When the kids are back to school, so are head lice…this is still a condition dreaded by many parents, as it is a source of anxiety, shame, and stress.
Head lice prevention is essential, because if you manage to avoid that your kids catch these parasites, this will be better for everyone in the family. It will also save you time, stress, and money.
We often only talk about head lice treatment, but preventing head lice infestations is possible, at least to some extent.
There are several ways to prevent head lice. One of them may be to use natural essential oils. But there are some do’s and don’ts if you decide to go this route.
Why can essential oils work for head lice prevention?
Head lice are attracted to us because of our distinctive human smell. Essential oils are very fragrant and their strong flavors hide our human smell and keeps lice away. Essential oils may act as insect repellents, and this is why they can help preventing head lice.
Warning: Of course, as many other head lice prevention solutions and head lice treatments, there is no scientific evidence that essential oils prevent lice.
Research on tea tree oil is quite recent and though several studies have shown the effectiveness of tea tree oil or other essential oils for lice removal, more research is needed and you should be careful when using such oils, as we’ll see below.
Which essential oils can you use for prevention of head lice?
- Tea tree oil for prevention of head lice: this oil, also known as melaleuca oil, has antiseptic properties and has been traditionally used in many countries as a repellent against head lice. Just put 3 to 5 drops of essential oil on a nit comb and comb the hair, or put a few drops behind the ears or in the neck area. However, tea tree oil does have side-effects and should not be used in its pure form on babies, young children and pregnant women, and should not be applied on a daily basis.
You can also use a commercial tea tree shampoo, but make sure it contains about 5 drops pure essential oil per ounce of shampoo. The same precaution measures apply.
Some people find the oil irritating when used pure so this is a good idea to dilute it with a carrier oil such as olive oil, almond, sesame or coconut oil. You can still use it straight on insect bites but make sure you make a test on your skin first.
- Eucalyptus essential oil: the main component of this oil is eucalyptol, a key ingredient in many antiseptic mouth washes. A study has been published in Phytotherapy Research and has shown that eucalyptus has effects on insects. It works as an insect repellent on head lice. However and unlike tea tree essential oil, it is recommended not to use it with children younger than 5.
You can also use the following oil for head lice prevention: lavender essential oil also has a strong flavor that will repel lice. Rosemary essential oil also has antiseptic properties. Peppermint oil has a strong flavor that would hide the human smell and keep lice away. You should avoid contact with eyes and sensitive skin areas.
Safety and use of essential oils for head lice prevention
Many essential oils are very powerful and although natural they can be harmful for us. Most of them should not be applied pure (straight or undiluted) but should be diluted instead. You can dilute pure essential oils with a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, almond, sesame oils. The best thing to do is read directions of each oil carefully and always apply and use with great care.
Some studies have shown that ingredients in plant oils such as rosemary oil, citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil and lemon grass oil may work to repel lice, which means they can help prevent an infestation.
However, these essential oils are products that are classified as “natural”, which means that they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. They haven’t been tested to FDA standards and there aren’t any official recommendations or guidelines as to how we should use them to prevent lice.
Of course, instructions for using essential oils are not regulated, either. That’s why it’s often unclear how to use them safely. You should know that some of these oils may irritate the skin, be flammable, and be toxic. Always be careful when using them, with children.