Does tea tree oil kill lice? Yes! Many of the chemical constituents of Tea tree oil are proven natural pesticides, which will, when used in the correct dilutions, kill lice.
It is also a wonderful deterrent for pests looking to re-infest hair. (Incidentally this can apply to either head lice or pubic bodily hair.) It’s a wonderful natural remedy for washing or conditioning hair infections thanks to its many antifungal, anti-microbial, antibacterial and antiseptic and natural pesticide constituents. Historically, aromatherapists have used Tea tree oil to help support normal immune function to some of the body’s natural responses to infestations such as dandruff, scaly skin and eczema, for example.
Introducing Tea Tree
Tea tree oil is distilled from the leaves of a tree, native to the low lying wetlands of Northern New South Wales region of Australia, Melaleuca alternifolia. Indigineous peoples of Australia have long used Tea tree oil in their traditional, natural medicines and skincare routines. Historically, they steeped leaves and leaves and branches in hot water, and made a tea that they use for many health and skincare uses including caring for their hair. Tea Tree oil contains natural pesticide chemicals that are repellent to lice but are gentle enough not to strip away sebum from the scalp, and other protective oils.
Kids, being conspirators of mischief, are bug spreaders supreme. They rub their little heads together, plotting with the other kids in their classes. As they do so, they share tiny battalions of blood sucking insects. Delightful! If you’re really lucky, then, they’ll generously pass the biting beauties on to you. (There must be worse things, but it’s hard to think of many.)
Thankfully, as essential oil enthusiasts, we can avoid a lot of the stress. There’s no need for us to go through the rigmarole of steeping branches on a school night. The hard work is already done. That tiny bottle (or humungous bottle depending on how rife the problem is in your class)is chock full of antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial and antibacterial magic. Most important though, full of natural pesticides.
Wait! What? Essential Oils Kill INSECTS?
Oddly, it is what they were made for. Well, what the plant made them for, anyway.
Essential oils are made from chemical compounds that plants make to look after themselves. These Secondary Metabolites are given off smells and aromas to attract pollinators or change the taste of leaves to make them taste bitter or pungent to repel predators or pests. (Their primary metabolites are used for cell production and respiration, but we don’t need to concern ourselves with that here.)
What Are Head Lice?
A Head Louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) lives exclusively on the human scalp and solely feeds on human blood. A live infestation of head lice, otherwise known as “nits” (the eggs), can be identified by an itchy scalp, small brown or white (empty) eggs on the shaft of the hair. If you are very lucky you can also see the louse moving amongst the hair. They are wingless parasites so can only be caught by head to head contact with someone else who has been infested.
Lice are very common in children and adults who belong to small children. You can easily identify infestations by looking for areas of intense itching, redness and sometimes a rash caused by a reaction to the lice feeding on skin. Excessive itching can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
The chemistry of Tea Tree oil is bursting with natural insect repellents, which are especially useful when combed through as a conditioning treatment during an infestation, removing and killing the lice. Using a daily wash containing Tea tree oil will support the body's natural immune functions to heal the skin and keep infections at bay with it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory constituents. To prevent head lice or nits becoming a recurring problem, use a daily hair spray will deter the lice from moving back in. There are recipes at the bottom of the article to help you stop being all itchy!
The Number One Rule: Recruit The Services of Your Washer
A very important point would be to remember to wash hats, pillow cases and bed sheets. Forget this step at your peril. Just that tiny nit egg, nestling out of view will hatch, befriend your child and the whole cycle starts all over again.
Add a couple of drops of tea tree to your final rinse in the washer. If you don’t detest the fragrance (it will become associated with nits) perhaps put a tissue with a couple of drops in the clean linen to fumigate the drawer. The more places you put the tea tree, the less likely the bugs are to come near.
Tea Tree Oil Kills Lice. But Will it Also Ruin My Hair?
Oooo no! Now the good stuff! Not only are we declaring all out war on the little bleeders, we’re absolutely luxuriating in pampered tresses.
