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Exploring the Lice Dilemma: Can Hair Dye Kill Lice Effectively?

Exploring the Lice Dilemma: Can Hair Dye Kill Lice Effectively?
Created on 
July 13, 2022
Updated on 
November 7, 2023

Head lice are a problem affecting between 6-12 million children each year and parents often frantically look for solutions after traditional chemical treatments fail. One such solution is hair dye. We receive many phone calls from baffled parents, caregivers, and teenage girls asking us, does dying your hair kill lice? Hair dye may kill some bugs, but it does not affect the nits (eggs). Conversely, having dyed hair will not prevent you from getting a case of head lice. Why use a potentially harmful lice treatment when there are alternatives?

Do Lice Like Dyed Hair?

There is a myth related to hair dye: people with bleached or dyed hair cannot get lice. Lice gravitate as much to dyed hair as to hair that has not been colored. The bug only needs to climb up the hair shaft to get to its food source, the head’s blood. Nothing about dyed hair prevents lice from attaching to the hair shafts to make the pilgrimage to the scalp.

When it comes to hair dye and lice, especially if you deal with multiple bouts of lice, you may conversely conclude that lice may be drawn to your colored hair. This is not true; the fact is that lice are not drawn to hair that has been dyed; however, they are not repelled by it either.

If you wonder if dying your hair kills lice, the answer is that it may kill some live lice, but it will not kill all. It will definitely not affect the nits (eggs), therefore, it will not effectively eliminate head lice cases.

How Hair Dye Affects Lice, and Does It Kill Lice?

It is possible that hair dye, specifically permanent color, may kill head lice, but only the bugs. Hair dyes will not eradicate the nits so there is still a need to comb out those eggs. When contemplating whether coloring your hair kills lice, hair dye can get you started on getting rid of lice, but you have to decide if it is worth it.

Permanent dye has ammonia as a key ingredient. Ammonia is an alkaline substance. Head lice cannot withstand an environment on the scalp that is this alkaline, so eventually, they will die. Also, permanent dyes have hydrogen peroxide, which alters the hair’s consistency, making it a bit more challenging for the lice claws to grab.

While the combination of these two chemicals may be instrumental in killing lice, in answering the question "does hair dye get rid of lice" the answer is a solid no. Hair dye will do nothing to get rid of lice because, without manual removal of lice eggs from the hair, you will still be harboring a scalp full of nits (which will eventually hatch!). Lice have a lifespan of 30 days on the head and during their lives they will continue to produce more bugs.

How to Use Hair Dye to Kill Lice?

If you decide that you want to use hair dye to kill the bugs, you should consider that there are safer, non-chemical treatments, especially for children. It is important to note that we do not recommend the use of hair dye. If, however, you decide that you want to proceed with dye, then follow the steps below. Remember that a key component of the process is combing and picking out nits after using the hair dye.

How to Use Hair Dye to Kill Lice?

Step 1. Choose Hair Dye

The key to using hair dye to treat head lice is to use a dye that has peroxide or ammonia as these will alter the environment and kill the lice. This really is more suited for adults as children's hair is more vulnerable to breakage and it's best not to use chemicals on a child. Obviously, you want to use a color that matches your personal preference. We recommend that before using any chemical treatment you consult an expert as LiceDoctors does not advocate using chemicals of any sort, including hair dye, to kill lice.

Step 2. Patch Test

If you decide to go forward with hair dye, please do a patch test which involves applying a small amount of the chosen hair dye to an area of skin to check for adverse reactions. It is important to do this to avoid potential allergic reactions or skin irritations.

Step 3. Apply Dye

Should you decide to continue with the process, it is important to follow the steps outlined on the box of hair dye. Make sure that you have thorough coverage so as to attempt to kill all live bugs. Keep in mind there may still be live lice left after the treatment because lice are very hearty and have mutated to become impervious to many chemical treatments. This is another reason why we prefer non-chemical treatments on the scalp such as a viscous oil, like olive oil, which suffocates lice. There is no worry about super lice surviving the treatment.

Step 4. Wait

Follow the instructions on the box as to how long to leave the dye in the hair. You don't want to leave any type of chemical in the hair longer than is recommended.

