Do Lice Like Clean or Dirty Hair?

So, what's the truth - do lice like clean or dirty hair more?

Question to Lice Expert

I always thought getting lice was more likely for people with dirty hair, but someone told me they like clean hair. What the truth? Do lice like dirty hair? Or do they prefer clean hair?

clean hair and dirty hair with words lice in the middle

Answer from a Lice Expert

What lice really care about is having a safe 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. It doesn't matter if you are fat, ugly, beautiful, rich, poor, clean, or dirty--anyone can get head lice!


However, there are some factors that can make you more or less likely to get lice, I explain those in this article and sort out some of the myths as well.

Let me introduce myself...

Lice nurse helping others

Hi there! I'm Theresa, I'm a lice expert, lice coach, and Registered Nurse. I help people with lice every day! You can get rid of lice in ONE DAY at home by using the same proven professional technique that I use in my lice center.

Just follow the step-by-step videos and be done with lice by the end of the day.

Do Lice Like Clean or Dirty Hair?

Head lice is every parent's worst nightmare. Bugs in your child's hair will give any mom the heebie-jeebies. However, the social stigma of lice being only reserved for "dirty people" gives everyone an added level of embarrassment and shame. So, what's the truth--do lice like clean or dirty hair?

woman with dirty hair and woman with clean hair, surrounded by lice. Do lice prefer clean or dirty hair?

Do Lice Like Clean Hair or Dirty Hair Video

two women presumably with head lice, one with clean hair and one with dirty hair
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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….

picture of lice bug under a magnifying glass

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. 

magnifying glass looking at lice eggs and nits in brown hair

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.

lice bug under a magnifying glass

Do lice like clean or dirty hair? Why?

If faced with the choice, lice most likely prefer clean hair over dirty hair. This specific question, “clean vs. dirty” hair, has not been the topic of any scientific research, but let's talk about the most common theories.

woman with lice and smelly, dirty hair

Dirty hair smell can deter lice...

Lice are attracted to the smell of your blood. Did you know that those little buggers aren't just creating a home on your child's head, but also sucking blood? Yep, it's true. Lice feed on human blood multiple times a day. Also, just like mosquitos, lice prefer some people's blood over others. 

Lice don't just meander onto a person's head accidentally. They actually smell blood and are attracted to it (like sharks). If they smell desirable blood, they don't crawl; they hustle to that head. 

The theory that someone with filthy hair could be so smelly or greasy that they can mask their blood scent from lice is possible, especially if some of the filth and stench in the dirty hair is repellent to lice. 

Realistically, if your hair is so nasty that lice can't smell your blood scent, you probably also smell horrible to humans and most likely they don't want to be near you either.

I do NOT advocate for keeping your hair so dirty that it masks the scent of your blood. Lice are typically repelled by essential oils, and scents that are fairly attractive to other people. So, instead, use a prevention shampoo or spray infused with one or more of the essential oils lice hate.

The best way to hide your blood scent and prevent lice is by adding pleasant smells that repel lice, but not humans. Many use tea tree shampoo for this purpose, but in my experience, it requires a bit more than that. Check out some of my top recommendations for lice prevention sprays here.

Greasy hair is difficult for lice to grip hair.

blonde hair woman with greasy hair and head lice

Lice are excellent "tightrope walkers" of the hair, but grease up that rope, and it's a lot harder to walk. Each of their little legs has claws specifically designed to cling onto each hair strand and not fall off. 

The theory that excessively oily, greasy hair can make it difficult for lice to grip the hair makes sense. It’s like rubbing oil all over the tightrope. Is it easier for you to walk on a greasy floor or a clean one? 

However, living with excessively greasy hair is not a sacrifice you want to make to prevent head lice. That's nasty! Instead, you can slick back as many hair strands as possible because keeping your hair back decreases the opportunities for lice to grab hold of it. 

Can washing your hair get rid of lice?

woman with lice washing hair in attempt to get rid of lice

NO. It does not matter how often you wash your hair or how long you shower; it will not get rid of head lice. You can submerge your head in water for six hours and not a single bug will die. A study showed that head lice had to be fully submerged in water for a full sixteen hours before they finally died. In addition, regular shampoo does not affect them in the least. In fact, even most “lice shampoos” these days are ineffective against head lice. (I'll explain that in the next section).

Why do some people get lice over and over again? 

Girl with lice scratching her head

In cases where lice return within a month or less, the most likely reason for the comeback is that they never really went away. It's fairly common for people to use an over-the-counter treatment and think that they're finished with head lice, but they are very wrong. 98% of lice in the US are resistant to traditional over-the-counter and even prescription lice treatments. Often these treatments will kill the weakest lice, tricking people into thinking they've killed them all. What they don't know, however, is that the strongest lice survive these lice treatments and continue to lay more eggs. 

People continue to think they are in the clear for a few weeks because they can’t see the remaining lice bugs, and, with fewer bugs on the head, the itching stops. Within a month, though, those lice eggs hatch and grow into adults, which is when people usually discover that the lice "is back" when the truth is that it never was really gone. People will say, "My child keeps getting lice back from school," but the truth is that their child has gotten lice “back” from themselves because they never got rid of it.

If you find yourself in that situation then head over to my Step-by-Step Video System, follow along, and be done with lice for good.

Why do some people get lice frequently? (Like every 6 months-1 year)

mother checking blonde daughter for head lice

Lice simply prefer certain blood over others. Have you ever been out camping with friends and some friends get eaten alive by mosquitos while others don't get touched at all? Lice are similar; they prefer certain blood over others. Some people's blood isn't appealing to lice, while other people's blood smells delicious. 

People that get lice frequently like this should ABSOLUTELY use a lice repellent shampoo and spray in their hair every day.

What blood type do lice prefer?

blood donation bags

I'd love to tell you lice just prefer one specific blood type and the rest of you are in the clear, but it's not that simple. Any blood type can get lice, but it is most common for people with O+ and A+ blood. Additionally, if you've had lice once, you are more likely to get it again simply because lice obviously like you. For those prone to lice, I recommend using preventative scents sprayed in the hair every day so you smell nasty to them, but (fortunately) great to everyone around you.

Why do people say that only dirty people get lice?

girl looking sad with lice

Body lice (NOT head lice) is associated with poor hygiene. Body lice was fairly common historically before the development of running water and electricity. Body lice are almost extinct now because the treatment for body lice relatively is easy: you simply shower and wash your clothes! You can imagine that way back when, folks who were dirty or poor had a much harder time showering and getting clean clothes, so they had body lice more frequently than those that had access to clean water and clothing.

Because body lice was associated with dirtiness for so long, many people still confuse the two. Body lice and head lice are not the same thing, though! Head lice are an entirely different bug; getting head lice does not reflect a person's cleanliness. As you can see in this article, head lice love clean people.

Top 7 Ways to Prevent Lice Video!

picture of lice expert and words "How to Prevent Lice Tutorial"

Summing It Up...

Anyone can get lice regardless of if they are typically clean or dirty. Whether it’s true that lice like clean hair more because they can smell the blood better or it’s easier to grip the hair really doesn’t matter too much in the end. Some people are just more prone to lice than others. If you want to prevent getting head lice, keeping your hair clean or dirty isn’t likely to make a big difference. 

Honestly, I hope you never have to deal with lice. It really is horrible. If you do, make sure you use an effective treatment on your child. I’m not talking about one of those “popular” treatments off the shelf of your local drug store--those simply don’t work. If you're struggling with lice be sure to check out my Step-by-Step Video System and get rid of lice for good!

All the best!

lice expert

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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