Does Hair Dye Kill Head Lice?


There are several things that cause fear in us but one of the scariest, annoying, and frustrating things is when you hear that you have lice in your hair.

I freak out!!!!!

But the truth is, anyone that has hair can get headlice. Children attending preschool, their caretakers, adults who go to work, and generally anyone has a risk of infestation.

Head lice are parasitic, wingless insects that live in hair and on the scalps of people. They’re about a sesame seed size and range in color from brown to translucent white.

There’s been a popular misconception that hair dye kills lice. Whether this is true or not, I can’t say at this point. But, I’d guide you into answering that question yourself.

Even as I’m writing this, I feel goosebumps already. I had a bad experience with head lice and I’d share them in this article. Feel free to invite a friend to read with you.

Overview of Head Lice

Head lice are parasitic, wingless insects that live in hair and on the scalps of people. They require human blood to survive.

They can live as long as 30 days on the scale and lay three to five white-colored eggs called nits, a day.

There have been popular concerns as to whether dye can kill head lice. The truth is that there are no studies that prove that hair dye kills lice, but it may be helpful in getting rid of them.

How does hair dye affect lice?

There are different types of hair dye. But the most effective one in killing head lice is the permanent hair dye.

Permanent hair dye contains ammonia as a major ingredient. Ammonia is an alkaline, corrosive chemical that produces an irritating gas. And it is used to make the hair lighter.

Head lice cannot withstand an alkaline environment. And this may be the reason hair dye is effective at killing lice.

Also, hair dye contains hydrogen peroxide. While not as strong as Ammonia, it alters the hair’s consistency, making it more difficult for the lice claws to remain steady.

Now, before you go ahead to rejoice, you should know that while hair color may affect the bugs themselves, there’s no guarantee that it can kill the eggs (nits).

Nits have a hard shell for protection. The chemicals in hair dye aren’t able to penetrate this shell or detach the natural glue-like substance adhering the shells to hair. 

Because as long as there are still nits(lice eggs) in the hair, you will still have an active infestation that wouldn’t go away on its own. This is why hair dye is ineffective in getting rid of nits before they hatch.

READ MORE: How to Use Hair Rollers the Perfect Way

Does hair bleach kill lice?

Hair bleach contains chemicals, including ammonium persulfate, an oxidizer that removes color from hair.

It also contains hydrogen and stearyl alcohol. These ingredients may help kill lice on the scalp, but, like dye, aren’t effective in getting rid of nits.

And as usual, nits have a hard shell for protection. So, or else you get rid of the nits, you still have an active nit infestation.

Does hair dye kill lice?

When contemplating if coloring your hair is going to make the head lice go away, it’s important you know that it wouldn’t. However, using hair dye can get you started on the trick to getting rid of lice.

It is possible that hair dye, specifically permanent hair dye may kill head lice, but it doesn’t get rid of the eggs (nits).

And as explained earlier, as long as there are still nits in your hair, you still have an active lice infestation.

So, the answer to this question “does hair dye kill lice?” is no. Hair dye just gets rid of the lice but not the nits.

How hair dye may kill lice

If you still insist to use hair dye to kill lice, then the best way is to repeat every week until the lice and nits are completely gone.

In addition to using hair dye, you should combine bleaching your hair with other removal techniques, such as using vinegar or combing.

However, bear in mind that, there is no current study that supports the use of vinegar in the killing of lice or loosening the glue that attaches it to hair.

So, if you still want to go ahead, follow these steps;

  1. Begin with vinegar. Saturate your entire scalp with diluted viegar that has 5% acidity. Let the vinegar mixture go down each hair shaft, near the scalp, behind the ears, and at the nape of the neck. Afterward, leave the solution and allow it to settle for about 5-15 minutes. But, if you experience a burning sensation, wash it iff immediately.
  2. Use warm water to rinse the vinegar and water solution from our hair thoroughly.
  3. Use a lice comb to remove as many nits and live lice as you can from your head. Clean the lice comb and soak it in very hot water. Ensure it’s completely free of lice and nits before reusing.
  4. Mix the hair dye according to its directions of use.
  5. Saturate your scalp with hair dye. Concentrate on the same areas you focused on with the vinegar solution: the base of each hair, behind and around your ears, and at the base of your neck.
  6. Rinse out the hair dye thoroughly.
  7. Comb your hair again with a clean lice comb.
  8. Use a hot hair dryer to dry your hair. This may help kill off any lice left behind.

If you’re unable to remove the nits in your hair, there’s a high chance you’d have lice again in about five to seven days.

Also, dyed hair doesn’t prevent lice and wouldn’t protect you from being infected with hair lice if you come in contact with it again.

More so, following these steps is not an assurance that hair lice will go away permanently.

Safety Precautions when using Hair dye

Although using hair dye may prove to have some effect on head lice, it still contains substances that can affect your natural hair color.

In addition, they can irritate your scalp and cause allergic reactions. Some side effects that may like occur include;

  • swelling
  • redness
  • burning
  • itching

These side effects may worsen if you use hair dye more than normal. More so, you can also damage your hair, and cause it to thin out.

So, one way to avoid these symptoms is to not overuse hair dyes. When applying them, ensure you use disposable gloves that come with the products to protect your hands.

Additionally, do not let any product get into your eyes, nose, or mouth. And dye your hair in a well-ventilated area.

According to Healthline, Hair dye and hair bleach aren’t recommended for use in children as a lice-removal treatment.

Children’s hair is usually softer and finer in texture compared to adults, making it prone to permanent damage.

Other Effective Hair Lice Treatments

There are lots of home lice treatments you can use to treat your hair. However, you may have to experiment with several treatments before you find one that works for you.

Like many insects, lice are becoming resistant to some tried treatments such as stearyl alcohol.

Some common treatments as listed by Healthline include;

  • Essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, or rosemary may repel lice. You can try using essential oils diluted with a carrier oil as a smothering treatment.
  • Over-the-counter lice elimination kits, such as Nix, use varying types of insecticides, and some may not be appropriate for babies, toddlers, small children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Check with a doctor if you have concerns and follow package directions for safety.
  • Coating the scalp with olive oil or mayonnaise may suffocate lice. This anecdotal remedy, which isn’t proven effective, requires that you leave these substances on the hair for 24 to 48 hours under a shower cap. It may help to braid long hair or pin it up after treating the scalp.
  • Coconut oil hasn’t been scientifically proven to be effective, but it’s natural and nontoxic. To increase effectiveness, try using it after treating your hair with a vinegar solution.


I hope the answer to this question “Does hair dye kill lice?” has been answered in this article. Because the truth is, there are no studies that prove that hair bleach and dye kills lice.

Other lice treatments may be effective, so you’d have to experiment to know which one works better.

If you have any questions or suggestions, drop them in the comments section.


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