Updated on September 17, 2020
Updated By Karen Sokoloff
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Lice
A quick internet search will reveal a nearly endless smorgasbord of potential home remedies for head lice. But why use natural treatments for head lice? Do home remedies for lice actually work? If so, why are there so many?
Lice have mutated over the past several years and have developed a resistance to many chemical treatments. LiceDoctors - Super Lice In addition, chemical lice shampoos carry the risk of side effects. For these reasons, many people search for ways to kill lice naturally.
As a head lice treatment service, we at LiceDoctors receive calls daily from people who have tried chemical head lice treatments that have not worked. These parents are still finding just as many nits, and in some cases are still seeing live bugs in the hair. In addition, they are upset because they have applied chemicals to their child’s head, not realizing there were alternatives.
Any acid will eventually dissolve the exoskeletons of the lice, but many people find the stinging from vinegar too uncomfortable to leave it on long enough to make a difference. In addition, vinegar doesn’t penetrate the shells of the eggs. Although some people have tried apple cigar vinegar for lice combing, the combing is what works. When it comes to home remedies for lice vinegar alone just won’t do it.
Tea Tree Oil
There are some claims that lice are repelled by the scent of tea tree but we have found no conclusive evidence to back up that claim. Even so, putting a repellant on won’t make an active case of lice leave the hair, lice repellents (LiceDoctors Mint Repellent Spray) work as prevention, not cure. (Find out what happened when one client took Bad Advice on Graduation Day.)
Although less useful than thicker types of oils, Tea tree oil can technically help suffocate head lice, and for that reason it may be helpful in killing bugs. (LiceDoctors - Will Tea Tree Oil Kill Head Lice?) You’d have to saturate ALL of the hair, and tea tree is expensive and smelly, so if your goal is to do a natural head lice treatment by smothering with oil, skip to the next section. It is important to note that tea tree oil has no effect on nits. Nits have a hard shell that the tea tree oil can not penetrate. To eradicate a case of lice, you have to pull out all of the nits; leaving nits in the hair is a recipe for the lice hatching from these nits and the case continuing. Therefore, tea tree oil is not an answer to ending a lice problem.
Furthermore, some people are allergic to tea tree oil. Young children are especially likely to develop tea tree allergies without warning, so do not look at tea tree oil products as benign home remedies for lice treatment.
Oils in general are the most ancient and time-tested natural remedies for lice. Lice breathe through pores on their exoskeletons, called spiracles. Oils work to occlude the breathing apparatus of insects, thereby potentially suffocating the bugs (when used correctly). We like olive oil to slow down bugs and loosen eggs because it is viscous. We use this as part of our treatment protocol. Olive oil for lice is a safe natural lice treatment,
Among natural remedies for lice, coconut oil is usually safe, without side effects. Coconut oil actually absorbs into the hair shaft, and hardens when it is cold out, so using coconut oil for lice smothering isn’t always effective or comfortable, though.
Because lice can hold their breath for several hours, you would need to leave the oil in your hair for a long time. Coconut oil may be an effective helper in getting rid of lice but when melted it is not as thick as olive oil and it also doesn’t seep through the shell of the nit. And you still need the expertise of someone who knows how to comb out and hand pick the lice and nits.
Essential oils for lice repellant purposes include peppermint and spearmint, and possibly rosemary, lavender, ylang ylang, citronella, and eucalyptus. Again, these are preventative, not curative. Natural lice treatment that involves these oils almost always requires the use of another, thicker oil (like coconut or olive oil), which can work on its own, so it is unclear whether essential oils can increase the efficacy of these less expensive, less allergenic oils.
Don’t get us wrong, all technicians who work with LiceDoctors like to wear a shower cap for lice appointments to keep from catching lice themselves! Shower caps can increase the efficacy of many types of topical lice treatment, as it keeps the treatment from drying out and keeps it warm and trapped against the scalp. But will a shower cap suffocate lice by itself? For little kids, a shower cap is more likely to suffocate the child than the lice, and LiceDoctors medical director advises against using a plastic shower cap on children. Again, lice can hold their breath for hours, and don’t need even a fraction of the oxygen trapped inside the cap. Using a shower cap on top of oil may protect your furniture and clothing, but it’s the oil, not the cap, doing the lice smothering.
Petroleum jelly for lice treatment serves the same purpose as oil (smothering) but has the drawback of being too thick and sticky to really efficiently comb the hair with the fine-toothed lice comb while the jelly is in it. And it’s NOT natural. As far as home remedies to get rid of lice fast, oils like olive oil are safer, more effective, faster, and easier to work with.
Garlic lice treatment is a bizarre concept. Some websites claim that the strong smell of garlic will kill the lice, but research shows no efficacy at all. (Source: Researchgate.net And why use garlic for lice repellant, when you could use peppermint or even gel or hair spray to put a protective layer over the hair?
What Is The Best Natural Treatment Of Head Lice?
Another problem is that, with any of the home remedies for head lice mentioned above, nits cannot be suffocated. No matter what you use for natural lice treatment, you will likely still have stubborn nits that are still viable left in the hair. Keep in mind that each louse lays 6-10 eggs a day for 30 days. That's a lot of eggs to be left in the hair poised to hatch, and in most cases of DIY natural remedies, the lice are back within 2-8 weeks. (Source Researchgate.net)
The best way to eliminate head lice is by using a high quality lice comb plus a proven method. Research demonstrates that just going at the wet hair with a comb and no plan has about a 38% success rate. (Source: National Library of Medicine) First, apply a viscous oil to the hair to immobilize the bugs, and comb through the hair to pull out lice and nits (eggs). Next step is to physically extract the remaining nits from each strand. While it is possible to try to do this on your own, the nits are small and blend in with the hair color, so they can be hard to see and identify, and it takes a lot of practice and patience to get out all of the nits. You must remove all nits from the hair or you have not ended the problem.
While the aforementioned products are likely safer than chemical products, they have drawbacks and without comprehensive nitpicking are incomplete at best. Some remedies touted on the internet are completely ineffectual and some aren’t safe at all (LiceDoctors - Lice Remedies That Don't Work), so when you stumble upon a so-called solution, give us a call to discuss whether it is safe or will even work before you try anything crazy! Rather than randomly trying home remedies for lice, for a complete, safe, and guaranteed lice treatment program, call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537. We will put an end to your head lice woes!