Scabies Cream – Does It Work?

Is scabies cream effective at getting rid of the mite?  There are actually five different types of cream you can try if you have a scabies infection.  Each one has its pros and cons, including how they work and what their side effects are.  Let’s take a look at them in detail.

Permethrin Cream

scabies creamThis type of cream is the most commonly prescribed scabies treatment.  5% permethrin cream is usually prescribed, although you can get lesser strengths at the store.  However, the stronger strength is needed to kill the mite.

Permethrin is an insecticide.  It contains a neurotoxin that kills the mite, but is not harmful to most mammals.  In clinical trials, it is not absorbed by human skin.  However, it is still a toxin that is lethal to fish as well as cats.  For this reason, some people prefer to try another method.

This scabies cream is usually applied two times over the course of seven days.  It is left on for 12 hours (usually overnight), then rinsed off.  It is effective at killing the mite, but the symptoms may continue for two to four weeks after the mite is eliminated.


This form of treatment is usually used for those who did not see results from permethrin.  Malathion is a more potent cream for scabies.  However, with this potency comes risks.

Malathion was used as a method for insect control until the 1990s, when they found it had serious side effects on humans, especially in children.  Some side effects include kidney failure, leukemia, birth defects, and even death.  See this page from the University of Florida to see a number of different studies examining claims of health effects.  While it is not supposed to absorb easily through the skin, it is very dangerous if ingested or inhaled.  This treatment should be avoided if at all possible, especially in children.


Lindane is another second round scabies cream.  It is also a stronger neurotoxin that is effective at killing insects.  It was outlawed from use as a pesticide in 2009. although it continues to be used in smaller doses in different medical treatments.  This also should be avoided, especially in children.

Warnings on the label include the risk of seizure and even death if overused.  The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports that lindane can cause liver and kidney damage, immune system damage, toxicity to the central nervous system, and even death.  It is also known to cause liver cancer in animals, and is classified as a potential carcinogen for humans as well.

Sulfur Cream

Sulfur is one of the oldest forms of scabies treatments.  Sulfur powder can be used to kill the mite in couches and beds, and the cream can be used to help eliminate it on humans.  However, it does take longer to work.  It also needs more applications, most of the time, several times a day.  Dermisil for scabies is probably the best known manufacturer of sulfur cream and other natural remedies.

Herbal Tinctures

There are several forms of herbal tinctures being sold as scabies cream.  However, these are not as effective as the above methods.  Tea tree oil, in particular, has been shown to not kill the mite.  It does relieve the itching, but it can burn the skin if used in too large of a dose.

Neem oil is more effective, but it also can burn the skin.  As a scabies cream, it should not be your first choice.


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