Guide to Using Tea Tree Oil and Head Lice

small child holding chalk board over face with head lice written in white chalk

Latest research indicates that tea tree oil may be more effective than pesticides for treating head lice infestations.

One of the most common methods for treating head lice is with the use of products that contain pesticides.

Consumers can readily use head lice shampoos and lotions as Nix (contains the pesticide Permethrin), Ovide is a head lice lotion that uses Malathion, and Kwell (a shampoo and lotion that contains the pesticide, Lindane).

While many of these products are effective, some of these pesticides may cause unwanted side effects, particularly in younger children with developing immune systems.

Tea tree oils are a natural extract from the leaves of a plant called Melaleuca alternifolia. The plant species is native to Australia and the leaves and stems are distilled to produce the oils.

Studies have shown that this essential oil contains a number of active ingredients that have anti-microbial properties which may be effective against head lice.

This article will include information on:

  • the research behind using tea tree oil on head lice
  • a guide to using tea tree oils to treat head lice
  • actual user’s reviews and experiences
  • product recommendations.

What Exactly is Head Lice?


Head lice are human parasites that infest your hair and scalp.

There’s a common myth that head lice infections are due to unsanitary living conditions, but this is false because head lice can affect all ages and socio-economic classes.

The lice can’t jump or fly from one person’s head to another, so you can’t get infected being near someone with head lice.

Infections will usually occur when actual physical contact is made with a contaminated person; sharing hats, combs, towels or other head wear can greatly increase the risk for infestation.

The most effective ways to eliminate head lice is by using fine tooth combs to comb out the lice and eggs or using medications on the scalp and hair to kill off the adult lice.

Most of these medications that contain pesticides work by attacking the nervous system of the lice, thereby killing them.

Fortunately, there are now natural alternatives for consumers that want to avoid exposing themselves or their family to pesticides.

Recent studies show tea tree oils may be an effective method for treating head lice.

Research Studies on Using Tea Tree Oil on Head Lice

Study 1:

An article published by researchers at Queensland University, Australia in the 2010 edition of BMC Dermatology compared the effectiveness and safety of using either a tea tree oil / lavender oil (TTO / LO), a head lice “suffocation” product or a pesticide-product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (P/PB) against head lice.

One hundred and twenty three (123) subjects with live head lice applied either the tea tree oil (TTO/LO) or head lice suffocation product three times (3x) a week, or they applied the pesticide (P/PB) product twice a week.

Researchers then checked for the presence or absence of any live head lice one day following the last treatment.

After a 2 week period, researchers found:

  • tea tree oil and lavender oil was 97.6% effective at killing head lice
  • head lice suffocation product was equally effective at 97.6% kill rate
  • pesticide product (P/PB) had a 25.0% kill rate

Researchers concluded that a tea tree oil and lavender oil mixture (TTO/LO) or a head lice suffocation product, was more effective than pesticides for treating head lice.

Study 2:

A study published in the 2018 edition of Parasitology Research compared the efficacy of five essential oils against head lice, including tea tree oil, clove oil, bergamot oil and lavender oils. In all, 1239 living lice were cultivated from the scalps of 51 subjects, aged 1 to 69 years.

Clove oil demonstrated the strongest activity, with more than 90% of lice dying within 2 hours after 30 minutes of contact. Tea tree oil was also found to be effective against head lice, but at a lower rate.

Study 3:

Italian researchers compared the insecticidal activity of tea tree oil and nerolidol (a plant terpene found in tea tree oils, jasmine and lemongrass) against head lice and their eggs.

The head lice and eggs were collected from school children in Central Italy for a 6 month period and then exposed to either tea tree oil, nerolidol or combination of the two ingredients.

Results showed:

  • A 1% solution of tea tree oil was more effective than nerolidol for killing 100% of all adult head lice within a 30 minute period.
  • A 1% solution of nerolidol killed 50% of all head lice eggs after 4 days; the same effect attained using a 2% solution of tea tree oil.
  • A 1:2 combined ratio solution of tea tree oil and nerolidol effectively killed all adult head lice at 30 minutes and all eggs after 5 days.

Researchers concluded that the use of natural compounds and essential oils could be an effective tool to control parasitic head lice infestations.

How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Head Lice

woman with shampooing tea tree oil for head lice

An easy way to use treat head lice is by adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo and saturating your hair and scalp with the solution.

  • Shampoo your hair and massage this mixture into your scalp. It’s recommended you do this every time you normally wash your hair.
  • You can try leaving the tea tree oil in the hair and scalp for a few minutes before rinsing
  • After shampooing your hair, use a nit comb to help remove any lice from your scalp.
  • Repeat this procedure 2 – 4 times per week until all of the head lice are gone.

You can also get tea tree oil shampoos that are conveniently pre-mixed with the oil and ready to use.

User’s Reviews from Using Tea Tree Oil on Head Lice:

The following are reviews sent to this site from people who’ve tried using tea tree oil for head lice.

Using Mixture of Oils to Kill Head Lice
Hi, I am 28 year old special education teacher. About a week ago one of my students was infested with head lice. Since my class is primary MMR….

Tea Tree Oil is the Best Treatment for Head Lice!
My 10 year old son contracted a bad case of head lice from school. I was worried about exposing him to pesticides so I was looking for a natural way….

Using tea tree oil for head lice, but just be aware….
After being infested with lice for 8 months, I have been at my wits end, as none of the poisonous permethrins and other active ingredients worked. I….

Review of Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo for Head Lice
My daughter, my mom & Dad live in a pretty small home. We discovered she had lice & probably for awhile. We used tea tree oil & Almond Oil(the vitamin….

List of Recommended Tea Tree Oil Products and Head Lice Shampoos

You can make your own head lice shampoos by adding a high-quality tea tree oil to your regular shampoo or by using specially-formulated products made for treating head lice.

Search for more Head Lice Treatments at


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