No one wants to catch lice. They feed on human blood which causes itching and skin irritation. Eliminating all of the lice and nits is the only way to control the spread. If you’re looking for the right solution and you’re wondering, ‘will hair dye kill lice?’ then we have you covered.
In short, there is no evidence to support the claim that hair dye can kill lice. However, the chemicals in permanent hair dye, such as ammonia can prove effective at eradicating some of the lice. This will however be ineffective at killing the nits (also known as the eggs) as they are encased in a protective shell.
Let’s look into this in more detail.
What Are Lice?
Lice are known as parasites that attach to the human scalp and feed on blood.
Female lice lay up to 6 eggs a day, and unless they are removed immediately from the hair and scalp before they hatch, it will lead to an infestation.
As lice are only 2 – 3 millimeters in size, it can be difficult to see and catch them. The eggs are even smaller for the eyes to see, as they are only 1mm in size and they can blend in with the scalp.
How Do You Get Lice?
Unfortunately, lice spread very easily, especially amongst young children.
This can happen through direct physical touch (resting your head on someone else’s), standing close to someone (as lice can jump quite far to the next human), or even sharing a hat or towel.
Lice need to jump from human to human to stay alive. And they cannot survive very long outside of a human head.
It’s important to note that adults can catch lice just as easily as children do. If you come into close contact with anyone who has lice, there’s a likely chance that you now have them.
If you know anyone who has lice, try to keep a distance between you and avoid sharing personal belongings.
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Symptoms Of Head Lice
When lice feed on human blood they distribute their own saliva. This is what causes the itching sensation and may be one of the first symptoms that you notice.
Most people notice itching before they see any signs of the lice or nits. This itching isn’t just limited to the scalp – it may even be around the ears or on the neck.
A Strange Crawling Sensation
As the lice move around the head you may notice a crawling sensation. This is a very common symptom that may go unnoticed.
Skin Irritation (Redness, Sores, Bumps)
The more you itch, the more you risk damaging the skin.
This can result in open sores, bumps, and redness of the scalp.
It can be very tempting to scratch the spot that is most irritated, but this can result in a bacterial infection if done excessively.
Will Hair Dye Kill Lice?
There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that hair dye or bleach can kill lice.
However, it has been suggested that permanent hair dye could potentially kill some of the lice residing on the head.
The reason for this is that permanent hair dye often contains ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.
Both of these chemicals create an alkaline environment on the scalp, which could prove effective at eliminating an infestation.
It also creates a strong smell that could act as a repellent.
While some people have claimed to find relief and success with hair dye, it is still difficult to kill all of the lice.
Some may still remain attached to the hair and scalp – this requires stronger and more permeant treatment options.
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Will Hair Dye Kill Nits?
Although hair dye may kill some of the lice, it is unlikely to kill nits. The eggs are encased in a hard shell which protects them from the chemicals used in the hair dye.
Unlike lice, nits are even more firmly attached to the scalp because they are surrounded by a glue-like substance that keeps them in place.
You can’t simply rinse them out or kill them off with boxed hair dye. It will take a stronger treatment such as an over the counter kit or shampoo, to fully eradicate them.
How You Might Be Able To Kill Lice With Hair Dye
Hair dye can be used on adults as an additional treatment to kill lice, but it shouldn’t be used on children.
For maximum relief, you should use a combination of these treatment options.
The first step would be to comb through sections of the hair and remove any noticeable nits and lice by placing them into tissue paper.
You’ll need someone else to help you with this.
While you may miss some of the eggs, it’s helpful if you can remove most of them.
This makes it easier to remove the remaining ones.
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2. Use Hair Dye
After you’ve combed through the hair and removed most of the lice and nits, you can use hair dye as an additional option.
However, this isn’t recommended on children or anyone who has open sores or irritated, cracked skin as a result of the bites and scratching.
Natural alternatives would be preferable.
3. Apple cider vinegar rinse
Acetic acid in Apple Cider Vinegar may prove effective at killing both the lice and nits.
While there is little evidence to back up this claim, it has been a popular suggestion for many years.
It’s suggested that ACV can help loosen the glue that attaches the nits to the head, which can make it easier when removing them.
ACV is also very acidic and potent which can act as a repellent and cause some of the lice to jump off to find a more neutral environment.
Doing a weekly ACV rinse may be very effective at preventing them from returning.
4. Blowdry (use heat)
Heat can be effective at killing some of the lice and nits when used in combination with one of the other treatments.
The heat and fast-blowing air from a blow-dryer causes them to dehydrate and die. This may need to be repeated a few times to eradicate the infestation.
Also, you will need to comb the hair thoroughly afterwards to ensure that any dead parasites are removed.
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Things To Be Aware Of When Using Permanent Dye
We’ve covered the question, ‘will hair dye kill lice?’ but it’s important to mention when you should avoid using permanent hair dye.
These are a few things to be mindful of:
- Hair dye should never be used on children
- Always do a patch test first. Wait and see if there’s a reaction. If after 48 hours, there has been no reaction, you can continue using
- It should be avoided on irritated, sensitive, dry, or cracked skin as this can cause an adverse reaction
- The chemicals used in hair dye can cause a dry or itchy scalp in some individuals
- It can cause damage to the hair or cause dryness
- It does not always prove effective at eliminating nits and lice
Other Ways To Kill Lice
There are many natural ways to kill lice that have been proven to be highly effective amongst most people.
These are some of the most common methods that you should try:
Over The Counter Kits
For your convenience, there are many over-the-counter kits that are readily available to treat both lice and nits.
These are suitable for adults and children and all hair types. They tend to be gentle on the hair and scalp while eliminating the parasites.
As mentioned above, combing is a simple and easy solution to targeting most of the infestation and providing quick relief.
However, combing is rarely enough to target such a widespread infestation. You will need to use one of the other methods as well.
Coconut oil is boasted for having many hair benefits but did you know it can also kill lice?
It’s natural lubricating properties make it harder for the lice and nits to stay attached to the head. The lauric acid in coconut oil can also cause them to suffocate.
While it may not be as effective as over the counter kits, it’s a natural remedy that can prove to be helpful. It may also soothe the scalp.
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There are many essential oils that prove to be extremely effective at killing lice.
Some of these are tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender.
These strong scents have properties that repel parasites and keep them away.
Why Is It So Hard To Get Rid Of Lice?
The most frustrating thing about lice is how difficult they are to eradicate.
Many of the lice in the US are considered to be super lice, meaning they have formed some resistance to the chemicals found in over the counter kits and shampoos.
They are also super spreaders, especially with children who find it difficult to keep away from other children who are infected.
It only takes a matter of seconds for the lice to transfer to another head. Once that happens, they can go unnoticed for a few days.
That’s enough time for a female lice to hatch many eggs.
How To Protect Yourself Or Your Child From Lice
Protecting yourself or your child from lice can feel like an ongoing challenge, but it’s important to stay on top of it.
As soon as you find out someone who you are in close contact with has lice, you must try to keep your distance from them. This will help to minimize the spread.
There are other things that you can do, such as:
- Check hair for lice on a regular basis
- Avoid hugging
- Use lice preventing shampoo or spray
- Don’t share hats or scarfs
- Avoid sleepovers
- Put your child’s hair up at school if possible using hair spray
- Don’t share hair accessories such as hairbands, clips, and bobbles.
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Coralle is an experienced beauty writer with a passion for wellness, women’s health, and sustainability.