanks for any advice you might have!

  78. I am wondering about adding some zinc oxide powder to make this inspect repellent a sunblock bar as well? Any thoughts?
    Also could I replace any of the oils/butters with pig lard?