Home Remedies To Treat Head Lice- Do They Work??


Short answer- unfortunately, no - well, not completely...

Natural home remedies for treating head lice infestations are the most sought after and recommended solutions for those looking to avoid pesticides often found in over the counter(OTC) products and prescriptions.  While DIY remedies such as mayonnaise, olive oil, cetaphil, vaseline, and vinegar are somewhat effective in suffocating/killing live bugs, they are difficult to implement, messy, and they do not solve the whole problem- the nits/eggs. No method, whether chemical or non- toxic, kills 100% of the nits. Nits will survive the goop attack, hatch, and a couple weeks later you have a new generation infesting your luscious locks.  If only it were so simple, but as renowned head lice expert Katie Shepherd of the Shepherd Institute says "If lice were that easy to kill, lice wouldn't be a problem".[1]

To understand, first lets look at the anatomy of a louse. Lice have breathing ventricles on the side of their body that they can close when smothered in an oil, cream, or liquid. These survivors can hold their breath up to 2 hours under these conditions. If you are ok with leaving goop in your hair for hours then this may be enough to suffocate live lice, but again, the main problem you are leaving yourself with are the nits. Nits need to be removed manually no matter what product you choose to treat.

Now, lets go through each method. The good, the bad, the ugly:

Vinegar - Vinegar is a great all purpose cleaner! I use it daily as opposed to bleach around the house and even use it to clean my fruit before the kids devour pesticides. After all, isn't this the reason we want to use natural methods as opposed to RID and NIX; pesticides? Vinegar can have some impact on lice and tends to dehydrate eggs and their glue, which in some cases can make coming them out easier.  The bad-vinegar smells awful especially when the smell lingers for days after its rinsed from the hair. The ugly-It gives the hair a straw-like texture. This change in texture makes the hair more difficult to work with, making combing nits more painful for the child.[1]

Mayonnaise - Mayo is great on sandwiches and who can live without it on burgers? Not me! This product can smother live lice.  The bad- mayo has no impact on nits what so ever plus it's messy and may curb your appetite for mayo for years to come! The ugly - when feeding on our blood lice leave open bites which may pose a risk for salmonella poisoning since mayo is highly perishable. 

Vaseline - Vaseline is effective in smothering live lice and research has shown vaseline has somewhat of an affect in killing nits. The bad- 6% of the eggs still hatched. Nits have to be removed or killed 100% in order to be considered an eradication. The ugly - it takes serious effort to remove from your hair. Chances are you may not completely remove it from the hair and look like a grease ball.

Cetaphil - Cetaphil is a great gentle cleanser that has also smothered live lice successfully.  The bad- No impact on nits and Cetaphil lotion must be dried over a period of many hours onto the hair in order to be effective. Rinse. Repeat. The ugly - Dry lotion on the hair?

Olive oil/Coconut oil - Both are delicious! and great for your body - not so much for lice treatment. Bad- Impacts live lice, no impact on nits although will give a nice slippery slope for coming them out. Ugly - See Vaseline.

Unfortunately time and effort are in high demand for the success of these products.  These all require being done over a period of weeks, multiple times, to stay on top of the life cycle, killing lice as they hatch. Most parents just don't finish the process, prolonging the inevitable. Last, all these methods require covering your head with a cap, bag, or saran wrap to contain the mess. Tragically, in 2015 a little girl died of suffocation when left to sleep with plastic on her head overnight during a DIY lice treatment[2] -Bad idea.

Bottom line, while these remedies are safe they're not the best choice if you're looking for the best, most effective, and fastest solution to eradicate head lice. Truthfully, no matter what treatment solution you use whether it be vaseline, or OTC pesticides, prescriptions, or non- toxic enzymes, manual removal of nits is imperative to treatment success as no treatment product is 100% effective. The Harvard School of Public Health and the Academy of Pediatrics recommend manual lice and nit removal with a professional lice comb as the most effective method of complete lice removal.  If manual nit removal is not your forte seek a lice removal professional. Professionals, particularly ones Shepherd Method certified, are there to help you with in home or in salon treatments and education so you feel in complete control at an affordable price. Save sanity & stress, get treated once and only once and be done with lice and goop forever! 

For more useful facts read "6 Fascinating Facts About Lice You Don't Know..But Should"

The Lice Chicks are professionals certified in the Shepherd Method of safe, non-toxic lice removal offering screenings and treatments for any individual, school, or camp. Located at 135 E Main St., Jefferson Valley, NY. Visit www.thelicechicks.com for more info or call 914-302-2927.


1. http://www.theshepherdinstitute.com

2. Massachusetts toddler dies during head lice treatment: CBS/AP February 5th, 2015. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/massachusetts-toddler-dies-during-head-lice-treatment/

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