This $10 Product Painlessly Sucks Insect Saliva from Under Your Skin to Get Rid of Itching and Stinging
It's also Amazon's best-selling product for insect bite relief.
Insect bites pretty much suck the joy out of summer—but they don't have to. Amazon shoppers are convinced that this $10 product is the only thing you'll need to get rid of bug-related itchiness once and for all.
Dubbed the Bug Bite Thing (Buy It, $10, amazon.com), the ingenious device is Amazon's best-selling insect bite treatment with more than 800 five-star reviews. The manual suction tool, created by mother and daughter duo Kelley Higney and Ellen McAlister, first debuted on ABC's Shark Tank in 2019 and won $150,000 from Lori Greiner in exchange for 10 percent equity. Since then, millions of units have been sold to help provide immediate relief against bites from mosquitoes, bees, wasps, biting flies, no-see-ums, chiggers, sea lice, and more.
If you're thinking that this could be the answer to buggy camping trips, outdoor concerts and events, and your summer mosquito woes, you might not be wrong. But how exactly does the Bug Bite Thing work—and is it actually vetted by an expert or is it just a novelty? (Related: What's Causing Your Itchy Skin?)
What Is the Bug Bite Thing, Exactly?
The device purportedly works by literally sucking out the poison and irritants from bug bites that are responsible for making you itch. Unlike topical creams that provide temporary itch relief, the Bug Bite Thing is completely chemical-free and promises to eliminate itchiness and inflammation altogether, especially if used immediately after a bite. It can be used by both adults and kids and is supposedly a great option for people with sensitive skin. (Looking for more chemical-free options to ward off the creepy critters, here are seven ways to bypass mosquito bites, minus the bug spray.)
To use it, simply apply the device directly over your insect bite or sting and slowly pull up on the handles until you feel a suction. Hold the tool in place for 10-20 seconds before pushing the handles down to release the suction. The good news: You have complete control over the amount of suction and the duration. It's possible that the pressure from the suction could leave a hickey-like mark (a small price to pay for relief, right?) but should decrease the redness and swelling of the bite significantly. Once you're finished using the product, remove the cap, rinse and sanitize it with soapy water or an alcohol wipe, and store it away until you need to use it again. Just be careful not to get the pump part wet, so that it doesn't lose its suction ability.
Okay, But Does the Bug Bite Thing Actually Work?
But does it really work or is it just another infomercial toy that you'll use once and toss in a drawer to never see the light of day again? "There’s some evidence that suction can help with wound healing, cuts, burns and the like, because it may stimulate increased blood circulation, similar to the mechanism behind the “cupping” treatment that many athletes and chronic pain sufferers seek out," says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD). While she does find this instrument to be very "interesting" she does argue that the concept of sucking out the saliva or venom from your skin is a teeny bit "outrageous." (Related: I Tried 'Facial Cupping' to See If I'd Get Skin Like Kim Kardashian)
However, she has an alternate theory on why it might relieve symptoms: Your body reacts to the bug bite nearly instantaneously, and while the suction might not remove the saliva, the increased blood flow to the area—thanks to the suction mechanism—can help relieve symptoms of inflammation. It's not actually the saliva that's the problem (your body knows how to clear and destroy the saliva from the skin—the skin itself has an immune system for that), but rather your immune system's reaction that causes itching and discomfort, Dr. Nazarian points out.
Regardless, Amazon customers are still obsessed with the Bug Bite Thing and claim that it really helps to relieve the itchiness and discomfort that comes with bug bites.
"I cannot stress to you enough how much better this simple little tool has made my quality of life during the summer in Ohio," one reviewer shared. "I have horrific allergic reactions to mosquito bites. We're talking bumps swelling to the width of softballs within minutes of the bite. This tool doesn't make those bumps go away, but it stops the itch IMMEDIATELY."
"As a beekeeper who is pretty allergic to bee stings, I can say this little tool has made my hobby SO much easier," another wrote. "I suit up to work my hives, but nearly always get stung somewhere. Now I use the Bug Bite Thing to suck out the venom ASAP, and I've never once had that severe swelling reaction since. It really has been a game-changer to me."
Plus, on top of bug bite relief, some reviewers claim it's been helpful in sucking out blackheads and even pesky splinters as well. Talk about ~versatility~. The Bug Bite Thing's website does advise not to use the tool on your face or neck, since delicate, thin skin is more susceptible to marks and bruising, so if you're thinking about using it as a blackhead remover, proceed with caution! (Related: The 10 Best Blackhead Removers, According to a Skin Expert)
While this tool may not completely get rid of the appearance of bug bites, it seems that it does reduce the swelling and itchiness they cause. And at $10 a pop on Amazon, it might be worth having on hand as you enter the muggy, bug-infested months of summer.