Permethrin (On the skin)


Permethrin (per-METH-rin)

Treats head lice and scabies.

Brand Name(s)

Acticin, Elimite, Nix Creme Rinse, Rite Aid Lice Treatment

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine

Cream, Spray, Lotion

  • Follow the instructions on the medicine label if you are using this medicine without a prescription.
  • Use this medicine only on your skin. Rinse it off right away if it gets on a cut or scrape. Do not get the medicine in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Flush your eyes with lots of water if any medicine gets in your eyes.
  • For hair: Before you use permethrin, first shampoo and rinse your hair. Do not use conditioner. Towel dry your hair. Protect your eyes with a washcloth or towel. Shake the lotion well before you use it. Apply the lotion generously to damp hair, covering all areas of your scalp. Leave permethrin on your scalp for 10 minutes. Rinse your hair and scalp with warm water. Towel dry and then comb your hair.
  • For skin: Thoroughly rub the cream into your skin from your head to the soles of your feet. Leave the cream on for 8 to 14 hours. Then wash it off using a generous amount of soap and water.
  • Tell your doctor if you see any lice 7 days or more after your first treatment. You may need a second treatment.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are allergic to ragweed.
  • Do not use this medicine on an infant younger than 2 months of age.
  • Do not use this medicine on your eyebrows or eyelashes. Contact your doctor instead.
  • Check all members of your household, because lice are easily spread from one person to another.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Eye irritation
  • Itching, redness, burning, or swelling of the skin or scalp
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 7/4/2015

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.