Lice infestations are a nightmare for both the person with the problem and everyone around them. In the United States, head lice are most common among children – especially those in preschool who sit in close quarters with their peers. This makes it easy for bugs to crawl from one mop of hair to the next. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that there are about 6 to 12 million cases of infestation each year among kids aged between 3 and 11.1
And while there are body and public lice as well, treatment for these conditions primarily involve hygiene improvement. For the bigger problem of head lice, you may wonder if anti-lice lotions and shampoos are your only option. And since children are often the ones that need treatment, there is the valid concern of using pesticidal solutions on young bodies. Therefore, a strong case for alternatives is no surprise. For those seeking an effective natural remedy, tea tree oil is a wonderful option.
4 Simple And Best Ways To Use Tea Tree Oil For Lice
Aside from doubling as a treatment for conditions such as insect bites, acne, and nail fungus, tea tree oil is a suggested natural treatment that is effective against lice. This steam-distilled oil is used topically on the skin of the affected area. In the case of lice, it is applied to the infested region. It may be used on its own, but as it is rather strong by itself, it may be used in a blend with other oils.2
Due to its insecticidal and antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil has become a part of anti-lice treatments. In one study, researchers found that tea tree oil successfully repelled 55 percent of all head lice from the area that had been treated with it. This success rate is even higher than alternatives such as neem and lavender. It was also effective at reducing blood-feeding activity. In general, lice feed on blood multiple times during the day. Tea tree oil can help cut back on the frequent feeding.3
1. By Itself And With Nerolidol
Tea tree oil is typically applied to the hair or scalp with a medium like a natural fragrance-free shampoo. To use this method, leave the mixture in your hair for a few minutes before rinsing well. Comb out the dead lice from your hair. This may take some time but it is important to be thorough. One study used tea tree oil at a 1 percent concentration and found that it resulted in 100 percent lice mortality after 30 minutes. When the tea tree oil (at 0.5 percent concentration) was used along with nerolidol (another essential oil) at 1 percent concentration, it caused ovicidal activity as well. This means that the eggs failed to hatch after about 5 days, aside from all head lice being killed in half an hour.4
2. Tea Tree Oil And Lavender Oil
Treatments that combine tea tree oil with lavender oil have been studied as well. Researchers found that this blend can tackle a lice problem just as well as an alternative “lice suffocation” product. It was also found to be more effective than products with pyrethrin, a popular insecticidal ingredient. Like tea tree oil, lavender oil is a natural insect repellent. Lice dislike the distinct aroma of this essential oil.5 To use this technique, simply combine one teaspoon of tea tree oil with half a teaspoon of lavender oil. Apply this mixture to your hair and leave it in overnight. Finally, give your hair a good combing through to get rid of the dead lice. Follow up with a normal shampoo.
3. Tea Tree Oil And Coconut Oil
Coconut oil makes a good base for the dilution of tree oil. Use about a teaspoon of tea tree to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. To use this combination on its own, directly massage it into your hair and leave it in before a comb through and shampoo wash. Alternatively, you can add these oils to a shampoo and massage it into your hair and scalp. Finally, rinse off and comb. You will need to do this several times a week to get rid of all the lice. As researchers have suggested, using tea tree oil with coconut oil (and even a drop or two of peppermint oil) should be effective, thanks to the repellent and antifeedant actions of these oils.6
4. Tea Tree Oil Spray
If your skin is sensitive and you’re worried about scalp irritation, try using tea tree as a spray instead. Fill a spray bottle with clean water and a few drops of the oil. Simply spray this mixture onto your hair and leave in overnight or until your next shampoo. Just remember to comb through to remove lice before you shampoo.
Is It Safe To Use Tea Tree Oil?
According to The National Pediculosis Association, while tea tree oil is natural, babies and toddlers under five should avoid it. In general, it is advised that children do not use essential oils unless it is diluted with a carrier oil. Otherwise, they could have an adverse skin reaction. Pregnant women should also skip tea tree oil due to possible side effects. Tea tree oil presents a risk of high toxicity if used incorrectly.
So if tea tree oil is safe for you, how often should it be used? Generally, a few times to get rid of one infestation should be fine. But avoid making it part of a routine. Regular use can cause liver problems as the oil is toxic to the organ when used too often.7
Sometimes, even for those who can use it, the remedy can irritate the skin. In large amounts, it can bring on an allergic reaction. Accidental ingestion can lead to the loss of muscle coordination (ataxia) or confusion and disorientation.8 Do remember to do a patch test before you use this remedy.
|↑1||Head Lice, Frequently Asked Questions, CDC.|
|↑2, ↑8||Tea Tree Oil, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑3, ↑6||Canyon, Deon V., and Rick Speare. “A comparison of botanical and synthetic substances commonly used to prevent head lice (Pediculus humanus var. capitis) infestation.” International journal of dermatology 46, no. 4 (2007): 422-426.|
|↑4||Di Campli, Emanuela, Soraya Di Bartolomeo, Patricia Delli Pizzi, Mara Di Giulio, Rossella Grande, Antonia Nostro, and Luigina Cellini. “Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs.” Parasitology research 111, no. 5 (2012): 1985-1992.|
|↑5||Barker, Stephen C., and Phillip M. Altman. “A randomised, assessor blind, parallel group comparative efficacy trial of three products for the treatment of head lice in children-melaleuca oil and lavender oil, pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, and a.” BMC dermatology 10, no. 1 (2010): 6.|
|↑7||Alternative Treatments, The National Pediculosis Association.|