Does Hair Dye Kill Lice or Nits? Will Dyeing Your Hair Prevent Lice?
Discover the truth about using hair dye to get rid of lice. Can hair dye treat or prevent a head lice infestation?
If you have head lice, chances are you want to get rid of it and fast!
You may have already tried several rounds of over-the-counter treatments that have failed--or you’re just looking for an easier and less expensive way to treat lice.
Head lice today have grown immune to all the old treatments that worked in the past, so millions of parents around the world are turning to other alternatives and home remedies.
You may have heard that hair dye might kill lice. Is it true?
This article answers the following questions (these hyperlinks will take you straight to the answer you’re looking for):
First, you should know that if you are struggling with head lice, it is not your fault! The current strain of head lice are immune to pesticides found in over-the-counter treatments and prescriptions. The result is most treatments won’t kill lice, no matter how long you leave them on or how many times you use them.
Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them immune to most treatments. They are VERY difficult to kill.
Multiple studies have proven that lice are immune to treatments that worked in the past, but the companies that make most lice products don’t want you to know that. Many parents will buy a brand named product five or six times before finally giving up and trying something else.
Are you better off using hair dye?
Does Hair Dye Kill Lice?
There are multiple kinds of hair dye out there, but the only type that has the “potential” to be a lice killer is permanent hair dye (as opposed to temporary or semi-permanent)...
Depending on the brand of hair dye you get, the dye usually has one of two ingredients: ammonium persulfate or hydrogen peroxide. Both of these ingredients have the potential to kill lice, but in reality, they don’t.
Lice are now totally immune to hydrogen peroxide. I have personally tested it on lice in this article here, it doesn’t kill lice.
Ammonia, on the other hand, can kill many lice. If you’re set on using hair dye as a lice treatment, make sure you are using one with ammonia in it, not just hydrogen peroxide.
However, you should know that even though hair dye can kill some lice, hair dye won’t get rid of lice.
I have helped hundreds of families with lice. All these families have tried multiple over-the-counter treatments and home remedies without success, including dyeing and bleaching their hair multiple times.
One memorable experience from is a little girl who had struggled with lice for a year. Her parents had attempted to get rid of it by dyeing her hair multiple times.
By the time I got involved, this little brunette had white hair with loads of lice. Most of the lice were this white translucent color. Imagine trying to find these clear bugs in white hair!
The new super lice today are strong and resistant to almost all treatments and home remedies, including hair dye.
Because being a “lice expert” is my full-time job, I’ve tested just about every home remedy out there, including hair dye. Hair dye can kill many head lice, but it won’t get rid of lice permanently.
If you attempt to get rid of head lice by dyeing your hair multiple times, you’ll end up stuck in a cycle like this:
I do not recommend hair dye as a lice treatment for the following reasons:
- There are better treatments and home remedies than hair dye.
- Strong lice can mutate and survive.
- Multiple rounds of hair dye can actually harm your child.
- Hair dye does not kill lice eggs.
- Hair dye will not save you money.
- Hair dye can wind up making lice harder to get rid of.
#1: There are Better Treatments and Home Remedies than Hair Dye
You’ve probably already tried several rounds of over-the-counter and prescription treatments for lice without success. Multiple studies have shown that lice are immune to those treatments, and yet they are still sold at the store.
However, there are some lice treatments that actually kill lice, like dimethicone and other home remedies.
Dimethicone is not a home remedy.
It’s not a prescription.
Dimethicone is not usually found at your local drug store.
Dimethicone is a completely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! It outperforms everything else when it comes to killing lice. In studies, dimethicone killed most lice bugs for most of the people tested.
Dimethicone does not kill lice eggs, so you’ll still need a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.
For years, the only places you could get dimethicone was at professional lice centers, but a few lice centers have started selling their products online and you can purchase them through Amazon.
(A quick disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases; however, all of my reviews are based on the quality of the products.)
These are my top picks for something better than hair dye as a lice treatment:
The Ladibugs Lice Elimination Kit comes with a serum that kills both lice and super lice. It also comes with an enzyme mousse that helps loosen lice eggs, making them much easier to remove. This is a one-and-done kit, which means you have everything you need for one person in one kit. The enzyme mousse can be used multiple times over several days to remove lice eggs.
Lice Clinics Lice Remover Kit comes with an easy-dispenser and is probably the easiest treatment to use. It kills all lice within 20 minutes. You’ll need to retreat in about ten days to catch any nits that have hatched since the first treatment.
Home Remedies That Are Better Than Hair Dye
Dimethicone treatments kill head lice, which is why I recommend dimethicone treatments over home remedies. However, if you really want to do a home remedy instead, here are the best ones:
If you’re dead set on using a home remedy, coconut oil is your best choice, especially if you add tea tree oil to it.
In studies, coconut oil alone killed 80% of head lice, but combined with essential oils, its success rate increased. Essential oils that may increase coconut oil’s success are tea tree oil, anise, and Ylang Ylang.
Just like all other home remedies coconut oil has little to no effect on lice eggs. It neither kills lice eggs nor prevents them from hatching.
Complete removal of lice eggs from the head or several repeated treatments are necessary for coconut oil to effectively get rid of head lice. Read my full article and tutorial on this subject here: Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree shampoo at your local salon will not kill head lice. Tea tree oil must be used in high concentrations to kill lice, and the concentrations in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.
One study, however, of highly concentrated tea tree and lavender essential oils were compared to traditional pesticide treatments. Tea tree oil killed the most lice whereas the pesticide treatments only killed about 25% of lice.
Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp can cause severe reactions, so it should be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. I recommend coconut oil because coconut oil kills lice whereas olive oil does not (read my article on this subject here).
