Does Hair Dye Kill Lice?

Written by Anjali Sayee

If there is one hair care problem no one wants, it is head lice. The tiny creatures inhabit your head and suck your blood, making your scalp itchy and even causing hair loss. We would do anything to prevent lice and their nits. One of the more popular prevention methods from recent times is using a hair dye. But does hair dye kill head lice? How effective would it be? Keep reading to know more.

Does Dying Or Bleaching Hair Kill Head Lice?

Theories suggest that chemicals used to make hair dyes and bleaches are powerful enough to kill head lice. Semi- and demi-permanent hair dyes do not contain such strong chemicals. But permanent hair dyes and bleaching agents contain para-phenylenediamine, para-toluenediamine, para-aminophenol, and para-aminophenol paired with hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. These ingredients could be powerful enough to eliminate head lice. Hair bleach also contains ammonium persulfate, hydrogen, and stearyl alcohol that may help kill head lice. However, this information is mostly based on anecdotal evidence. More concrete research is warranted.

Does Hair Dye Affect Nits?

Hair dye has strong chemicals. However, they may not be able to penetrate the hard shell casings of nits. The dyes and bleaching agents could be ineffective until the lice eggs hatch.

In the following section, we discuss how you can use hair dyes for lice removal.

How To Use Hair Dye For Lice Removal

Anecdotal evidence suggests that pairing hair dyes with vinegar may effectively eliminate head lice.

  • Rinse your hair with a cup of vinegar diluted in a cup of water.
  • Pour the solution over the scalp slowly, especially over the areas prone to lice (behind the ears, nape of the neck, etc.).
  • Leave it on for about ten minutes and rinse with warm water.
  • Comb your hair with a lice comb to remove as many head lice and nits as possible.
  • Apply the hair dye, focusing more on the problem areas.
  • Rinse the hair dye and remove any lice with the comb.

Another method is applying coconut and olive oils to your hair before using the hair dye. Some research shows that coconut oil may help remove head lice (1). Olive oil is also believed to have similar properties. You can also pair these oils with antifungal essential oils like that of rosemary or peppermint to keep the scalp clean. Apply the oil blend to the scalp and use a lice comb to filter out any lice or nits. Wash your hair with warm water and apply the hair dye once your hair is damp. Comb your hair again. Repeat the process once a week for a few weeks.

It is important to be aware of the risks of hair dyes before using one.

Risks Of Using Hair Dyes

Hair dyes contain chemicals that can damage hair (2). These dyes are meant to penetrate the hair cuticle to remove or add hair color. This process leaves the hair open to damage. Using hair dyes frequently to eliminate head lice may cause hair breakage, split ends, dry hair, scalp irritation, inflammation, burning, and redness. The dyes may also lead to hair fall (2).

Some hair coloring agents also contain formaldehyde and parabens that may cause allergies or irritation (2).

You may still use hair dyes to eliminate head lice. But limit your use to once a week or ten days. Keep in mind the following precautions too.

Safety Precautions

  • Do not use hair dyes or bleaching agents to remove head lice or nits in children. Consult a doctor for the right treatment method for your child.
  • Wear required protective gear when using hair dyes or bleaching agents.
  • Nourish your hair with oil massages between hair dye applications. This keeps your hair from drying out.


While many believe hair dyes can help eliminate head lice, there is no scientific evidence to back this theory up. Be aware that hair coloring agents may not be the best head lice treatment options in the long run. You may use a hair dye for a short while, but it is important to consult a doctor for a long-term solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does rubbing alcohol kill lice?

Rubbing alcohol is also suggested as a treatment against head lice. However, it is not supported by research yet. It may also cause scalp burning, redness, and inflammation.

Does ammonia-free hair dye kill lice?

Hair dyes that do not use strong chemicals (like hydrogen peroxide or ammonia) may not be powerful enough to eliminate head lice.

Can lice survive a hair straightener?

Heating tools like hair straighteners, flat irons, and curling irons cannot eliminate lice as they only work on the hair (whereas lice and their nits live on the scalp). Using heating tools on the scalp may cause burns.

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