Lice are tiny wingless insects which feed exclusively on human blood. There are three types of lice: crab, body, and head lice, of which, the latter is the most common. These insects spend their entire life on human’s heads. It generally causes itching as a symptom, which may spark at the time of sleeping. The other rare symptoms include swelling of the lymph node and fever. Many argue that nits infestation is related with cleanliness, but it is not true (1). They are contagious and can spread by direct contact with the infected person. They are not dangerous and don’t spread diseases, but scratching may cause some infections. The infestation is common among children, but it may affect adults too. The condition of being infected is known as pediculosis.
Treatment can be a grueling experience. Though there are several methods for the treatment of lice ranging from combing hair multiple times a day with a fine-tooth comb, applying topical medicines or shaving the head, it can also be treated with one readily available ingredient, i.e., tea tree oil. The oil has many powerful agents and compounds due to which, it possesses anti-lice properties. Let’s have a look at what are these properties and how to use tea tree oil for lice prevention and as a remedy.
How Does Tea Tree Oil Eradicate Lice?
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil is procured after the distillation of the leaves of tea tree plant. It is primarily applied to the skin and is a wonderful cure for many ailments. The oil has a wide variety of medicinal properties such as antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial, etc.(2). Thus, it is used in numerous maladies, but, does tea tree oil really prevent lice? Let’s have a look.
The oil has been proved effective for the management of head lice in several studies (3). Tea tree oil shows this effect due to the presence of two compounds viz., 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol, which impart insecticidal activity.
In another study, it was observed that the use of 1% concentration of tea tree oil removed the lice completely (4). Now that we know that it has the ability to treat the condition, check out some of the ways in which you can use the oil as a remedy.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil For Lice
1. Tea Tree Oil
Since tea tree oil possesses strong insecticidal properties, it can be applied topically to the skin and used in undiluted form, as well (5). For this, apply some oil with the help of a cotton ball on your head at night. Let it stay overnight, covering your head with a towel. The following morning, brush your hair with a fine-tooth comb to remove the dead lice. Wash off with a mild shampoo afterwards. Do this every day until no more infestation is left.
2. Tea Tree Oil with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has also shown positive results for head lice (6). The oil can control the infestation, moisturize the dry scalp, and prevent hair breakage (7). Combining it with the lice-killing properties of tea tree oil makes the perfect blend for the treatment. Just mix 1 tsp of tea tree oil with 3 tbsp of coconut oil and 1 ounce of your regular shampoo. Apply the prepared mixture to the affected areas thoroughly, and cover it up with a shower cap. Comb your hair gently with a wide-teethed comb to make them tangle-free and then, brush them again with a lice removal comb in order to remove the dead lice. Rinse well after 30 minutes with lukewarm water to remove the residue.
3. Tea Tree Oil with Olive Oil
Another way in which you can use tea tree oil is in a combination with olive oil. Though, there are not many studies and little evidence that show the effectiveness of olive oil for lice, but it performs suffocating effect over head lice (8, 9). Olive oil also moisturizes the scalp and hair, and thus, makes nits removal an easy task. It also has antioxidants that are essential for a healthy scalp ().
Prepare a solution by mixing 3 tbsp of olive oil with 2-3 drops or 1 tsp of tea tree oil. Massage gently all over your head, especially scalp and roots. Leave it on for a minimum of a ½ hour to 1 hour. Comb your hair, and remove the lice as much as you can. Next, wash it thoroughly with water and then, with vinegar to prevent further growth.
4. Tea Tree Oil with Lavender Oil
Lavender oil, like tea tree oil, is a natural, harmless louse-killing agent that has been proved by various researches too (11, 12). It will not only resolve the problem but also aid the growth (13). For the remedy, just mix 1 tsp of tea tree oil with ½ tsp of lavender oil. You can increase the quantity of the oil as per the length of your hair, but make sure that the oils are mixed in the given ratio. Now, apply it over the infected areas of your scalp and hair. Leave it for an hour or overnight, and wash off the following day.
5. Tea Tree Oil and Alcohol
It has been proved that a lotion containing alcohol is useful for killing lice and is safe for children too (14). Prepare a spray by mixing 20 drops of tea tree oil and 2 ounces of alcohol together. Fill it in a spray bottle and apply it on your hair and scalp. Leave it for at least 12 hours, before washing.
- Alternatively, Mix 20 drops of 100% pure tea tree oil with 2 ounces of vodka, and apply the solution on the affected parts with the help of cotton. Leave it for 10 to 12 hours, before washing your hair.
6. Tea Tree with Shampoo
Studies have shown that tea tree oil shampoo helps remove the lice from your hair, effectively (15). You can prepare the shampoo on your own. All you need to do is, add 1 tsp of the oil in your regular shampoo and conditioner and use them to wash your head until the problem is solved.
- Alternatively, you can also mix 1 tsp of rosemary or eucalyptus oil, along with tea tree oil to enhance the effect of shampoo.
7. Tea Tree Oil Spray
If you don’t like to use the oil directly, you can dilute it by mixing water. The diluted form is safe for use (16). Just take a spray bottle and fill it with water. Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to it and spray the solution on your hair. Massage gently to distribute it evenly and leave it on. Comb after some time to remove the dead lice. Repeat it daily for satisfactory results.
Word of Caution:
Some of the compounds in tea tree oil may cause allergy in some individuals. Therefore, you must do a patch test before using it (17).