19 Essential Oils Proven to Repel Head Lice

12 million kids will get head lice this year. How can you be sure that your child isn’t one of them? Repel lice with essential oils.

12 million is a staggering number; it’s almost 4% of the total population of the United States! With so many ways lice can get into your home, though, it’s a wonder this estimate isn’t much higher. Fortunately, there are many useful prevention strategies that can help your kid avoid becoming one of these 12 million, including a science-backed approach featuring your favorite essential oils.

single head lice bug

Can You Repel Head Lice?

Head lice are like sharks…

Lice have a keen sense of smell and they are attracted to human blood, just like sharks and mosquitoes. They can also smell when blood is near. 

When lice smell a new yummy head, they instinctively want to get there and begin their feast. This is why lice spreads to so many unsuspecting individuals. 

However, the good news is...

As it turns out, you can use lice’s keen sense of smell against them. Because lice are so sensitive to smell, they will instinctively run away from any scent they don’t like. Believe it or not, your secret weapon lies in essential oils--the same essential oils that smell amazing to you. If you have these scents in your hair or on your head, quick as lightning, lice will run the opposite direction to get away from you. 

Even though lice hate these scents, these essential oils smell wonderful to us humans. Essential oils like this are called lice repellents or lice deterrents.

Let me introduce myself...

lice expert

Hi there! I'm a lice expert, lice coach, Registered Nurse, and the creator of My Lice Advice. I help people with lice every day in my lice treatment center, in school districts, and in government work. But the thing I love the most is empowering parents to get rid of head lice in ONE DAY at home! 

You can eliminate lice in one day using the same proven professional technique I use in my lice center on your child. Follow along with the Step-by-Step Video System, and when you're done with the videos you're done with lice. PERMANENTLY!

Top 7 Ways to Prevent Lice Video!

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Multiple lice repelling essential oil bottles

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that may be used for a variety of reasons. Over time, essential oils have been used for dozens of different purposes, ranging from healing to repelling bugs, including lice.

Are They Safe?

Just because essential oils are natural and made from plants does not necessarily make them safe to use on children. Misusing essential oils can cause burns, skin irritation, or even poisoning. 

Some essential oils on this list, like cinnamon and peppermint, can irritate the skin, and others like Eucalyptus oil can cause respiratory or CNS problems on young children. You should also know which of these oils your child may be allergic to and avoid using them.

I have attempted to indicate which oils should not be used on young children, but when you create your own essential oil blends, you use them at your own risk. Every person reacts differently to essential oils, and children are especially susceptible to adverse reactions.

woman spraying lice spray into her hair

DIY vs Tested Lice Prevention Product

For those that do not own essential oils, jumping in may seem daunting.

If you are not a DIYer, there are many lice prevention sprays and shampoos made from essential oils that are already on the market and have been tested for both safety for use on children and effectiveness against lice. You can learn the ones I recommend here.

(A quick disclosure: this page has affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. The decision to purchase through these links, however, is entirely up to you.)

Why Is It So Hard to Get Rid of Lice?

Now that you know what you're looking for I want to talk briefly about your biggest worry (that your child actually has lice) and the question I get asked by parents around the world that have been battling lice….

problem #1

Parents around the world are all asking me the same question…. "Why is it so much harder to get rid of lice now?"

Lice have become immune to everything that used to work in the past. Perhaps you remember your mom using a typical lice treatment or mayonnaise and that doing the trick. The new strain of head lice is no longer killed by those treatments, that’s why lice today are termed by people, “super lice,” because they are immune to those treatments. 

I’ve cured thousands of people of lice in my lice center and let me tell you, I don't do it with over-the-counter lice treatments. 

problem #2

Most people struggle with lice because they focus all of their attention on killing lice bugs and not enough attention on GETTING RID OF LICE!

If you want to get rid of lice you have to address all 3 of the problems of lice:

  1. Lice Bugs
  2. Lice Eggs
  3. Getting Lice Back

The best way to get rid of lice is to tackle all 3 of these problems at the same time, which is what I teach in my step-by-step video system.

So, if you discover your child HAS lice, don't panic. Just head over to the video system. Follow along with the videos and you'll be done with lice by the end of the day.

