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Do home remedies for lice removal work?

We’ve been in the lice removal business for a while now, which means we’ve seen a lot – a lot of things that DON’T work, that is. Today we’re going to be talking about what doesn’t work – home remedies, grandma’s recipes, old wives’ tales, Internet urban legends – we’re breaking it down, so you know what’s right. Trust us, if you’re staring at a family-wide lice infestation the last thing you want to do is waste time and money with things that don’t work.

We’ve had patients come to our lice treatment center frustrated and fed up because none of these “proven” home remedies have worked – even after repeated use. There’s a big reason why (and you’ll see this theme repeated below). Natural remedies (like oils) simply suffocate the live bugs. They don’t get to the root of the problem: the lice eggs. To be completely free of lice, the nits MUST be killed.

Let’s talk a deeper dive into some of the most common home remedies we’ve seen.

1. Anise oil
Anise oil may coat and suffocate some lice, but it does not get rid of lice eggs. To control the spread of a lice infestation, you’d need to cover your entire scalp with anise oil for up to eight hours a day for days or weeks until all live bugs had died. This is just not practical – especially when you’re dealing with a wriggly five-year-old.

2. Olive oil
While olive oil can do an excellent job of getting the hair ready for the use of a lice comb, it’s not the answer for complete lice removal. Here’s why: coating the hair in any one of these oils only kills some active lice, not the eggs themselves.

3. Coconut oil
Coconut oil acts much like mayonnaise, olive oil, and all of the other oil-based lice removal solutions in that it relies on its viscosity to loosen bonds and suffocate lice. It doesn’t kill the eggs. So, while it might help in starting the process of lice removal, coconut oil is not an effective way to completely eradicate a case of lice. Save it for dry, chapped lips this summer OR as a healthy alternative to butter when baking.

4. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil from the Australian tea tree. There are tons of products on the market that contain tea tree oil, such as drops, sprays, and shampoos, that are great for preventing lice. Tea tree oil not effective at killing lice.

5. Castor oil
Castor oil is said to do many things – a powerful laxative, a moisturizer, and an acne cure, among others. It’s also touted as a lice removal solution. While we’re not going to say it can’t do all of the above, we will say that castor oil cannot kill lice eggs. Like the oils before it, it’s only effective in smothering live bugs, and since live bugs are only half of your problem, we don’t recommend castor oil.

6. Petroleum jelly
As with our long list of ineffective oils, petroleum jelly is the same – only worse. Not only does it not treat the eggs that are lying dormant in the hair, but it is also almost impossible to get out. Seriously. Have you ever tried? It’s not fun for anyone – especially an eight-year-old with an itchy scalp.

7. Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise, like the various oils listed above, will only suffocate some live lice. It DOES NOT kill the eggs. Imagine coating your hair with mayonnaise, leaving it on for one-third of the day or overnight, AND repeating this process multiple times a week. For days or weeks. All to suffocate some live bugs – not actually kill the eggs that are ready to hatch any day. Oh, and you’re at risk of getting salmonella with unrefrigerated mayo. Yuck. We recommend you make a fabulous chicken salad with that mayonnaise instead.

8. Garlic
Lice are bugs. Not vampires. Enough said.

9. Listerine
Listerine contains menthol and eucalyptol, which may kill some live bugs. It also contains alcohol, which some say is an effective lice removal solution. However, coating your head with Listerine is not just pointless (back to that nit removal thing!), but it’s dangerous. Listerine is flammable, and repeatedly coating your scalp with it can burn your head – can you imagine what it might to do a child’s head? Keep the Listerine for bad breath and leave lice removal to us.

10. Ignoring it
The bugs aren’t going to fly away and find another home. They are very comfortable where they are, thus ignoring it is the worst option.

So, what does work? Our lice removal solutions.

How our process works
We kill ALL live bugs as the first step with our physician formulated, non-toxic treatment solution.

Why is this important? The first step in any lice treatment must be to kill ALL live bugs. By killing all live activity, the patient is no longer contagious. This prevents the spread of lice and cross-contamination in the treatment environment. Other lice treatment providers cut this first step out in order to get clients in and out of their doors faster. However, use of a heated air device applied to a patient with live lice will NOT kill all bugs. That means there is a risk of cross-contamination as the bugs can be blown around the room from the heated air device. One study shows an older heat device used at other lice clinics kills only 84% of live bugs. Instead of applying a solution first to kill the bugs, other clinics use this as the last step.

Our medical protocol of applying treatment solution first to kill live bugs, followed by a heated air device treatment to desiccate all lice eggs was shown in a clinical study of 281 patients to be > 99% effective. The best protocols also include the application of treatment solution following the heat treatment in order to prevent re-infestation when re-entering the environment where it was contracted in the first place.

Remember: prevention is key. Here are some tips to ensure you never have to deal with lice:
• Avoid direct head-to-head contact with others. This is the most common way lice is spread.
• Don’t share brushes, combs, scarves, hats, pillows or hoodies.
• Keep hair in tight buns or braids when around others.
• Screen your child for head lice once a week to catch a case early and prevent spreading.
• Be extra vigilant after returning from any school, camp, or holiday break (places where outbreaks tend to occur more often).
• Take your own pillow and sleeping bags to sleepovers.
If you find head lice notify your school, friends, and family immediately to help curtail spread.

If you suspect you or anyone in your family has lice, don’t hesitate to contact one of our lice treatment centers. We will check everyone in the family for free, and if lice are found, we will offer natural, non-toxic, safe and, most importantly, effective solutions for lice removal. Treatment services at Pediatric Hair Solutions are reimbursable by many insurance plans. We also accept Flexible Spending and Health Savings cards. We provide you with pre-filled forms needed to submit claims for reimbursement.

Contact us today.