Having your head infested with lice is no easy feat. You have to deal with the itching and the occasional feeling of crawling lice bugs on your scalp.
So you try to find the best solutions to get rid of them.
You heard from your friend that their lice problem was gone after they dyed their hair. It sounds suspicious, but you’re curious to know if it will actually work.
So do lice hate hair dye? And can hair color dye kill lice? These are questions you don’t ask every day, so this article will dig deeper to find out.
Head lice are tiny insects that live off the blood from your scalp. They have a claw and a spine at the end of their legs, which helps them hang on to your hair and travel from your head to another.
You probably won’t notice the early stages of a lice infestation until after 6 weeks, when their population increases, as that’s when the itchy sensation will start to become uncomfortable.
Adult lice lay eggs or nits by sticking them on your hair strands close to your scalp so the heat can aid them in hatching. It only takes nits 6-8 days to incubate, so if you don’t control the infestation, they will multiply quickly.
Admit it, applying hair dye is not the first solution that comes to mind when treating head lice, but there’s word going around that dyeing your hair will get rid of them.
So does hair dye kill lice and eggs? Since several types of hair colors are available, let’s break down each one to see which is effective.
It’s often repeated that it’s best to avoid hair dyes that contain ammonia as it will dry out your hair and irritate your scalp.
But in this case, using this type of hair dye may actually save your hair.
The purpose of adding ammonia into hair dye in the first place is that it swells up your hair cuticles to let the dye in. Once your hair absorbs the formula, it will then lighten it so color pigments will deposit more quickly.
But since ammonia is an alkaline, lice won’t be able to tolerate its pH level and will eventually die out.
This method won’t be as effective for killing off lice eggs since they have shells that make it difficult for hair dye to soak into, especially when the eggs are less than 3 days old as their neurological systems are still not fully developed.
As mentioned above, one of the key ingredients for getting rid of lice is ammonia. So applying an ammonia-free hair dye won’t do anything to get rid of the pesky bugs.
But since most hair color brands now have an ammonia-free formula, finding a hair dye that contains ammonia will take a bit of research. So if you find one, make sure to check its ingredients list to ensure it has ammonia.
But if you can’t find a dye that contains ammonia, all hope is not lost. There’s still one more ingredient that will help get rid of lice.
Hydrogen peroxide works the same way as ammonia as it also opens up your hair cuticles to allow the color pigments to get into your hair. It’s also used with bleach to effectively lighten your hair.
Peroxide is now used more than ammonia in most hair color formulas as it’s less damaging and irritating.
But since it’s a chemical, it will still do slight damage to your hair.
Normally, you’ll want to avoid any damage to your hair. But if you're going to kill lice, the effects of peroxide on your hair are actually an advantage.
After application, the peroxide will make your hair feel brittle and rough, making it harder for lice to latch onto your scalp.
Their exoskeletons are also susceptible to high levels of hydrogen peroxide, where exposing them to a 30% concentration will kill some of them.
If you want a long-lasting hair color change, picking up a permanent hair dye is the best way to go. But since you also have a lice infestation to worry about, does box hair dye kill lice?
Permanent boxed hair colors that you find in drugstore aisles contain either ammonia or peroxide, so they effectively reduce the lice bugs on your head.
But since boxed hair dye is available in an array of shades, will one color be more successful in killing lice?
Permanent blonde hair color won’t be as effective for lightening your hair as bleach would, but depending on the brand, it will contain a high concentration of peroxide or ammonia as it’s meant to lift your hair color.
Since blonde dye has oxidative agents, leaving it on your hair for a sufficient amount of time can lessen the lice on your hair.
But it’s important to note that applying hair dye shouldn’t be the first solution you should gravitate to for eliminating head lice since it’s not meant to treat them in the first place. Permanent hair dye can kill a small percentage of the lice bugs on your hair, but there will still be enough to lay eggs and repopulate.
If you’re thinking of switching to darker hair color, applying a permanent black hair dye will give you a dramatic change.
But since black hair dye isn’t meant to lift your base color, it doesn’t contain as much peroxide or ammonia as blonde dyes do. So, in turn, it won't affect the lice bugs on your hair.
Also, dyeing your hair black will make it more challenging to locate lice on your hair than on blonde hair because of their color contrast. So it’s best to get rid of the infestation first before you do anything with your hair.
If you’re not looking for a permanent hair color change, maybe a semi-permanent or temporary hair dye is more suitable for you.
But when it comes to killing lice, temporary hair color won’t harm the little critters on your hair.
What gives temporary dye its short life span is it’s not meant to penetrate your hair shaft as permanent hair dyes do. Instead, it only coats the exterior of your hair strands so the pigments can easily wash off.
So there’s no need to add peroxide or ammonia to a temporary pigment since it’s not meant to open your hair shaft.
So if you’re expecting to lessen the lice infestation in your hair by applying a temporary hair dye, you might get disappointed.
If you tried the hair dye method and it didn’t work as expected, are there other methods for eliminating lice from your hair?
Using a hairdryer is another hack for getting rid of lice that you’ve probably heard through the grapevine. Since you already have one at home, you want to know if it will be an effective method.
So, does a hair dryer kill lice?
If you want to get rid of lice, you’ll need to blast 130-140 °F (54-60 °C) of heat to your head, which your blow dryer will be able to do. The only catch is that you’ll need to keep it steady for 5 minutes to kill the lice.
It may sound easy, but it’s next to impossible to do in reality. Focusing hot air on one section of your head for a minute will feel too much for your scalp; imagine what 5 minutes will do.
Lice will also detect the heat, so they will scamper away from it, making it difficult to blast constant heat on them for 5 minutes straight.
Lastly, the heat will not kill lice eggs since their shells protect them. So if you do manage to kill the adult lice, there will still be nits left to hatch, and the cycle will start over.
But since most lice stay near the top of your head, it will be difficult to run a straightener without burning your scalp. Lice also move fast, so catching one long enough to kill it will be challenging.
Lice also lay their eggs close to your scalp, so besides being hard to reach, their outer shells will protect them against the heat.
So, in the long run, using your flat iron is not a sustainable way of getting rid of the lice infestation in your hair.
Looking for easy ways to get rid of lice at home may feel convenient at first, but not all methods are surefire ways to stop the infestation.
It’s not advisable to apply hair dye to treat head lice as it will not take care of the problem. Also, since children are more prone to having lice, never apply dye on their hair since their scalp is still sensitive and will be more prone to irritation.
So if you want to fully exterminate the bugs and eggs in your hair, you’ll need to consult a professional to find out which lice treatment you should use.