Just the thought of lice makes most people shiver. Head lice are teeny tiny parasites that live on the scalp and hair shafts where they dine on blood. Nearly ten million school children are diagnosed with lice each year. Lice can be contracted by coming in contact with an infected person through play, sports, school or wearing clothing of someone who has the parasite. You can even get head lice by lying on bedding that an infected person was lying on.
It is thought that poor hygiene precipitates a lice infestation which can quickly spread, especially in school and camp situations.
Do I have lice?
If your head itches and you see tiny red bumps on your scalp, it is a pretty good indication that you have head lice. You may have excessive itching, irritation behind the ears, itching above the neck and a ticklish feeling on scalp and dandruff from constant itching.
What is wrong with commercial lice treatments?
Because they reproduce so quickly, it is very difficult to get rid of lice. There are a number of kits and products on the market that can eradicate the lice but they are also loaded with chemicals. The main ingredient in all of these shampoos and kits is permethrin – a very dangerous and toxic substance that should never be placed near the scalp – especially a child’s scalp. RID lice shampoo, a popular product, contains this nasty ingredient.
Permethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that contains synthetic chemicals derived from natural chemicals found in chrysanthemums. Currently, there are over 3,500 commercial products containing this chemical. Animal studies demonstrate that pyrethroids cause immune, neurological, and reproductive damage. Canadian research also suggests that pyrethroids may cause associated behavior problems in kids.
A 2014 study of lice samples from the US and Canada. Researchers found that 99.6 percent of the pesky insects had developed gene mutations making them resistant to common over the counter lice shampoos.
Fortunately, there are also nontoxic, home remedies that are equally as effective and don’t leave a chemical residue. Here are some you can try:
11 Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Head Lice
1. Comb, comb, and comb
Combing your hair with a very fine-toothed comb or a lice comb will remove lice but it must be done carefully and meticulously. For best results follow this method to kills lice:
- Divide the hair into sections and comb each section individually
- After each stroke through the hair rinse the comb in a bowl of vinegar. This step should not be skipped or the lice will reattach to the hair follicles.
- Take your time, this is not a quick process. The more careful you are the better results you will have.
Lice are not fond of the strong aroma that garlic puts off and the fact that it can suffocate them makes this a highly effective home remedy. Grind ten cloves of garlic into a paste and mix in three teaspoons of lime juice. Apply the mixture directly to the scalp. Be sure to cover all the scalp. Leave the treatment on for thirty minutes and rinse with hot water. The strong fragrance of garlic can suffocate lice, ultimately killing them.
3. Hot Air
There are a number of devices that blow hot air that kills head lice. The LouseBsuter is an effective product that, when tested, killed nearly 100 percent of lice eggs and 80% of hatched lice. The device is somewhat cooler than a standard blow dryer and is sold to nurses, schools, hospitals, in addition to “lice salons” that specialize in non-toxic lice removal.
The journal Pediatrics noted the following,
“Our findings demonstrate that one 30-minute application of hot air has the potential to eradicate head lice infestations. In summary, hot air is an effective, safe treatment and one to which lice are unlikely to evolve resistance.”
If you do not have a LouseBuster, you can use a regular hair dryer. A study published in the journal American Family Physician found that hair dryers have a 47.2 percent success in eradicating lice, and a 47.5 percent success rate in decreasing egg hatch rate. To be effective, you need to repeat this method several times to get rid of the lice entirely.
Not only is Mayonnaise is an excellent natural conditioner and natural hair straightener but also a great way to suffocate head lice. The treatment involves the following steps:
- Apply mayonnaise liberally to your hair and cover with a plastic bag or shower cap
- Let the mayonnaise set on hair for six hours
- Shampoo your hair as usual and blow dry (the heat kills the lice also)
- Comb through your hair using a nit comb
- Repeat this procedure once a week for two months
Salt desiccates lice and eventually kills them. Here is how to do it:
- Combine a quarter cup of sea salt with a quarter cup of vinegar
- Spray the solution on your hair and leave it for 2 hours
- Wash as usual and condition
6. White Vinegar
White vinegar is such a versatile, non-toxic substance and is even effective on eradicating head lice. Mix equal parts vinegar and water and pour over hair. Comb hair thoroughly.
7. Orange Juice
Lice detect the acidity of orange juice. Apply 100% pure orange juice to your head and scalp. Put on a shower cap and leave for 30-40 minutes. Comb through with a nit comb and rinse with warm water. Follow with your usual shampoo and conditioner and comb again.
Getting lice drunk is a great way to send them packing. Pour any cheap liquor with a high alcohol content over your head – even rubbing alcohol will work. Shampoo and rinse as usual and comb through your hair thoroughly with a lice comb.
Using Listerine to kill lice is one of the cheapest and oldest known home remedies for getting rid of lice. Soak your hair completely in the mouthwash and put a shower cap for about four hours and shampoo as usual and comb.
Neem and neem oil contains an insecticidal ingredient known as azadirachtin which is a powerful natural insecticide which interferes with the reproduction and growth of head lice. It constricts the swallowing capability of lice which starves them to death. Lice hate the strong aroma of neem oil which will help soothe itching and redness caused by the lice. As an added bonus, neem adds moisture and shine to hair.
Both the leaves and neem oil are useful for treating head lice. Here are a few methods to try:
Neem Leaf Rinse:
- Put a handful of neem leaves in 3 cups of water and boil until the liquid turns green
- Remove from the oven and strain, let cool.
- Shampoo and condition your hair as usual and follow with a neem rinse. Repeat the rinse 3 times.
Neem Leaf Paste:
- Make a paste by grinding the neem leaves
- Apply the paste on the scalp and leave for 30 minutes
- Shampoo as usual
- Repeat the process 3 times a week for two weeks
- Crush dried neem leaves into a fine powder (you can also purchase neem powder)
- Combine the powder and equal parts water to make a thick paste
- Apply the paste to your scalp and through hair and let it set for one hour
- Wash hair as you would normally
- Repeat the process once a week for up to four weeks
Neem Oil Shampoo:
- Add pure neem oil to your normal shampoo (preferably a natural shampoo) and mix well
- Use this shampoo several times a week for a month
Neem Oil and Coconut Oil:
- Mix six drops of pure neem oil into a few tablespoons of coconut oil
- Massage the mixture well into your scalp and let it set for an hour
- Rinse it off with shampoo and water
- Repeat this process at least twice a week for a month
11. Essential Oils
Essential oils are extracted from plants through steam distillation or cold pressing. Oils are loaded with therapeutic properties many of which can help destroy a lice infestation. In a 2012 study, researchers found that a 1% concentration of tea tree oil killed almost 100% of head lice in a 30 minute period. A 2% concentration halted 50% of egg hatch after 4 days. Other oils that are effective against head lice include ylang-ylang, rosemary and lavender are also great options. To use essential oils to kill head lice, mix 20 drops of oil in your regular bottle of shampoo and shampoo as usual. Rinse with apple cider vinegar for added lice killing power.
Need any of these essential oils? The best place to purchase them is from Plant Therapy here.
Tips for prevention…
Follow these tips to avoid getting lice in the first place:
- Do not share your personal items such as bed sheets, combs, clothes, and towels – especially with someone who has lice
- Wash clothes and sheets of people with lice in hot water and an enzyme based detergent.
- Keep your hair clean
- Avoid head to head contact with anyone
- Do not share hats with anyone
- Keep your hair tied up when participating in outdoor activities
- Comb your hair with a fine-tooth comb
- Blow dry your hair
- Soak brushed and combs overnight in white vinegar at least once a month