Few things scare parents more than "Your child has head lice." Although relatively common occurrence among children, lice (1) can infest anyone's hair and scalp.
Lice are parasitic, wingless insects that reside in a person's scalp. Around the size of a sesame seed, they can range in color from translucent white to brown. They require human blood to survive and can have a life span of up to 30 days in a person's scalp. Each day, head lice lay around 3-5 eggs called nits (2) that hatch about a week after being laid.
Though there are no scientific studies that suggest that dye can kill lice, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence does suggest that it does eliminate them. Keep in mind that while hair dye may eliminate lice, it does not eradicate their nits.
What Effect Does Dye Have on Lice?
Though a wide range of dyes are available, it is permanent dye that is used to eliminate head lice. Permanent dyes contain ammonia, an alkaline that produces an irritating gas. It is believed that ingredient is specifically what kills the lice. Longer-lasting permanent dyes can contain hydrogen peroxide (3) which may also be effective against lice.
As previously mentioned, dye does not affect the nits that a louse lay. Nits are encased in a strong protective shell that the chemicals in dye cannot penetrate. There is also a glue-like substance that adheres the nits to a person's hair and scalp and that too is unaffected by dye.
Which Hair Dye Kills Head Lice?
The best dyes for killing head lice are found among the permanent color kits, as they contain ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, unlike the non-permanent dyes.
Since hydrogen peroxide is a bleach, it is typically used in hair dyes in the blonde shade range.
Hair dye brands that could be useful in eliminating head lice include:
Check the bottle label to make sure the hair dye you selected contains both ammonia and peroxide. If you are unsure, seek advice from your nearest hair salon.
Does Bleach Kill Lice?
Here is what science says:
Hair bleach contains a variety of chemicals, including ammonium persulfate, hydrogen, and stearyl alcohol. Like dye, it can eliminate any lice from the scalp, but it is ineffective against nits before they hatch.
Before using bleach, read the safety precautions below.
How Does Hair Dye Kill Head Lice?
If you want to kill head lice with dye, it is advisable to repeat the procedure weekly until the insects and their nits are completely gone.
It is also recommended that dyeing and bleaching be combined with other lice-removal techniques such as special lice combs or using vinegar. Like dye, there are no scientific studies to confirm that vinegar is effective against lice, but there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that vinegar is effective against immature head lice.
Follow these steps to eliminate lice with hair dye:
- Start the process with vinegar. Saturate your scalp with a solution of one part water and one part vinegar. Work the vinegar solution through your hair near the scalp, along with behind the ears and at the nape of your neck. If you begin to experience any burning sensations, wash the solution off immediately.
- Wash the water and vinegar solution from your scalp thoroughly with warm water.
- Using a special lice comb, comb as many insects and nits from your scalp as possible. Clean the comb and soak it in warm water, and make sure that it is completely free of lice or nits before reusing it.
- Follow the instructions for mixing your choice of dye in a well-ventilated area.
- Saturate your scalp with the hair dye, focusing on the same areas as with the vinegar and water solution - the base of each hair, around the ears, and the nape of the neck.
- Thoroughly rinse out the dye.
- Comb through your hair and scalp again with your clean comb.
- Dry your hair with a hairdryer. Hair dryers can help eliminate any insects that may be left behind.
If you are incapable of removing every nit from your scalp, it is likely that there will be a return of head lice in about 7 days.
Additionally, keep in mind that dye does not serve as a repellent and that it is possible to contract lice if they are encountered again.
Precautions for Safety
Permanent dyes and bleaches contain chemicals that affect your hair's natural color. These chemicals can also cause irritation to the scalp, face, and neck, even resulting in allergic reactions. When using dye, be aware of any side effects, including:
- breakouts of hives or welts
These side effects may become more severe when using dyes or bleaches more often than intended. The chemicals in these products may also cause damage to your hair.
When using these products, be sure to wear the disposable gloves that usually come with the product to protect your hands and other parts of the body from chemicals.
Avoid getting any product in your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth. Additionally, avoid breathing in the chemical fumes by applying dyes or bleach in a well-ventilated area.
Methods of removing lice involving dyes or bleach are not recommended for children. Children's hair is often finer than that of an adult's, so the chemicals in those products run a higher risk of causing damage. Children may also be more susceptible to negative side effects from those products.
Alternative Remedies for Lice
There are plenty of home remedies available for treating head lice. It may take some experimentation to find the method that works for you. However, like many insects they are developing a natural resistance to many well-known remedies like stearyl alcohol and medicated shampoos.
Regardless of method, the removal of these pests requires a lice comb.
Common Remedies for a lice infestation include:
- Over-the-Counter Treatment Kits - These kits utilize a variety of insecticides in order to eliminate lice. These products may not be safe for younger children or pregnant women. Consult a physician if there are any concerns about the instructions or ingredients in an over-the-counter treatment kit.
- Coconut Oil - Though not scientifically proven to affect head lice, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that it does. In addition, it is natural and non-toxic. For maximum effect, try applying it after cleaning your scalp with a vinegar and water solution.
- Olive Oil or Mayonnaise - Another anecdotal remedy, it is believed that coating your scalp with a layer of either of these substances. This remedy requires that the substance be left on for a period of 24-48 hours under a shower cap to be effective.
- Essential Oil - Natural lavender, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils may repel head lice. Additionally, essential oils diluted in carrier oil can be used to suffocate lice.
If home remedies or adequate combing does not work, consult a medical professional about possible prescription medications.
Do i have head lice or am I paranoid?
Many people don’t know they have head lice until it is too late because symptoms can be vague or non-existent. This means you may spend weeks scratching your head before you realize something is wrong!
Head lice are small black bugs that live on your head and feed off of your blood. They lay eggs (nits) close to the scalp which makes them even harder to see with the naked eye.
Nits look like tiny white dots attached to hairs near the scalp. If you have nits and no adult lice or other signs of an infestation, it is likely that you will get a new infestation within one month if left untreated!
You should be concerned if you notice the following symptoms:
- There may be a tickling feeling on your scalp that makes you feel as if something is moving around
- You might feel itchy
- When you run your fingers over your scalp and feel sore areas and tiny bumps
- Tiny, red bumps around your upper neck and ears
- If you find tiny white specks in your hair (it can be mistaken with dandruff)
Though a dreadful insect to be afflicted by, there are plenty of ways to eliminate lice from your hair and scalp. While dyes and bleaches may not be backed by scientific study, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting their effectiveness against lice. As previously stated, these products are not effective against the nits that these pests lay.
Other remedies may prove more effective than dyes and bleach. If choosing to try those products as a method of removing nice, be sure to do so in conjunction with using a lice comb and keep an eye out for any leftover insects and nits following treatment.
- Parasites - Head Lice, retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/index.html
- Head lice and nits, retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/head-lice-and-nits/
- Hydrogen peroxide, retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Hydrogen-peroxide
Cynthia is a U.S. writer who has been writing online for more than a year. She enjoys writing and sharing the latest hair fashions including caring for hair, and giving hair style tutorials; tips for having great skin and a healthy body just to name a few things. Offering a little advice for getting through tough days is another subject she enjoys adding her 2 cents on. She has lots of hands-on experience with hair care, lifestyle tips and hair styles.