Many people who have successfully treated head lice at home have home remedies for lice that they recommend. An internet search will provide endless possibilities of home remedies for head lice that people swear by. There are many methods desperate families have tried in an effort to get rid of lice, and when they are successful, those families are eager to share this knowledge in hopes that they may spare someone the difficulties they may have endured while battling head lice. Thankfully, if properly completed, some of these home remedies to get rid of lice actually do work.
What Home Remedies Do Exist?
The number of home remedies to kill lice that are available and recommended can be overwhelming. So what is the best home remedy for lice? We’ll discuss the most common remedies, the method, and if they are effective or not.
Petroleum Jelly or Hair Gel
Petroleum jelly or hair gel has been used for years as one of the go-to home remedies for lice treatment. It is applied to the hair in large quantities to smother lice but can be too thick to work with, actually inhibiting the effective use of a nit comb. Oils are not as thick and easier to work with. They are also safer and more effective. Hair gel, while an effective lice deterrent, is not an effective lice treatment.
Salt and Vinegar
Vinegar is very acidic and can be effective if left on long enough to dissolve the exoskeletons of the lice. Because of its acidity, it is not recommended and usually not effective because most people will need to wash it off before it can make a difference due to discomfort. Vinegar and salt also will not penetrate lice eggs. This means that these home remedies to get rid of lice alone just won’t do it.
The use of oils to eliminate lice is one of the most common home remedies to get rid of lice fast. We’ll help you understand which oils are the most effective home remedies to get rid of lice.
Essential oils are one of the more popular alleged home remedies to kill lice. However, essential oils are expensive and there is no solid evidence they are responsible for getting rid of lice. These oils will not kill lice, rather they can repel lice and ward off an infestation. For treatment, they are used along with a carrier oil to aid in the removal of lice and eggs. Therefore, it is the actual removal of lice from the hair that will provide relief from head lice. In addition, some people are allergic to these oils.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil lice treatment can suffocate head lice, so may be helpful to kill bugs. However, tea tree oil is not an answer to eradicating lice. It is expensive and may cause skin irritation or other allergic reactions.
Olive oil is very effective at killing lice as well as helping with the removal of bugs and nits. In fact, because it is a safe, natural lice treatment, we use this as part of our treatment protocol. Olive oil works by suffocating head lice when left on long enough. Olive oil is also used to slow down bugs and loosen eggs, making wet combing with a professional nit comb much easier.
Coconut oil is usually well tolerated by those who use natural remedies for lice. Much like olive oil, the use of coconut oil helps to suffocate bugs and aids in the removal via a methodical comb-out process. However, coconut oil tends to not be as easy to work with as olive oil as it 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.
The use of garlic to treat head lice was a new concept to us. The claim is that the strong smell of garlic will kill lice, but there is no research that proves this claim. This treatment is said to involve making a paste of garlic with oil, applying it to hair, and washing it off after 30 minutes. In our opinion, this would likely repel people, and its effectiveness against head lice is not convincing.
The use of mayonnaise to get rid of lice is a common method many families have tried. The concept behind the use of mayonnaise to treat lice is identical to the use of other oils. When applied correctly, the mayonnaise is thick enough to suffocate bugs, however, it is very difficult to work with and after it dries, it can be especially hard to wash it out of the hair. In our opinion, using olive oil would be a better option.
Blow Dryer or Hair Straightener
Using a blow dryer or hair straightener to treat lice comes with risks of burns; in addition, its effectiveness is not proven, so it is not a home remedy we recommend to treat and get rid of lice. If these tools worked, there would be a lot fewer cases of lice since many families readily use these tools after washing their hair.
Using herbal shampoos will not get rid of head lice. There are some that are formulated with specific scents or essential oils that can help to repel lice, like our sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner that are mint-scented. However, this shampoo will not get rid of lice like any other herbal shampoo or conditioner. Some scents do repel head lice, so they may be an effective deterrent to getting a case of lice, but they will not kill lice or treat an infestation.
Benzyl Alcohol Lotion
Benzyl Alcohol Lotion is not a home remedy for lice, rather it is a prescription-only head lice treatment that is no longer in use in the United States. Historically, this lotion was used as a topical treatment to get rid of head lice. When applied to the hair as directed, this treatment would kill live bugs on the head. However, this is not an ovicide, meaning it does not penetrate the shell of the lice eggs to kill the louse. So either all of the eggs will need to be removed, or a second, and sometimes third, treatment would be required to ensure a case of lice is completely eradicated. In addition, this treatment option carried a hefty price tag.
