Tea Tree Oil For Lice: How Does It Work?

On its own or in combination with your shampoo, this oil is the answer to your lice woes.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan, MBBS Dr. Shruti Chavan Dr. Shruti ChavanMBBS linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Edited by , BA, MSc Eshna Das BA, MSc linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
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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. It is believed to be one of the best natural remedies that may help in head lice treatment. 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.

protip_icon Quick Tip
The first extraction of tea tree oil was from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia, and this species of plant native to Australia remains the most important for commercial extraction.

What Does Research Say?

Woman treating daughter's lice with tea tree oil
Image: Shutterstock

Does tea tree oil kill lice? Yes, 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 essential oils like 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

Tea tree essential oil
Image: Shutterstock

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

Tea tree and coconut oils
Image: Shutterstock

Why This Works

Coconut oil may help nourish the scalp and hair. The anti-inflammatory properties may also 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 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

Tea tree oil on lavender
Image: Shutterstock

Why This Works

Often used for aromatherapy, 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.

protip_icon Quick Tip
When choosing tea tree oil, ensure the label mentions its Latin name Melaleuca alternifolia, states that it is 100% tea tree oil in the ingredients list, and says that it is steam-distilled.

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

Woman with skin irritation due to tea tree oil
Image: Shutterstock
  • Tea tree oil may cause 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).

Infographic: Removing Lice With Tea Tree Oil

A lice infestation is never good news for anyone. As read above, tea tree oil can eliminate lice in the nymph and adult stages, especially when used with peppermint. Check out the infographic below for four effective methods for using tea tree oil to reduce a lice infestation.

removing lice with tea tree oil (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Known for its antifungal and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil works well as a lice-repellant. This oil kills the lice in their nymph and adult stages. You can use it directly on the scalp, or it can also be used as a shampoo. You can use tea tree oil as a spray or mix it with coconut oil. The combination of olive and tea tree oils nourishes the scalp and reduces head lice. Lavender oil, vodka, or rubbing alcohol mixed with tea tree oil work best for head lice. However, there are a few side effects to this natural insecticide, like allergic reactions, associated with tea tree oil. Hence, caution is advised while using it in your hair care routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you put tea tree oil on wet or dry hair for lice?

It is recommended to put tea tree oil on wet hair and then comb out the lice.

Can I spray tea tree oil on my hair?

Yes, you can spray tea tree oil on your hair to keep it healthy and shiny.

Can tea tree oil be used to treat other scalp conditions in addition to lice?

Yes, tea tree oil can aid in dandruff reduction. A study suggests that using a shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil might be effective at minimizing dandruff brought on by Pityrosporum ovale (Malassezia) (9). Make sure you consult a doctor before adding this product to your hair care routine.

How long does it take for tea tree oil to kill lice?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may take between two to four weeks to kill lice. However, more studies are warranted to support this claim. Consult your doctor for further guidance on the dosage and usage of tea tree oil.

Key Takeaways

  • Tea tree oil has been used as a home remedy to eliminate lice naturally, especially in children and toddlers.
  • Recent studies show that tea tree oil effectively fights lice infestation to some extent.
  • This chemical-free fix is simple and easy to use unless one is allergic to it.
  • You can combine it with lavender and olive oils for the best results.
Tea Tree Oil for Lice_illustration

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Watch the following video and discover effective step-by-step instructions on head lice removal using tea tree oil. Learn the proper application techniques and the benefits of this natural remedy.

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  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/
  9. Treatment of dandruff with 5% tea tree oil shampoo
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12451368/
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Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee member of CDSI (Cosmetic dermatologist Society of India). She is highly skilled in non-surgical facial skin rejuvenation and face lift by the use of injection treatments and lasers.

Read full bio of Dr. Shruti Chavan