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lice repelling essential oils in glass jars

19 Essential Oils the Prevent Lice

Below is a comprehensive list of the essential oils that show evidence of being effective against head lice. They are listed in order of effectiveness, beginning with the most effective based on both studies and my professional opinion.

#1- Peppermint

Scent: Think candy canes

Studies: In three separate studies, peppermint oil has proven to be among the top lice repellents, which is why many lice prevention lines use it as their main lice deterring ingredient. 

Blends well with: Eucalyptus, Geranium, Lavender, Rosemary, Tea Tree oil.

Caution: Peppermint oil should be used with caution with kids under 6 years old as it can in very rare occasions cause trouble breathing. Additionally, peppermint oil can irritate skin.

Popular prevention products with Peppermint: LiceLogic Repel, Nit Free Detangler, Lice Sisters, Hair Genies, SoCozy boo! 

#2- Spearmint

Scent: Think mint gum

Studies: Studies show that spearmint has similar repelling properties to peppermint, but with less risk to younger children. 

Blends well with: Lavender, Peppermint and Rosemary.

#3- Tea Tree aka Melaleuca

Scent: Distinct nostril-clearing menthol mint smell

Studies: In multiple studies, tea tree has been more effective than over-the-counter lice treatments for head lice, especially when combined with other essential oils like lavender.

Blends Well With: Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender

#4- Citronella or Geraniol 

Scent: Think citronella candle.

Studies: While Tea Tree and Peppermint get the glory for best lice repellent, studies show that citronella is one of the longest lasting lice prevention essential oils. Although not as lice repelling, citronella outlasts tea tree, peppermint, and lavender in its length of effectiveness.

Blends well with: Eucalyptus, Geranium, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Tea Tree

#5- Eucalyptus 

Scent: Fresh, clean, menthol

Study: Eucalyptus was among the most effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Blends well with: Lemongrass, Rosemary, Lavender, Tea Tree

Caution: Eucalyptus oil is not recommended for children under age 10 because it has been linked to respiratory and CNS issues in young children. Check out the Lemon Eucalyptus oil below for an alternative.

#6- Lemon Eucalyptus

Scent: Sweeter, lemony, woodsy finish than regular Eucalyptus oil. 

Study: Studies have shown Lemon Eucalyptus is a powerful insect repellent. It is a good alternative because it does not have the same risks as regular Eucalyptus oil.

Blends well with Sage, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rosemary

#7- Rosemary 

Scent: The spice in the kitchen. Similar to Lavender, but stronger and woody. 

Studies: Rosemary was among the most effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils. 

Blends well with: Geranium, Lemongrass, Cinnamon, Peppermint and Lavender.

Caution: Children under 6

#8- Lemongrass

Scent: Fresh and light, smells a lot like lemons

Study: Studies have shown Lemongrass is a powerful insect repellent.

Blends well with: Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Geranium, Lavender, Rosemary

Caution: Children under 2

#9- Ylang Ylang

Scent: Unique flower scent that smells a little fruity, a little spicy and has a hint of vanilla. 

Study: When combined with coconut oil and anise oil in a study, Ylang Ylang was effective at killing lice.

Blends Well With: Geranium and Lavender

Caution: Children under 2

#10- Lavender

Scent: Earthy calming floral 

Studies: Two studies show lavender as a lice repellent, especially when combined with Tea Tree or Peppermint. In one study, Lavender also prevented head lice from feeding on skin.

Blends well with Geranium, Sage, and other floral scents.

#11- Geranium

Scent: Bold floral similar to roses

Studies: A study showed Geranium as effective against lice, but even more effective when combined with citronella.

Blends well with: Lavender, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang

#12- Anise (Aniseed oil) (caution children under 6)

Scent: Very similar to black licorice (aka, you’ll love it or hate it)

Studies: A study showed anise effective against head lice when combined with coconut oil and Ylang Ylang.

Caution: Children under 6

Blends well with: Lavender, Clove, and Cinnamon

#13- Cinnamon

Scent: Sweet and spicy.

Studies: A study showed cinnamon leaf effective against lice when combined with other essential oils in an alcohol spray.