Cetaphil is a home remedy that can be purchased at any local grocery store. It is a lotion that is used to treat lice in much the same way as oils or mayonnaise is used. The lotion would need to be applied and combed through the hair and left on the hair long enough to suffocate the lice. However, you’ll still need to remove all of the lice eggs, and this lotion can be thick, making it more difficult to comb out with a nit comb.
Medicines To Kill Lice
There are some medicines available either by prescription or over-the-counter purchase that purport to get rid of lice, however, they have diminished in efficacy.
Pyrethrin is a pesticide treatment used by families to get rid of lice. This is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter pesticide head lice treatments like RID. By following the instructions included, you can potentially get rid of lice, however, it is losing its effectiveness, as the bugs have become resistant (look up “super lice”) and do not kill lice eggs. It can also come with undesirable side effects. We receive many calls from parents that have followed the instructions exactly but have still been unable to find relief from their lice infestation, leading them to seek out alternative head lice treatments like natural treatments or hiring a professional service.
Lindane is a prescription head lice treatment that can be prescribed when there are no other safer options. If this is prescribed to you or a family member to treat head lice, it is important to follow the instructions provided by the prescribing physician. We do not recommend these pesticide treatments because there are safer alternatives available. All pesticide treatments come with potential risks and side effects, but there are some pretty hefty side effects and warnings that come along with this particular treatment. Some of these side effects include seizure and death. Be sure to do research and ask your provider any questions you may have.
Malathion lotion is another prescription pediculicide that can be prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of head lice. This works by killing live bugs that are in the hair. One or two treatments are typically performed. This treatment is applied thoroughly to dry hair and left on the hair for several hours before being washed out. Again, we do not recommend pesticide treatments because of the potential side effects and the fact that they are losing their effectiveness. In this case, we absolutely believe using olive oil or another oil would be a better alternative due to the fact that it can be done without the potential risks that come with this prescription head lice treatment.
Permethrin is the active pesticidal ingredient in the over-the-counter head lice treatment commonly known as Nix. This treatment should work by killing all of the live bugs on the head. If it is effective, however, all of the eggs still need to be removed from the hair since this treatment is not effective at killing lice eggs. We say “should” work because over time, lice have become increasingly more resistant to these treatments, so the treatment may kill all, some, or none of the live bugs on the hair. If this treatment does not kill the lice, then you are most likely dealing with a case of super lice. We don’t recommend pesticide treatments because of this, but especially if you have a case of super lice (which most cases are).
Lice Removal Technique
No matter what home remedy you choose for your family, it is important that the proper lice removal techniques are used. The best lice removal technique involves a combination of combing live bugs out of the hair, but you must know how to remove lice eggs from hair home remedies. There are no shortcuts. The hair should be lubricated; we recommend olive oil and using a professional-grade nit comb to speed up the process. After you’ve done a thorough comb through, manual removal of any remaining eggs is vital to ensuring your case of head lice is gone for good.
What Not to Use as a Home Remedy
While most of the chemical-free remedies are harmless, a few of these we definitely recommend against, either because they are ineffective, lacking solid evidence of their ability to get rid of lice, or that the treatment brings with it undesirable side effects; a natural process would be more effective without these side effects.
- Pesticide treatments like Nix, Rid, Lindane, Benzyl Alcohol, and Malathion
- Salt and Vinegar
- At-home treatment with a hairdryer
- Home treatment with a flat iron
- Garlic home treatment
- Treatment involving essential oils
The following treatments can be effective if completed correctly, but other treatment options (such as olive oil) will prove way less troublesome:
- Petroleum Jelly
Head lice prevention can save you the headache of having to experiment with various home remedies when dealing with head lice. There are a few practical steps that you can implement that will help you and your family avoid having to deal with a case of head lice.
- Keep long hair up in a ponytail, braid, or bun
- Avoid head to head contact with others
- Keep the hair artificially dirty - like with hair spray, gel, or mousse
- Avoid sharing hair accessories and grooming items
- Do not share helmets or other headgear when participating in sports.
- Educate yourself and your family on how head lice is transmitted
Keep in mind that these suggestions will reduce the chances of contracting head lice, but they are not an absolute guarantee. Head lice are very contagious and prevalent, and the only way to absolutely guarantee that you won’t get it is to remain isolated from other human beings.
Getting rid of head lice doesn’t have to be a headache! Do your best to prevent getting a case of head lice, but if you do encounter head lice, don’t panic. Natural remedies will never lose their effectiveness the way that pesticide treatments will. If you lack the patience and know-how (it takes a lot of practice!) to deal with it yourself, call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to schedule an appointment for an all-natural, guaranteed treatment option in the comfort of your home!