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Head lice are tiny parasites that live primarily off the scalp's blood supply. People hoping to avoid a lice infestation or prevent one from returning often look for lice repellent. One of the most popular lice repellents is tea tree oil, though parsley, mint, pennyroyal and anise oil also are considered natural lice repellents. Commercial products including shampoos, conditioners and sprays also are available for purchase by those seeking lice repellent. Picking the best one often involves deciding if a commercial preparation or a homemade repellent is desired, determining whether a spray or a shampoo is preferred, and then figuring out which repellent within the chosen category can best be tolerated from both an allergy standpoint and an odor standpoint.
A lack of scientific backing for the use of tea tree oil as a lice repellent doesn’t keep it from being a popular choice among the various preventive options. The oil, which is derived from a tree native to Australia, is commonly used as an antiseptic and has a distinctive smell that is believed to discourage lice from getting near. A few drops of tea tree oil can be added to one’s regular shampoo and conditioner for daily washing, and shampoos featuring tea tree oil are available for purchase. Tea tree oil also can be mixed with warm water and used as a daily spray on one’s hair. While some swear by its effectiveness, others avoid using tea tree oil as a lice repellent because they don’t like its smell.
Along with commercial tea tree shampoos, commercial sprays promise to effectively discourage lice infestations. Much like the tea tree oil spray made with warm water, commercial sprays are used daily on the hair. They also may be sprayed behind the ears, on the nape of the neck and on the wrists. While such sprays also have their supporters, one thing true of all purported lice repellents is that it’s never clear whether they’re doing their job really well or the user simply wouldn’t have been infested to begin with.
Among the other natural ingredients touted as lice repellents are mint, anise oil and pennyroyal. Mint both discourages lice from approaching and helps to ease the discomfort caused by the bites. Anise oil blended with alcohol is said to act as a lice repellent. Pennyroyal is believed to prevent a lice infestation if it is rubbed into the area of the skin to be protected. Aloe, mint and witch hazel are all said to ease the irritation caused by the tiny parasites’ bite if an infestation occurs despite the use of lice repellent.
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