Using Hair Dye To Treat Head Lice: Pros and Cons
Head lice is a common problem in India. Studies have reported a prevalence of nearly 20% in adults between age groups 25-40 and 55% in children.
Lice are parasites that require human blood for sustenance. They are wingless insects that live on the scalp for up to 30 days. Within their life cycle they lay around three to five nits (or eggs) per day.
Fact: Humans are the only known hosts of head lice
In this article we will address the common question of whether hair dye could kill lice.
Does hair dye affect lice?
Before going into whether the use of hair dyes affect head lice it is important to understand that head lice is caused by direct head-head contact with an infected person.
The nits of the head lice are strong and difficult to destroy, considering that it is encased in a hard shell for protection.
Now coming back to the question, permanent hair dyes that contain chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen peroxide have been shown to kill lice. They are both corrosive and alkaline chemicals which not only kill head lice, but may also damage your hair on repeated use.
Moreover, permanent hair dyes have been shown to be ineffective in removing the nits, which may still hatch and survive to continue the infection.
Hence corrosive permanent hair dyes are not an effective or permanent solution to the problem of head lice.
Does hair bleach kill lice?
Hair bleach contains: ammonium persulfate, stearic alcohol, and an oxidizer to remove hair color. These ingredients may help eliminate lice, but are ineffective in removing the nits.
Disadvantages of using hair dyes to treat head lice
Permanent hair dyes may seem like an attractive and easy option to treat head lice. You may think that while you are simply doing your routine hair coloring, the chemicals in it not only color your hair, but also fights lice.
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
- Using permanent hair dyes which contain ammonia for treating head lice is a long painful process, and may have to be done repeatedly until all nits have been removed.
- Even if a few nits manage to escape treatment within an inch from the scalp, you can still have an infection in seven days when the eggs hatch.
- Soaking your hair with permanent hair dye full of corrosive chemicals like ammonia two times a week can have the following side effects if you are allergic:
- Permanent hair dyes which contain ammonia also causes hair thinning and dryness.
- Dyed hair does not protect you from future infestations. You may still get head lice if you come directly in contact with it again.
- Permanent hair dyes that are not made under compliance of stringent guidelines contain corrosive ingredients that emit fumes that may irritate your eyes and throat.
- Head lice is more prevalent in children. And hair dyes are unsuitable for children since their hair has a fine texture and is susceptible to damage.
- Repeated contact with chemicals in the hair dye, especially by children, increases the risk of sensitization and allergies.
Alternative lice treatments
Since head lice is a common problem, there are several, easy at-home treatment options. You could try out different methods and stick to the one which works for you. Many of these are also children-friendly.
- Using medicated shampoo has been shown to help in some cases. However, head lice, like some other parasites, may develop resistance and these formulations may become ineffective.
- Manual removal of lice and nits with a fine-toothed lice comb is quite laborious, but proven to be the most effective.
- Head lice elimination kits are available as over-the-counter products. This may not be recommended for children and pregnant women. Review the directions given on the package or consult a specialist if you have concerns.
- Scalp treatment with olive oil and mayonnaise can help stifle the lice. However you may have to leave it on for about 24-48 hours to see visible effects.
- Essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, or rosemary may help fend-off lice. Essential oils diluted with a carrier oil can also be used as a smothering treatment.
- If none of the at-home treatments work, consult a hair and skin specialist to help you.
- Permanent hair dyes contain chemicals to help you color your hair. These may not be suitable for head lice treatment.
- Using permanent hair dyes as a treatment option will lead to repeated exposure to highly corrosive chemicals and may result in hair damage and allergies.
- Permanent hair dyes are also ineffective in destroying nits.
- Permanent hair dyes are unsuited for use on children- an age group with a higher prevalence of head lice infestations.
- Alternative lice removal options that are designed for this purpose are more effective in treating and repelling lice.