Will hair dye kill head lice?

Updated July 19, 2017

Head lice can be tricky to get out of hair. Anecdotal remedies range from vinegar to alcohol. Some people cite hair dye as effective at killing head lice, but no scientific evidence backs this claim. Although the dye might do some good, there are better ways to get rid of the parasites.

What Are Lice?

Lice are small insects that often hide in hair on the head and body. These parasites feed off human blood and lay eggs in the hair. The eggs hatch in seven to 10 days. Lice look like small grains of brown rice. Their eggs, known as nits, look like tiny white balls of dandruff, often beaded down strands of hair.

Lice can be spread directly or through clothing or furniture. Anyplace children come into close contact, they are at high risk of catching lice. Frequently scratching an itchy scalp or the back of the neck are the most telltale signs of having lice.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Lice shampoos or treatment kits can be purchased at drugstores. Common brands include Nix and RID, which usually cost about £11. After applying the treatment, the hair should be combed through with a fine comb to remove any nits. Some combs are sold with amedication to kill lice. The shampoo usually kills most of the live lice, but the eggs are tougher. If two treatments are needed, they should be 10 days apart.

Some people don't use these treatments because of their chemicals. Lice, like bacteria, can become resistant to chemicals after repeated exposure, rendering the treatment ineffective after a few uses.

If used improperly, these chemicals have a rare potential to cause brain damage.

Hair Dye Benefits

People who have used hair dye to expel lice have seen mixed results. Some report that the dyes' high pH level and harsh chemicals, including alcohol, effectively and inexpensively kill lice. For those who already dye their hair, colouring in addition to using a lice shampoo or other treatment can't hurt. The lice treatment should be administered first. Dyeing can be done as soon as one day afterward.

Hair Dye Problems

Although hair dye might kill live lice, combing the nits out will still be necessary. Treating for lice, dyeing, and combing for eggs can considerably dry out or damage hair. Also, it's normal to not wash hair for at least a day after dyeing it. Showering regularly is important to removing, preventing and washing out head lice.

Killing Lice in the Home

Hair dye might help with the pests in hair, but not from other places in the home or car. Wash all clothing, furniture and carpets with high heat to kill any lice that escaped. Keep all hairbrushes or combs soaking in alcohol or hot water to kill any lice from the hair. Lice spread quickly, so it's important to clean quickly.

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