Blends well with: Tea Tree, Lavender, Geranium, Ylang Ylang

Caution: Cinnamon oil can irritate skin, so be cautious with this one.

#14- Clove

Scent: Warm, woody and sweet, like pumpkin pie spice.

Study: Shown effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Blends well with: Anise, Cinnamon, Peppermint, Rosemary,

Caution: Children under 2.

#15- Sage

Scent: Rich grassy, herby, and earthy

Study: Shown effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Blends well with: Rosemary, Lavender, Tea Tree, Geranium.

Caution: Children under 6.

#16- Rosewood

Scent: Sweet, woody, and floral

Study: Shown effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Combines well with: Lavender and Geranium

#17- Cardamom

Scent: Sweet, spicy, and woody

Study: Shown effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Blends well with: Ylang Ylang, Clove, and Cinnamon

Caution: Children under 6

#18- Nutmeg

Scent: Pungent, slightly sweet

Study: A study showed Nutmeg as effective against head lice when combined with peppermint.

Blends well with: Ylang Ylang, Sage, Eucalyptus

Caution: Children under 6

#19- Myrtle

Scent: Herby mixed with menthol. (Same family as tea tree and eucalyptus)

Study: Shown effective against lice in a comparative study of 54 essential oils.

Combines well with: Sage, Clove, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Tea Tree

Caution: Children under 10

BONUS TIP- Neem oil

Neem oil isn’t actually an essential oil; it’s a vegetable oil from Asia, but since it is an excellent lice repellent, I’ve added it to the top of the list. Neem oil has proved extremely effective against lice.

The major downside of neem oil is that it smells awful.

I recommend adding neem oil as a lice repellent in small doses. Adding a teaspoon of neem oil to an 8 oz lice repellent spray with lots of other scents will add a lot of lice protection, and the unpleasant scent will be covered up by the other fragrances.

Scent: Unpleasant, garlic/nutty

Studies: A 2012 study showed Neem oil and Eucalyptus oil together was far more effective against lice than pesticide products.

beakers with water and essential oils

Single Essential Oils vs Blending Oils

Any single essential oil from the list can be used as a lice deterrent by putting 20 drops of essential oils in 6 oz of water with 1 oz (or 2 Tbls) of carrier oil. However, your BEST lice prevention technique comes from blending multiple lice prevention essential oils together. Here are 19 unique lice prevention blends (bonus: these scent combinations are absolutely heavenly):

two spray bottles with lice repelling essential oil blends in them

19 Best Essential Oil Blends for Lice Prevention

Crazy About Lice: 5 drops Tea Tree + 5 drops Peppermint + 5 drop Eucalyptus + 5 drops Lemongrass + 5 drops Citronella + 5 drops Rosemary + 5 drops Lavender + 1 tsp *Neem oil

A Little Crazy (For Younger Children): 2 drops Tea Tree + 5 drops Citronella + 5 drops Lavender + 5 drops Geranium + 1 tsp *Neem oil

Nuts About Lice: 5 drops Peppermint + 5 drops Citronella + 5 drops Rosemary + 5 drops Lemongrass + 1 tsp *Neem oil

Lemon Drop: 5 drops Lemongrass, 5 drops Lemon Eucalyptus + 5 drops **Lemon

Fresh Bouquet: 5 drops Geranium + 8 drops Lavender + 5 drops Ylang Ylang

Fresh & Sweet: 5 drops Lavender + 5 drops Rosemary + 5 drops Lemon Eucalyptus

Minty Fresh: 5 drops Peppermint + 5 drops Eucalyptus

Cool Down: 5 drops Peppermint + 5 drops Lavender +5 drops Eucalyptus

Candy Cane: 4 drops Peppermint + 3 drops Ylang Ylang + 2 drops Cinnamon 

Spring Fresh: 4 drops Geranium + 5 drops Lavender + 2 drop Peppermint

Clean Blend: 5 drops Tea Tree + 5 drops Eucalyptus +1 drops Peppermint

Fresh & Clean: 5 drops Peppermint + 3 drop Tea Tree + 3 drops Lavender + 3 drops Eucalyptus

Rosemary Mint: 8 drops Rosemary + 3 drops Spearmint

Sweet & Spicy Black Licorice: 10 drops Anise + 2 drops Cinnamon + 1 drop Clove + 1 drop Clary Sage

