Tea Tree Oil For Lice: How Does It Work?

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Shruti Chavan , MBBS, Dermatologist, Dermatologist
Written by Anjali Sayee

Tea tree oil is normally under the spotlight for its skin, hair, and medicinal properties. Recently, some individuals claim to have used tea tree oil for lice elimination. But how true are these tall claims? Do they have any scientific evidence? Here, we explore the possibility of using tea tree oil as a remedy for head lice and if it can actually soothe an irritated and infested scalp. Keep reading to learn more about the oil’s efficacy in killing head lice and promoting scalp health.

What Does Research Say?

According to a 2012 study, tea tree oil may help kill lice in the nymph and adult stages of their life (1). Tea tree oil treatments may also keep the lice eggs from hatching.

Another 2010 study showed promising results while using tea tree oil for treating lice (2). In the study, researchers used three types of treatments to treat children with head lice. One of the treatments contained a mix of tea tree and lavender oils, which showed the greatest benefit to those with head lice.

In another study, researchers compared certain botanical and synthetic substances that can be used to prevent lice in kids (3). Tea tree oil was the most effective treatment of all. This oil, when used with peppermint, could also help repel lice. However, long-term of use of tea tree oil for removing head lice is yet to be studied.

In the following section, we have discussed the different ways you can use tea tree oil for reducing head lice.

How To Use Tea Tree Oil To Kill Head Lice?

1. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Why This Works

As we saw, tea tree can help kill lice. It also works as a lice repellent.

You Will Need

  • 5 to 6 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • A cotton ball
  • A head towel

What You Have To Do

  1. Dip the cotton ball in the oil.
  2. Apply the ball to the scalp.
  3. Wrap your hair in a towel and leave it on overnight.
  4. Wash as usual the following morning.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice a week, till you find total relief from lice.

2. Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

Why This Works

The lice-repelling properties of tea tree oil can help.

You Will Need

What You Have To Do

  1. Take some shampoo in your palm.
  2. Add a few drops of tea tree oil.
  3. Mix together and clean your hair as usual.

How Often You Should Do This

You may use this remedy once every week for a few weeks.

3. Tea Tree Oil Spray

You Will Need

  • 100 ml of water
  • 7 to 8 drops of tea tree oil
  • A spray bottle

What You Have To Do

  1. Pour the water into the spray bottle.
  2. Add the essential oil to the bottle and shake well.
  3. Spritz the mixture on your hair and scalp.
  4. Leave it on for half an hour and wash your hair as usual.

How Often You Should Do This

Use this spray 2 to 3 times a week.

4. Coconut Oil And Tea Tree Oil

Why This Works

Coconut oil may help nourish the scalp and hair. It also may help fight inflammation caused due to lice (4).

You Will Need

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 6 to 7 drops of tea tree oil

What You Have To Do

  • Mix the tea tree oil with coconut oil.
  • Apply the mixture to your scalp and hair.
  • Leave it on for an hour.
  • Wash your hair with a shampoo and conditioner.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice a week.

5. Olive Oil And Tea Tree Oil

Why This Works

Anecdotal evidence suggests that olive oil may have moisturizing properties that may soothe the scalp.

You Will Need

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 to 6 drops of tea tree oil

What You Have To Do

  • Mix the two oils together
  • Apply to the mixture to the scalp and hair.
  • Leave it on for at least an hour.
  • Rinse your hair as usual.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice a week, for a few weeks.

6. Lavender And Tea Tree Oil

Why This Works

The aroma of lavender oil may help you overcome the strong smell of tea tree oil. Also, lavender oil is claimed to relieve insect bites, and may have the same effect on lice too (5).

You Will Need

  • 3 to 4 drops of lavender oil
  • 5 to 6 drops of tea tree oil
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut or olive oil

What You Have To Do

  • Mix the oils.
  • Apply the mixture to the scalp and hair.
  • Leave it on overnight.
  • Wash your hair in the morning.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this once or twice a week, for a few weeks.

7. Tea Tree Oil And Vodka Or Rubbing Alcohol

Why This Works

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vodka or rubbing alcohol may help cleanse the hair. Its alcoholic content may help kill the lice.

You Will Need

  • 3 tablespoons of vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 5 to 10 drops of tea tree oil
  • Cotton ball

What You Have To Do

  • Add the oil to the vodka or rubbing alcohol and mix well.
  • Apply the mixture to your hair and scalp using a cotton ball.
  • Leave it on overnight.
  • Rinse your hair in the morning with shampoo.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice a week.

The effects of tea tree oil on lice are yet to be widely studied. While the oil is generally safe and can be used on the scalp, it may cause certain adverse effects too. Be wary of those.

Side Effects Of Tea Tree Oil

  • Tea tree oil may skin irritation and allergies in a few people. It has been identified as a contact allergen (6).
  • There is no evidence stating that tea tree oil is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, stay safe and avoid use.
  • Tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested in high doses. Hence, use it for topical application alone (7).

Takeaway

Tea tree oil is known for its many benefits. Though certain studies support the efficacy of the oil to kill head lice, more research is warranted. You still may use the oil for eliminating lice and boosting overall scalp health. But be wary of any adverse effects. Consult your doctor as and when needed.

References:

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    1. Activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol alone or in combination against Pediculus capitis (head lice) and its eggs.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22847279/
    2. 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 “suffocation” product.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20727129/
    3. A comparison of botanical and synthetic substances commonly used to prevent head lice (Pediculus humanus var. capitis) infestation.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17442090/
    4. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
    5. Biological activities of lavender essential oil.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12112282/
    6. Antiseptics and Disinfectants: Activity, Action, and Resistance.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88911/
    7. Tea tree oil: contact allergy and chemical composition.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27173437/
    8. A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16243420/
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Dr. Shruti Chavan

( MBBS, Dermatologist)
Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee... more