Additional Benefits Of Using Tea Tree Oil on Your Hair
Dandruff is dead skin found on the scalp - it can be caused by many factors and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis to name just two. A head lice infestation might make these a little worse because some people can be allergic to the bites or feces of the louse. Tea tree oil can assist in clearing up the infestation with its pesticidal constituents.
Just as importantly though, it supports normal immune function of the scalp, clearing dead skin cells. The dandruff causes flakes by stimulating sebum glands to produce more oil to rehydrate the skin. Tea tree’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory constituents effectively clean the hair and scalp, keeping away germs and preventing infection of the irritated skin.
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a condition on the scalp similar to Dandruff. However, in this case, it is caused by a reaction to a microbe on all of our heads (Malassezia globosa).
Some people are very sensitive to the oleic acid the microbe secretes. They produce more skin cells as a reaction to the acid. This can result in clumps of skin, large yellowish scales and inflammation on the scalp. Tea tree’s antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic constituents are especially good for hair and scalp when symptoms of this type of dermatitis appear. It helps deep clean the hair and scalp ,thoroughly ensuring bacteria doesn’t linger in open flakes to infect sensitive skin.
Just as in the cases of dandruff, the little mites (we are, actually, hilarious) aggravate symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. Tea tree oil comes to the rescue helping remove bugs, their biting and feces that causes flare ups to be especially painful or itchy.
Well, aren’t you especially lucky? (depending on your outlook of course) Dry, dull hair can be caused by a buildup of oil and regular flakes on the scalp blocking the pores so oil cannot reach the hair and moisturize it effectively. Tea tree oil is good for hair and scalps that are dry as the oil will use its deep cleaning antibacterial constituents to remove the dead skin cells and stimulate circulation to the follicles on the scalp to produce sebum to encourage the scalp to moisturize itself and in turn make hair nice and shiny. As well as ridding your hair of the interlopers making your head scratch.
Ok, so we’ll just talk about body and pubic lice, and then we’ll get into how to use essential oils safely, and then finally onto the recipes. Then, we can learn a new game. It’s a great one. It’s called Head Louse GraveYard.
How many corpses can you count?!
If you don’t need body lice, scroll right past, for now.
Body lice are parasites that can be found literally all over the body. They can be identified by small eggs (nits), immature lice called “Nymphs” or the more mature lice feeding on the skin of the body. Most commonly they feed in the waist, groin or underarms (nice, warm areas). An infestation can also be recognised by the eggs of the lice (nits) being visible as white or brown specks on the seams of clothes. Most notably on the seams of clothes by the underarm area or the waist. Also in the waist bands of jeans or trousers.
Pubic Lice (Crabs)
Tea tree’s fragrance makes your hair smell glorious, but that’s not the best bit. The good stuff in the oil (chemical constituents) rids biting bugs from hair in the top of your head, to the hair way down there.
Pubic lice are generally found in the pubic region on adults, these lice can also be found on coarse hair on the body such as mustache, beards, chest, eyebrows, eyelashes and underarm hair. They are called “crabs” because of their flat bodies and crab-like claws used to hang onto coarse hair. Pubic lice are transmitted through sexual contact. Even though they are found on hairy areas of the body they are completely different to body lice and head lice. How do you know if you have pubic lice?
You can identify an infestation of pubic lice by areas of intense itching, redness and quite often a rash caused by a reaction to the lice feeding on skin in the most intimate of areas. Using a daily wash containing Tea tree oil will help to support the body's natural immune functions to heal the skin and keep infections at bay with it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory constituents.
Does Tea Tree Oil Kill Lice On The Body?
Yes, Tea tree oil’s natural pesticide constituents kill lice and prevent them from feeding on the skin. They really, really hate tea tree oil! The oil can help to wash away an infestation but the smell of the oil deters them from coming back for a feast.
Don’t Forget The Washer
Yes, add Tea tree oil to the rinse cycle of a hot wash - when this is done regularly it will wash away the eggs and lice, the constituents in the oil will stop the lice from coming back and nesting in the seams of clothing again. But this will only work if bed sheets and body are washed with Tea tree oil in the washer too. If we are going the whole hog (which I assume we are), use a Tree tree oil spray to spray on the mattress - especially the seams. Gotta get em all!
