10 Home Remedies for Lice That Really Work
Lice is the four-letter word all parents dread hearing. Before you panic about an infestation, take a deep breath and consider using one of these doctor- and parent-approved natural remedies.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of head lice—with its manic itching and other symptoms, start by checking the fridge. Most homes have this sandwich condiment handy, particularly in the summer when picnics and barbecues are popular. Experts recommend spreading mayonnaise over the entire scalp, covering it with a shower cap, and leaving it on overnight in the hopes that the lice will suffocate from the mayonnaise. In the morning, comb hair thoroughly—ideally with a special lice comb (you can buy one at most drug stores) to remove all the dead lice as well as nits, then wash with dish detergent in order to cut through the grease of the mayonnaise. Don’t worry if it takes several washings. These are head lice symptoms that you need to watch out for.
Tea tree oil
Danielle Fisher MD, FAAP, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, suggests trying tea tree oil as one of the home remedies for lice because it has powerful antiseptic properties. Use it in the same manner as mayonnaise. “The idea is the same,” she says, “To smother the lice and nits, and they die and can be removed.” Dr. Fisher warns, however, that there are mixed recommendations for how long to keep the oil on the head, and how often to repeat. Many recommend two or three treatments per week until there are no more lice or nits found when combing.
Coconut oil is another one of the home remedies for lice via the smothering technique, and because it’s more of a solid matter than mayo or tea tree oil, it’s easier to spread onto the hair. (Bonus: It has a pleasant, tropical smell). Many households now stock coconut oil for a wide variety of uses including cooking and moisturizing. If you don’t have any in stock, visit any major grocery store. In addition to smothering the lice, coconut oil traps them on the head and keeps them from jumping to other people’s heads or any other surface where they can live and perpetuate. Don’t miss this map that shows where lice have become resistant to standard treatments.
Because some people have coconut allergies, another one of the more promising home remedies for lice involves using petroleum jelly, a household item you no doubt have in a drawer or closet somewhere. One caveat for the use of petroleum jelly, however, is that it is very resistant to cleansers. If you do apply petroleum jelly to the scalp and hair in order to kill lice and nits, it may take several passes with a harsh dish detergent in order to remove all of the residue from your hair. Petroleum jelly may be a better option for those with very short hairstyles.
While a blow dryer won’t kill live lice, using one on the highest setting will kill the majority of nits. Used in conjunction with other treatments, a hot hair dryer will help eradicate all the nits waiting to become live lice. Dr. Fisher suggests blow drying as an adjunct weapon in the fight against lice infestation.
Vinh Nguyen, MD, family medicine physician at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, suggests wet combing as one of the home remedies for head lice. “A fine-toothed comb should be used on wet hair, and adding conditioner can help. Continue combing each section until there are no more lice found,” he says, “Repeat every three to four days for several weeks.” This would also be a good method to combine with other natural treatments in order to get rid of the lice more quickly. Don’t miss these other reasons your scalp could be itching besides lice.
No, we don’t mean nagging your kids for not being perfect, but literally picking out nits, which are lice eggs, from the hair. According to Dr. Fisher, this must be done with the utmost care. “Use various tools such as nit combs or even your fingers to go through each hair one at a time to remove the lice and nits.” Given the number of hairs on each child’s head, this method is time-consuming but does avoid the use of chemicals. Nit picking requires several passes before all lice and nits are gone, and may not be as effective as other methods because each and every louse or nit must be removed in order to get rid of the infestation for good.
Although lice are not actually vampires, using this ancient remedy against the undead can also get rid of a lice infestation. Garlic is one of the home remedies for lice that is a terribly smelly option, but make a paste with 8 to 10 garlic cloves and a few teaspoons of lime juice. Spread on the scalp and leave the paste on for a half an hour. Shampoo to clean. The intense smell is believed to kill the live lice and their nits. This treatment should be repeated weekly for one or two months.
Salt and vinegar
The combination of salt and vinegar applied to the scalp is believed to be one of the better home remedies for lice for several reasons: First, the salt dehydrates the lice while the vinegar kills young lice and nits. Although it will not kill adult lice, the vinegar is believed to loosen the “glue” that allows lice to hold tight to hair strands. This method is especially effective when combined with thorough combing.
In addition to meticulously removing lice and nits from the hair and scalp of those infected, homes where lice have invaded will need to be cleaned thoroughly. Lice can jump off of a head for a day or two on upholstery and stuffed animals, so particular care must be taken to launder all pillows, bedding, towels, and hats as well as to dry them on the highest setting possible. Stuffed animals should be dried on high and then sealed in a plastic bag for at least two weeks to make sure all lice and nits are dead. (Don’t miss these house cleaning hacks from the pros to get your home lice and nit free.)