Why you shouldn’t use permethrin as a head lice treatment

Permethrin is a common head lice treatment. However, recent research is now raising concerns about the long-term effects of these pesticides.

What is permethrin?

Permethrin is a type of pyrethroid. Pyrethroids are a type of pesticide used for lice treatments, pet, flea, mosquito, ant and tick medications, and crop treatments. These pesticides derive from the chrysanthemum flower and are the synthetic and more stable version of pyrethrin.

Pyrethroids initially became a popular substitute to more harmful pesticides like Malathion (which is in some prescription head lice treatments) but are less popular now for head lice, given their ineffectiveness. 

Pyrethroids have some short-term side effects, which you can find on head lice product packaging. For instance, they can commonly cause itchiness and skin irritation.  However, we still don’t know much about their long-term effects. This has been an area of some interesting scientific research that has recently been published.

Permethrin's long-term effects

At the end of 2019, a group of scientists at the University of Iowa published a study on the long-term effects of pyrethroids. This study involved a substantial base of 2,116 adults with an average age of 43. They had been studied over an impressive 14 years, tracking their exposure to pyrethroids and its effect on their health.

Long-term effect of pyrethroids as a head lice treatment

The University of Iowa study looked at the adult participant’s overall health, lifestyle (diet, smoking, etc.) and socio-economic status. Then, it significantly tested their urine samples for chemical substances that indicated their previous exposure to pyrethroids.

A small Chinese study in 2017 had already establish a link between pyrethroid exposure and heart disease. However, the University of Iowa study also linked pyrethroids with an increased risk of death from heart disease.  The data showed that ‘people with the highest concentrations of 3-phenoxybenzioc acid in their urine were about 3 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease’.

Risk/benegit analysis of using pyrethroids to treat head lice

Numerous research studies into the effectiveness of pyrethroid head lice treatments have shown that lice have developed resistance to them.

So, should you use permethrin as a head lice treatment? As we’ve seen, research shows its use has many risks and it’s not even that effective. So, why take a risk when there aren’t any benefits?

Looking for an alternative? At the Hairforce clinics, we get rid of every last nit and head louse without chemicals, pesticides or toxins. Get in touch with one of our clinics to make an appointment.

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