Getting Rid Of Lice: Is There Really A Solution That Works?

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Of course, when their children have head lice, the first thing many parents do is rush off to the store and buy some lice shampoo or lotion. But then they discover after the treatment that lice are still there. And they don’t really know what to do.

There are many solutions to get rid of lice (more info here:, but among all head lice treatments (more details here), only two have been shown to work 100%. The first one is combing out, and the second one is head shaving. For psychological reasons, of course, head shaving is not recommended and should be avoided.

Combing out is a method that is very time-consuming and not always adapted to our busy way of life. However, a good metal nit comb is rather cheap and 100% safe. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has very good guidelines on how to comb out lice on its page here: Combing is definitely a method that works, that has no side-effect, that is cheap, and that should not be overlooked.

If you want to use a product, things begin to be more complicated. First, there are OTC and prescription lotions and shampoos, which usually contain chemical products that act on the nervous systems of lice to kill them. The problem is that a misuse and overuse of these products have caused increased resistance of lice to them, and they are no longer as effective as they used to be. Moreover, they can have dangerous side-effects. Read Jesse’s story here to learn more.

To get rid of lice, you can also use home remedies, which are readily available. Most home remedies have not been proven to work scientifically, however many parents report success using them. They are harmless in most cases, which is a big advantage compared to chemical products. They work as physical pesticides, or suffocants. What they do is prevent lice from breathing, slowing them down, and killing them in many instances.

Here are the main home remedies you could use:

Among all home remedies that have been tested scientifically, olive oil has been shown to suffocate adult lice within 2 hours in a test by the Harvard School of Public Health. Then,  a 2004 study comparing melted butter, vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, olive oil, mayonnaise and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) showed that although these remedies weren’t 100% effective at eliminating head lice, they did have some efficacy. Among them, petroleum jelly was the most effective, and was the one most likely to kill lice eggs.

Other studies have shown the efficacy of heat in getting rid of lice. In 2006, a study showed that a device called the louse buster with hand piece could eliminate up to 80% of baby lice and adult lice, and up to 98% of eggs. There are companies and health care centers that will use these devices, and the study recommended this method as an effective mean to get rid of head lice.

To sum up, the only 100% effective way to kill lice is combing them out manually. This requires a good comb, as well as patience and time. Shampoos, lotions and prescription treatments contain chemicals that can be harmful, and shouldn’t be used without caution. Home remedies have the advantage of being harmless for most of them (not all), cheap, and can be a good choice when you don’t want to take the time to comb out without using a product.

However, in any case, you should know that combing is and remains an essential step in your battle against lice, even if you are using a product. This combing step cannot be skipped. You need to get rid of all live lice and eggs if you want to be lice free.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

TwiMomAko September 28, 2011

Hi. Thanks for these natural remedies! I also read about some over-the-counter brands that contain pesticides…. I definitely wouldn’t want to apply toxic on my kids. I’d really want to try Nit-Nurse coz it has essential oils. They say, it’s not toxic and effective.

Suzy October 20, 2011

I found my son to be free of nits by covering his hair in gel.mousse or hairspray on wet hair then brushed. Not had a nit since he was 3 until recently now 12.

hojoa October 21, 2011

This really worked!! :) Thank you..

Angelicia November 2, 2011

Thank you,
These treatments sound wonderful and i will defenitly try one on my cousins hair thanks for the remedies.

hiho November 24, 2011

thanks it really work

Sarah November 29, 2011

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOUVE HELPED ME SO MUCH AND THANKS FOT THE WEBSITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XD

Scrunchy May 9, 2012

thank you for the remedies they have helped so much !! i will try them…… thanks again.

momwithboys June 13, 2013

Another home remedy that we’ve found helpful is to put Listerine (the original yellow type) all through the hair then put a shower cap on. Make sure all the hair is tucked in, then leave it on for two hours. After that wash the hair and comb with a nit comb while it’s wet. The Listerine isn’t supposed to kill the nits, so we repeat every three days or so until the infestation is gone. Waiting seven days as we were told didn’t seem to be effective.

CZ January 15, 2014

I tried swamping my hair with natural aloe vera gel, the clear, pure type available for much less than caustic Nix, about $6-8 for a big bottle in Walmart. Worked like a charm! I let it dry completely, rinsed it out, and started combing. Aloe killed 75% of adults, with remaining living ones left dazed and slow. Easy to get rid of much cheaper and safer. I did this every 2-3 days for 3 weeks, finding 1 dead one in the 2nd comb-out and 1 egg case. The next few treatments I found nothing, but remained vigilant. Make sure to wash and/or dry all bedding, pj’s, robes, clothing, hairbrush, coats, hats, etc. each day. Vacuum rugs, floors, stuffed furniture each day. (Can’t hurt!) Always assume you can miss even one egg each time. I even added a 1/4 cup of Aloe to our shampoo, along with a few drops of Dawn. Don’t think they are gone because you are not scratching anymore! My teenage son thought more treatments were no longer necessary because he wasn’t scratching. Was he wrong. Finding 1 live nymph in his hair a week later sure changed his mind about treating regularly for 14 days.

Aloe is a natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and very bitter tasting to lice. Aloe also readily healed small sores on our heads from scratching so much. (Thought it was an inherited skin condition at first! Son got them by borrowing a buddy’s football helmet, so teens CAN get them!)

1. Wash hair with Dawn detergent to dissolve glue nits are attached with, rinse well. 2. Rub head with aloe gel until all hair and scalp are completely saturated, every single bit of it, (even your eyebrows if thick. The CDC states they can live there in severe cases, but why take any chances? Be VERY careful of your eyes, because aloe can really sting them. Don’t do this on children, who rub their eyes without thinking. The CDC suggests handpicking those.) 3. Rinse hair, comb out well. 4. Do this every 2-3 days, not every 7 like some sites suggest. Nits can hatch at any time.

The most important step is to learn how to properly comb them from hair. Combing in all directions only spreads them around. I combed my thankfully short hair forward into a sink onto solid white paper towels, then used straight bleach to clean the sink area afterwards. Don’t “save” bath towels. Wash in hot water each day, along with bedding, etc.

The only good lice are those in photos. ;)

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