Simple Lavender & Lemongrass: 10 drops Lavender + 10 drops Lemongrass

Simple Tea Tree & Peppermint: 10 drops Tea Tree + 10 drops Peppermint

Citrus Blend: 5 drops Lavender + 5 drops Ylang Ylang + 5 drops **Wild Orange

Bubble Gum: 4 drops Ylang Ylang + 2 drops Eucalyptus +8 drops **Grapefruit 

Tutti Fruiti: 6 drops Geranium + 6 drops Lemongrass + 6 drops **Grapefruit 

*Add 1 tsp of neem oil to any of these combinations to add extra protection from lice.

**Essential oil that is not a lice repellent.

Carrier oil: To decrease irritation to the skin and scalp, I recommend using a carrier oil with any mixture you plan to put in a spray. Carrier oils that are great for hair are fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, argan oil, and jojoba oil. (In a pinch, you can also use olive oil.)

Neem oil: Neem is a vegetable oil that has serious lice fighting properties. Adding one teaspoon of neem oil to any blend will pack a major punch against lice. The trouble with neem oil is that is smells awful (yes, even to humans), but you can mask the scent by combining it with essential oils.

Fractionated Coconut Oil: There is one study that shows that coconut oil has some lice preventing qualities. Fractionated coconut oil has the same lice fighting properties as standard coconut oil; the difference is that it remains in a liquid state, even in cold temperatures. However, regular coconut oil is not ideal for putting in lice prevention products because it becomes solid at room temperature. If you want to put ordinary coconut oil in your lice spray, you’d need to warm it up every time you use it so the oil melts… No thanks.

How to Make Your Own Lice Spray for Hair

For a full tutorial on how to make your own lice spray, lice shampoo, hair spray, detangler, or lice prevention house spray, check out my article 11 DIY Lice Prevention Sprays & Shampoos that Repel Lice Naturally. Below, you will find a quick guide on making a basic lice prevention spray. 

Simple Lice Prevention Spray from Essential Oils

Ingredients:

8 oz spray bottle

6 oz of distilled or purified water (Or 5 oz of water/1 oz of Vodka if you’d like it to last longer)

2 Tablespoons of carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil

Your favorite Lice Prevention Essential Oil Blend (list above) or 20 drops of a single essential oil

1 tsp of neem oil (optional, for added protection)

Directions: 

  1. Combine ingredients in an 8 oz spray bottle. 
  2. Shake vigorously. 
  3. Spray every day in hair for lice prevention, shaking vigorously before each use.
  4. Replace every 1-2 months (this is for bacterial reasons; you can replace less often if combining with vodka)
  5. Have fun trying different lice prevention essential oil blends!
3 bottles of tea tree oil

Tea Tree Oil for Lice Prevention

Tea tree oil (Melaluca) does repel head lice. However, using tea tree oil alone as lice prevention is a mistake. I see hundreds of people in my salon who have been using tea tree shampoo for years, yet still wind up with head lice. Tea tree oil alone is better than not using any lice deterring scents, but it is not adequate for preventing lice on its own for most people. You are much better off using a variety of essential oils proven to ward off head lice.

Keep scrolling for the full low-down on each of the essential oils in this article. Below, you’ll find information about each essential oil and the studies it has had with lice.

spray bottle spraying into the air

Summary

19 Essential oils have been shown in studies to be effective against head lice.   Essential oils are most effective at preventing head lice when combined with other essential oils. If you are a DIYer and want to make your own then any of then try out any of the above recipes. Be cautious in using essential oils with small children. Or if you'd rather just buy a lice repellent spray, you can see the ones I recommend the check out my article about the 11 best lice prevention sprays on the market here.

All the best!

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Theresa is a Registered Nurse and lice expert with years of experience curing children of lice. She owns a lice treatment center in the US which is where she perfected the Step-by-Step Video System proven to get rid of lice. She also works with government agencies and schools helping those with the worst head lice cases in America.

Her greatest passion is empowering parents by teaching parents online how to do a professional lice treatment on their child at home. She is the Lice Coach for the My Lice Advice Step-by-Step Video System.

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