Step 5. Rinse and Comb

This step is the most important, whether you are using hair dye or our preferred non-chemical treatment process; it is imperative to comb through the hair to pull out as many lice and nits as possible. With hair dye, you will rinse it out and then comb through the wet hair with a nit comb. With olive oil, you will do the combing while the oil is in the hair. Either way, it is much easier and more effective to comb through hair when it is wet to remove the lice and nits.

Make sure you use a quality metal lice comb that has long tines. You want to comb through the hair in sections all around the head to be thorough. Pay special attention to the nape of the neck and around the ears. It is important to be diligent to remove all visible lice and nits so as to avoid a recurrence of the case.

Warnings: Risk of Using Hair Dye

Warnings: Risk of Using Hair Dye

As mentioned, LiceDoctors does not advocate using hair dyes for lice removal treatment for several reasons:

  • Hair dye will not kill the nits. You must physically remove those from the hair.
  • Head lice are resistant to chemicals so the dye may not even kill all of the bugs.
  • Hair dyes may cause toxicity or allergic reactions, which include difficulty with breathing and skin reactions including redness, rashes, and burning.
  • Hair dye may be fatal if inadvertently ingested.
  • There have been studies conducted suggesting a possible link between hair dye and cancer.  
  • Children are particularly susceptible to adverse reactions to hair dye.

Hair Dyes Don’t Kill Lice Eggs?

When figuring out a treatment option for getting rid of a head lice case for good, it is always very important to address the nits in the hair.

As previously discussed, permanent hair dye may kill the bugs, however, the lice eggs will remain viable and stuck to the hair. Nits have such a tough exterior shell that the dye cannot penetrate.

No chemicals, including prescription lice treatment, over-the-counter lice shampoo, home remedies, or chlorine, will kill the nits because they cannot seep through the hard shell to kill the baby louse growing inside it. Nits must be physically removed from the hair via combing and handpicking.

That means that you can use the strongest permanent hair dye available and damage your hair, but not eliminate the lice infestation.

Does Hair Bleach Kill Lice?

The chemicals found in hair bleach are necessary to remove the color from hair. These chemicals may also be effective at killing some live bugs on the scalp. Hair bleach does not penetrate the hard shell of the egg, so it will not get rid of lice, or kill lice inside of unhatched eggs. It is not an effective head lice treatment.

Will Lice Treatment Ruin Hair Color?

If you are wondering whether lice treatment ruins hair color, we can assure you that the all-natural treatment protocol your technician will use when you call LiceDoctors will have no effect on hair color. Regarding other treatments:

  • At-home lice treatments like mayonnaise, Cetaphil, and conditioner that families try will not likely affect hair color. You may have some success with these treatments, but that depends on how well you do with combing and picking nits.
  • Some people jump to using lice shampoos, both prescription lice treatments and over-the-counter lice treatment kits like Nix, Pronto, A-200, and Rid to treat lice. These lice products have chemicals in them which may or may not affect your color.
  • Some people try natural oils for killing lice like tea tree oil and coconut oil. These will not likely affect hair color, but we cannot speak for all of them.

What Brand of Hair Dye Kills Lice?

What Brand of Hair Dye Kills Lice?

There is no particular brand of hair dye chemicals we would recommend to get rid of head lice. As mentioned previously, this is not a method that will fully treat a case to the point of total eradication.

However, if you just want to color your hair and, as a bonus, maybe kill some bugs, read the ingredients on whatever brand you prefer. You will want to look for products with ammonia and hydrogen peroxide on the ingredients list if you ever want to have a chance at killing some of the live bugs that may be present in your hair during a lice infestation.

Remember our lice advice (and we cannot stress this enough), no matter what product you use to color your hair when you have lice, it will not do anything to the lice eggs.

Hire LiceDoctors

If you are looking for an all-natural lice treatment that is 100% safe, LiceDoctors can help you. We certainly do not recommend that anyone, especially children, be exposed to hair dye or any other potentially harmful chemicals to eradicate a case of head lice.

LiceDoctors mobile lice treatment service will come to your home at your request. Your technician will perform lice removal at home with a safe, natural treatment protocol that works every time.

If you find that you have head lice, leave it to the professionals. Call LiceDoctors for same-day appointment at your convenience, day or night. LiceDoctors services are reimbursable by some insurance plans and are covered by FSAs and HSAs.

Call 800-224-2537 for a chemical-free, fully guaranteed treatment at your convenience, 365 days and nights a year.



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