Peppermint Oil for Lice. Does Peppermint Prevent or Kill Lice?

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Discover if you can use peppermint oil to prevent and treat head lice. Can peppermint oil kills lice and nits?

12 million kids will get head lice this year. Is your child one of them?

Head lice today have grown immune to all of the old treatments that worked in the past. Millions of parents around the world are turning to other alternatives for treatment and prevention. 

You may have already tried several rounds of over the counter treatments that have failed. Or, you’re just looking for the best way to prevent lice. 

You’ve heard peppermint can be a powerful tool against lice. Is it true?

This article answers the following questions:

Does Peppermint Oil Prevent Lice?

Does Peppermint Oil Kill Lice?

Peppermint and Tea Tree Oil for Lice

Peppermint Spray Lice Tutorial

Super Lice

A super lice bug at high magnification.

First, you should know that if you are struggling with head lice, it is not your fault. The current strain of head lice is immune to pesticides found in over the counter treatments and prescriptions. So most treatments won’t kill lice, no matter how long you leave them on.

Multiple studies have proven that lice are immune to treatments that worked in the past. Yet, many parents unaware of the research, try big named products 5 or 6 times, before finally giving up and trying something else.

Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them immune to most treatments. They are VERY difficult to kill.

Are you better off using a home remedy like peppermint oil?

Does Peppermint Oil Prevent Lice?

red-lice-after-feeding

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 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 spread to so many unsuspecting individuals.

essential oil sniff

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, they smell wonderful to humans. Essential oils like this are called lice repellents or lice deterrents.

Peppermint oil is one of these scents. In multiple studies, peppermint was one of the most effective lice deterrents. It appears in studies that most types of mint act as a bug deterrent.

Other essential oils that have shown lice repellent qualities include tea tree oil, lavender, rosemary, geranium, and citronella. For a full list of the 19 essential oils that deter lice check out my other article here.

If your child doesn’t have lice and you are just looking for prevention information, click here to skip to the Peppermint Oil For Lice Prevention section of this article.

Can Peppermint Oil Kill Lice?

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Peppermint oil is an excellent weapon in the fight against head lice in terms of prevention, but that’s as far as it goes. Lice don’t want to be near the scent of peppermint, but that doesn’t mean it’ll kill them.

Once you have a head lice infestation, it’s too late to try to use peppermint to deter them. They’ve already made a home on your head, and they aren’t going to leave your head just because you put peppermint oil in your hair.

Although a good lice deterrent, peppermint is not a lice killer.

In one study, researchers tested peppermint along with 54 other essential oils in its effects on head lice, and peppermint oil did not kill lice. Even though peppermint shows a significant ability to repel lice, tea tree oil, the only essential oil that can kill lice, although it’s not the best lice killer.

Peppermint oil by itself is not an effective lice killer, but if mixed with other essential oils such as tea tree oil or lavender, it may be helpful in the fight against head lice.

Peppermint or Tea Tree Oil for Lice

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Tea tree oil alone can be effective at killing head lice, but if you would like to use a combination of peppermint and tea tree together, that’s fine too.

Don’t run out and buy some tea tree shampoo at your local salon that 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.

In one study, scientists compared highly concentrated tea tree and lavender essential oils to traditional pesticide treatments. Tea tree oil killed most lice, whereas the pesticide treatments only killed about 25% of lice. 

The major disadvantage with both tea tree oil and peppermint oil is that when it is applied directly to the scalp, it can cause burning and other reactions. You need to dilute both of these oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. before use. I recommend coconut oil because coconut oil kills lice, whereas olive oil does not.

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I recommend tea tree over peppermint oil for young children because peppermint is not recommended for children under the age of six as it can, on very rare occasions, cause trouble breathing.

Also, peppermint oil in high concentrations on the scalp can severely irritate and even burn the skin. Whereas tea tree oil is less likely to do that.

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.

Other Great Treatments and Home Remedies

You’ve probably already tried several rounds of over the counter or prescription treatments for lice without success. Multiple studies have shown that lice are immune to those treatments, and yet they still sell them at the store.

But, some lice treatments kill lice, like dimethicone and other home remedies.

 (A quick disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases; however, I base all of my reviews on the quality of the products)

Dimethicone

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Dimethicone is not a home remedy.

It’s not a prescription

You can’t find Dimethicone at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is an entirely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! It outperforms everything else in killing lice. In studies, dimethicone killed 100% of lice bugs with one treatment 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.

For years, the only places you could get dimethicone were at a professional lice center, but a few lice centers have started selling their products online, and you can purchase them through Amazon. Here are the two best on the market:

Best Over All Kit

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. Ladibugs 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.

Easiest to Use Lice Killer

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 10 days.

Coconut Oil

coconut sign

If you’re still set on using a home remedy, then 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 success are tea tree oil, anise, and Ylang Ylang. 

Unfortunately, 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 get rid of head lice effectively. Read the full article and tutorial at the article Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.

Peppermint and Lice Eggs

severe infestation

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 any chemicals, solutions, or toxins. So lice treatments and home remedies can not kill them or prevent them from hatching.

Both tea tree oil and peppermint oil have little to no effect on lice eggs. Lice eggs WILL hatch after treatment unless you remove them from the head.

Those that don’t remove lice eggs from the head will find themselves in this endless cycle of head lice.

Lice Eggs Cycle

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs is with a professional-level head lice comb.

The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs, and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a lousy comb.

The Nit Free Terminator is the lice comb I use in my lice center every day.

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.

Peppermint Oil For Lice Prevention

In studies, peppermint, along with several other essential oils act as lice repellents.

But, using peppermint oil alone as lice prevention is a mistake. I see hundreds of people in my salon who have been using tea tree or peppermint shampoo for years, yet still, wind up with head lice. 

Peppermint 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.

Here are the most lice repelling essential oils:

Not all Essential Oils Are Equal

Be careful to use essential oils that are pure and undiluted. Many sell knock offs and “scented” oils that are not essential oils. To prevent lice, you need legitimate essential oils that are quality tested.

My top pick is Barefut Essential Oils because they are about half the price of other essential oils, and they are of high quality. I like to buy stuff online without having to go through an essential oil rep or subscribe to anything, and with Barefut Essential Oils, I can just go online and buy them without a subscription.

Peppermint Oil for Lice Prevention Spray Tutorial

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The most important word of caution here is that some people, especially young children, can have reactions to peppermint oil. It’s not recommended for kids younger than 6 years old because it can cause respiratory problems. Peppermint can also cause skin irritation for some people, so be careful.

You can add peppermint oil to your shampoo or conditioner, but better lice prevention comes from having the scent of peppermint in the hair at all times. This is best done by spraying the scent in the hair and NOT washing it out.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz spray bottle
  • 6 oz of distilled or purified water
  • 2 Tablespoons of carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil
  • 10 drops of Peppermint Oil (or use a blend in my other article for better 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)

Tried and True Lice Prevention Sprays

There are some very effective lice prevention sprays already on the market. These sprays are a combination of all of the best prevention essential oils. Instead of making one yourself, you can buy one. I review all lice prevention sprays in another article. LiceLogic Repel has peppermint with enzymes, and Ladibugs has spearmint with neem oil.

Summing it Up…

Peppermint can be a powerful tool to protect yourself from head lice, but it is not an adequate lice killer. If you are looking for an essential oil to kill lice, you will have more success combining tea tree oil and coconut oil. Check out my Coconut Oil for Lice Tutorial to learn how.

You will have even more success with killing lice if you combine a dimethicone treatment with a good metal comb like the Nit-Free Terminator.

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