The major disadvantage of tea tree oil is that it has little to no effect on lice eggs. Lice eggs WILL hatch after a tea tree treatment, unless they are manually removed from the head.
I outline exactly how to kill lice with tea tree oil in my article, Tea Tree Oil For Lice: How to Kill and Prevent Lice Using Tea Tree Oil.
#2: The Strongest Lice Mutate and Breed
Depending on the brand of hair dye you get, it typically has either ammonium persulfate or hydrogen peroxide.
Both of these ingredients have the potential to kill lice, but neither really succeeds at doing so.
Lice are now immune to hydrogen peroxide. Ammonia, on the other hand, can kill many lice. If you’re set on using hair dye as a lice treatment, make sure you are using ammonia, not hydrogen peroxide.
Ammonia can kill many lice. Just like pesticide treatments, however, lice can grow immune to it. In this situation, the weakest lice die, but the strongest live and breed with each other to make even stronger lice in the future, making them harder and harder to get rid of.
This is already well documented when it comes to pesticides, so it’s likely to happen for other toxins.
Dimethicone and other home remedies are less likely to develop this kind of resistance because they “shrink wrap” lice, as opposed to trying to poison them.
#3: Hair Dye Can Harm Your Child
Children’s hair is different than adult hair. It is usually very fine and fragile. Dyeing a child’s hair (especially frequently) is likely to damage it. The hair can break off or even fall out. Honestly, though, that’s the “milder” potential side effect of using hair dye (containing ammonia and peroxides) on your child multiple times to try to get rid of lice.
Dangers of Hair Dye and Bleach on Young Children
Because children’s scalps are extremely absorbent, using permanent hair dye or bleach repeatedly on young children is more likely to result in some of the more severe reactions associated with ammonia and peroxides. These include:
- Severe eye irritation and injury
- Asthma and breathing difficulties
- Allergic skin reactions
- Respiratory irritation
Since hair dye doesn’t even truly get rid of head lice, I definitely do not recommend you “give it a try.”
#4: Hair Dye Does Not Kill Nits
If you’re new to head lice: Lice eggs and nits are the same thing. I use the words interchangeably.
Nits have a strong impenetrable shell on them. This shell protects them from all chemicals and toxins. So hair dye has absolutely zero effect on lice eggs. Hair dye does not kill them or prevent them from hatching.
Even if the hair dye you used did kill any adult lice on the head, the nits would soon hatch and you would go around and around in the cycle of never-ending head lice.
The Best Thing for Nits
The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs is with a professional-level head lice comb.
I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs, and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a bad comb. There really are only a few good lice combs on the market today, and you won’t find any of them at the drugstore. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.
If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your child’s hair.
Don’t Use Vinegar
If you’re looking to get lice eggs out of your hair, don’t use vinegar to try to “loosen” them. It doesn’t work, and it can actually make head lice worse! I tested soaking lice eggs in vinegar for twelve hours, and the nits were no easier to remove than before. (If you want to see my vinegar experiment, click here.)
Additionally, studies show that lice eggs immersed in vinegar are actually more likely to hatch than your average lice eggs, which means more lice, not less.
#5: Hair Dye Will NOT Save You Money!
Don’t go the hair dye route thinking you’re going to save some money because you won’t! If your theory is to use hair dye a bunch of times in an attempt to kill lice, you’re going to be at this game for a very, very long time.
A box of hair dye usually costs around $10-$20, but you have to repeat this process frequently (potentially endlessly). Some websites encourage people to dye their hair three times in a row, so there is at least $30.
The best lice treatments out there are dimethicone-based treatments. These treatments will cost you around the same amount as all of that hair dye (maybe even less in the long run), and they are guaranteed to actually kill lice.
#6: Hair Dye Can Make Getting Rid of Lice Harder
Hair dye will not get rid of head lice. In fact, hair dye will make it significantly harder to get rid of lice because it will dye all of the nits and lice the same color as your hair, making them significantly harder to spot and remove.
I have seen a wide variety of “colored” lice eggs from people’s hair. I’ve seen blue, black, pink, and red nits. Whatever color you dye your hair, that’s what color your lice eggs will be, which of course makes it pretty tough to see them.
So… Does Dyeing Your Hair Prevent Head Lice?
The truth is that lice like all types of hair: dirty or clean, dyed or undyed. What they really care about is having a place to lay their eggs and frequently feed on blood (that’s right, just like mosquitos or leeches, they feed on your blood!). Lice are not prejudiced. They are just as happy in damaged, dyed hair as they are in clean, never-been-dyed hair.
Lice are attracted to the smell of your blood. If they smell desirable blood, it doesn’t matter what state you’re hair is in; they’ll hustle over to your head to start feasting.
How Do You Prevent Lice?
Instead of dyeing your hair for lice prevention, I’d recommend using a lice prevention shampoo or spray infused with one or more of the essential oils lice hate.
Many people use tea tree shampoo for this purpose, but in my experience, it requires a bit more than that. Some of the most effective brands of lice repellent shampoos and sprays are LiceLogic Repel, Head Hunters Lemon Heads, Rosemary Repel, and Ladibugs.
Summing It Up
The ingredients in hair dye some folks claim kill lice, ammonium persulfate and hydrogen peroxide, just won’t get rid of head lice. If you use hair dye as a lice treatment, you’re likely to go around and around in the cycle of neverending lice.
Hair dye doesn’t kill lice eggs either, so even if you kill most of the adult bugs, you will be right back where you started within a few days.
Using repeated rounds of hair dye to get rid of head lice will not only be unsuccessful, but it also poses several risks to your child, including damaged hair and more serious dangers like seizures or poisoning.
A better plan is to use a safe and more effective home remedy, such as my coconut oil tutorial, or a dimethicone lice treatment. No matter what treatment you choose, make sure to follow it up with the use of a high quality lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.
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