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Can you use Nix (permethrin) lice shampoo on your body as a lotion to kill scabies?

Medically reviewed by Judith Stewart, BPharm. Last updated on Sep 21, 2022.

Official answer


No. Nix Creme Rinse (permethrin 1%) is used for the treatment of head lice. It is the stronger cream formulation (permethrin 5%) that is recommended for the treatment of scabies.

  • Nix Creme Rinse (permethrin 1%) is used for the treatment of head lice. It is available over-the-counter from a pharmacy.
  • Permethrin Cream (permethrin 5%) is used for the treatment of scabies. It is available on prescription from your doctor.

Permethrin is an anti-parasite medication that kills scabies mites and their eggs. Permethrin treatments are considered safe for use in adults and children ages 2 months and older.

To treat scabies using permethrin 5% cream:

Clean and dry the skin. Apply a thin layer of this medicine to all body parts from the neck down to the soles of the feet. Rub in completely. Leave the medicine on your skin for 8 to 14 hours, then wash it off completely.

When using permethrin cream on an infant, also apply the medicine to the scalp, temples, and forehead. Avoid applying near the eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals.

If the condition does not clear up within 14 days, apply permethrin cream again. The CDC1 advises that two (or more) applications, each about a week apart, may be necessary to eliminate all mites.

Permethrin Resistant Scabies

In recent years, the possibility of the emergence of permethrin resistance in scabies mites has been a concern. So far there has been no clinical evidence documented to support this theory, but there have been several anecdotal reports, and at least one study2 has confirmed increasing tolerance in vitro.

In 1994, before the widespread use of permethrin, scabies mites were killed within 1 hour of in vitro exposure to the drug. In the year 2000, 35% of mites from the same population remained alive after 3 hours.

It is important to use scabies treatments as directed, and to see your doctor if symptoms persist.

  1. Scabies Medications Accessed October 1, 2020.
  2. Scabies in the age of increasing drug resistance Accessed October 1, 2020.

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