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Created on 
April 9, 2017
Updated on 
February 2, 2023

You may have heard that mayo kills lice and is an effective remedy for head lice. Several people have tried to use mayonnaise as one of many home remedies in an attempt to kill these unwanted bugs. Does mayonnaise kill head lice and nits? Well….you have the right idea! For those still wondering – does mayo work for lice, and can mayonnaise suffocate the bugs, the answer is yes, but it is nasty to use, and we do not recommend it!


How does it work? Mayonnaise kills lice by way of suffocation. The bugs need to breathe, and some oils are thick enough to coat their airways and suffocate them if left on long enough. This can be an effective treatment method, but it is cumbersome, as the mayo dries quickly, and it is challenging to get a lice comb through it. How long to leave mayo on the hair and scalp to get rid of the lice infestation? Since the bugs can hold their breath for several hours, 8 hours seems to be long enough.

Suffocation of bugs is becoming a more common remedy. Head lice have mutated over the past several years, and there's plenty of scientific proof that they are developing a resistance to the chemicals in over the counter shampoos. Because of this, these resistant strains have earned the name “Super Lice”. As a head lice treatment service, we at LiceDoctors receive several phone calls a day from parents who have tried chemical lice shampoos that have not worked. The majority of these parents tell us that they used the chemical shampoos and that they are still finding evidence of a continued infestation, including live bugs on the scalp. In addition, they are upset because they reluctantly applied chemicals with undesirable side effects on their child's scalp, thinking that these were their only alternative. Side effects of chemical pesticides can be extreme, so why take chances when safer and more effective options are available?

lice mayonnaise


You're probably wondering now how to get rid of lice with mayo. Even though it is messy, in theory, as a treatment for lice, mayonnaise can smother the bugs. But when using mayo to suffocate lice, you must still remove all eggs, following the below steps:

  • Apply the mayonnaise for lice thoroughly to the hair and scalp. You just want to keep applying it and ensure that every single strand is coated, all the way down the hair shaft to the tip of the hair. Use a regular comb to fully saturate the strands with the mayo.
  • Comb out all of the eggs with a professional-grade nit comb. This usually involves sectioning with clips and combing each section until no more nits remain. You may ask: does mayo suffocate lice eggs? No - they have to be removed.
  • Apply more mayonnaise into the hair to supplement any that was combed out during the egg removal process. Live bugs can hold their breath for up to eight hours, so you will need to leave the mayonnaise on for at least eight full hours to ensure any bugs that may have been missed are suffocated. This is where problems arise; see the next section.
  • Throughout this process, you need to keep adding more mayonnaise as needed to ensure that the hair stays wet and remains completely saturated for at least 8 hours afterwards.
  • As with any effective delousing process, follow-up is necessary to address the bug's entire life cycle. Using mayo for aftercare will result in many more sticky, stinky messes in your future.
does mayonnaise kill lice


For those who decide to use mayonnaise for treating head lice, there are some pitfalls to be wary of.

  • Mayo does not work on nits, only adult lice and baby bugs; those nits still need to be removed even after mayo treatment to eliminate head lice.
  • Low-fat mayo does not have enough vegetable oils in it to smother live lice effectively, only full-fat will work.
  • Younger children may be tempted to eat the mayonnaise by putting their hair ends in their mouths. Ingesting mayo that has been warm for hours could lead to illness.
  • Mayo dries faster than you can work and will become extremely difficult to get the lice to comb through. This is why most lice clinics do not recommend this product.

Some people claim that salad dressing can act as a substitute for mayo to kill head lice. Salad dressing may have other ingredients that affect the hair and scalp. It will drip out of the shower cap constantly, due to high water content. It also probably won't work, since the oil content is too low. Tea tree oil is another option, but we do not recommend this remedy as some people are allergic to it.


While mayonnaise does not have chemicals, using mayo for lice home remedies can be fraught with problems. It can make the hair hard to comb, is difficult to see through, has to be left on the hair long enough to develop an unpleasant smell, and does nothing to the nits.

Mayonnaise Makes Hair Hard to Comb

LiceDoctors once treated a girl who, unbeknownst to us, had applied a mayonnaise lice treatment to her hair before we got there. Unfortunately, mayonnaise dries quickly and becomes very caked. Once that happens it is impossible to get the lice to comb through long hair. This is what happened in this case. The girl ended up washing out the mayonnaise with hot water and drying the wet hair so that we could start with dry hair to do a thorough removal. The good news is she did not use chemicals so she did not risk harm to herself.

Mayonnaise Is Opaque

Another challenge with mayo and lice is that mayonnaise is opaque. That means if you comb the hair quickly before it dries so that you can get the comb through, you will have a hard time identifying the bugs and nits within the glob of white mayo on your fine toothed comb. Other oils that are used to kill head lice, like coconut oil and olive oil, are thick enough to suffocate the bugs but clear enough so that you can actually see what you're removing. Since mayonnaise is not clear, it is especially difficult for those not experienced with head lice removal and identification to be able to tell if they have gotten everything out of the hair. No matter what product you use to suffocate bugs, it is also important that you pull all of the nits out of the hair. If you leave even a couple of nits in the hair, the infestation will perpetuate.

It Takes a Long Time to Suffocate the Lice

A louse can hold its breath so using mayonnaise requires eight hours of treatment to suffocate them. The problem is that leaving mayo in the hair for eight hours, even using a shower cap (for adults) turns the mayo rancid and it smells rotten. If you think tea tree oil smells funky, just wait until you catch a whiff of mayo that's been warm for that long. This is another reason why it is not practical to use mayo.

Mayonnaise Can't Kill Lice Eggs

If you are still considering using mayonnaise, keep in mind that one treatment will not eliminate the problem. Mayonnaise does not get rid of nits without combing, so the treatment must be combined with nit-picking and a follow-up plan to address any straggler nits.

mayo for lice

Allergic Reaction

While wellness professionals and medical associations recommend against eating mayo for certain health conditions, most people don't think of topical mayo as a risk for skin conditions. But mayonnaise contains egg yolks and sometimes egg whites, which can trigger an allergic reaction for people with egg allergies.


Treating lice with mayo likely seems like it should be a low-cost, easy head lice treatment that will get rid of both adult lice and the nits. While the steps mentioned above may seem straightforward and simple, getting rid of an infestation for good is a process; you cannot take shortcuts if you wish to succeed permanently. If you aren't successful in using mayonnaise, the good news is that there are other treatment options available that do not dry as fast as mayonnaise. You will just need to find one that suits your family needs the best.


Maybe after reading this you have decided to try some other home remedy besides mayonnaise. There exists scientific evidence that all-natural head lice treatments can be effective when used correctly, and at least one of the few peer-reviewed studies of these natural remedies does find merit with mayo as a smothering agent. But there are many other non-pesticide and natural treatments that won't give you the headache that comes with using mayonnaise to treat head lice.

There's a reason why lice clinics don't use mayo. Before you start messing with home remedies, like mayonnaise, we suggest you to give LiceDoctors a try. We will check your whole family, since this parasite is highly contagious, and eradicate your infestation safely and efficiently in just one visit. There is no need to drive your kids to lice clinics; we provide this invaluable service in the privacy of your home. Contact us today at 800-224-2537.

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