Is Tea Tree Oil Good For Hair To Use Neat?
Is not recommended at all to use neat Tea tree oil to help with hair and scalp conditions.
Tea Tree Oil and Safety
Tea Tree oil is safe to use, however please do not use ANY essential oils in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Tea Tree oil is non toxic when diluted and used correctly.
Should the oil be accidentally swallowed milk to dilute and seek medical advice.
In case of skin irritation or rash, wash the area well with soap to break down any oil residue and seek medical advice if feeling unwell.
Avoid contact with mucous membranes and eyes, in case of contact, rinse the area well and seek medical attention if feeling unwell. In the case of body or pubic lice, do not apply tea tree oil directly into the vagina or on the penis.
Diluting Essential Oils
Dilution of any essential oils is essential when making your own recipes for use in cosmetics/skin treatments etc.
Here we are going to be thinking about washing our hair and body washes, so it is worth reminding you that oils and water do not mix. If you draw a bath and put in drops of essential oils - the oils will sit on top of the water and absorb into your skin neat, without being diluted. This can cause skin sensitivity and depending on what oils you use it could be harmful.
Always dilute your essential oils, usually in a carrier oil, or if you want them to go into water, it can help to add a little alcohol as a dispersant.
Methods of Use
This conditioner can also be used for dandruff as a regular conditioner.
- 5 drops of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- 200ml of conditioner (any, cheaper the better).
Use for: Dandruff and head lice infestation.
Method of Use: To remove a head lice infestation, cover hair from root top tip with this conditioning treatment and leave for five minutes. Comb through sections of the hair from root to tip with a fine tooth comb. Start by combing the underneath section of hair by the nape of neck. As you comb out, wipe the comb or rinse and dry before tackling the next section of hair. Do this for the entire head.
For full effect, leave the conditioner on to do its job for 45 minutes.
Follow this step by rinsing the hair with clean water, then comb out again.
Safety: Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Tea Tree oil shampoo is good for hair as it natural cleaning constituents protect the hair from bacteria and bugs hanging around in the follicles. It is great for a regular deep clean! The shampoo is a follow on treatment after using the hair treatment (above) to get rid of the lice, this will help you keep them at bay! Please note though, as a rinse of product, it will not have the ability to kill lice in the same way that a conditioner will.
- 150ml Shampoo (any, can be cheap, can be expensive if you are feeling luxurious)
- 90 drops of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
How: Apply a small amount to wet hair and wash and rinse as normal. Repeat if required.
When: Every other day
This hair mask contains Tea tree oil, which will help the hair remain free of the lovely lice. Use for soothing irritated scalp, deep cleaning hair and follicles. Use this mask weekly after the initial delousing (bleugh).
- 20ml Coconut Oil (cocos nucifera)
- 3 drops Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia )
Method of Use: Apply using fingertips, apply liberally over lengths and roots of hair using fingertips to massage the mask into the scalp. Incubate with a showercap if possible for forty minutes. Rinse with warm clean water - no need to shampoo or condition. The Tree tree oil will have cleaned the hair while the coconut oil conditions it.
Hair And Body Rinse
A sterile rinse made with water and 5 drops of tea tree oil makes a wonderful rinse that can be used on the hair every day after shampooing and conditioning, it is safe to use for all areas of the body (including sensitive bits, so you can use it in the shower)
Method of Use: After shampooing and conditioning, cover the hair liberally with the rinse, leave for a few minutes and rinse again with clean water.
After the removal of a head lice infestation, we would really like to keep it that way. Spray this hairspray liberally on the hair daily to ensure the little mites don’t return!
In a large spray bottle mix:
- 300ml of Water
- 1 tsp alcohol to help the oils to disperse.
- 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
When: Daily and liberally!
So! Does Tea Tree Oil Kill Lice?
Absolutely. It can help in lots of ways from actually physically ridding the hair of the lice to ease the itching and redness caused from bites by supporting the body's natural immunity, reducing inflammation and keeping the bugs and bacteria at bay.
Give the recipes a try and if you like them or if they do wonders for you please let us know, we’d love to hear from you!