Head lice are consistently considered to be one of the most disgusting parasites which are difficult to notice and hard to treat fast. It is tricky but possible if you are cognizant of the most effective and safest treatment methods. Some wisely trust in medicine, others believe in the power of natural remedies. Who is right and what is the best treatment for hair lice?
We have surveyed scientists and physicians as to what is the most effective ways of guaranteed lice removal. Here you will learn how to recognize an infestation at the early stages, which shampoos work and which are absolutely useless, how to comb your hair properly and whether it is possible to kill lice using mayonnaise?
We will tell you about to the entire process of lice removal, give tips and show you how to protect yourself from relapse. At the end of the article you’ll find TOP-4 best lice shampoos. But let’s take first things first: let’s start with the symptoms.
Table of Contents:
A head louse infestation can always be identified before it gets to the “head swarming with lice” stage. Common sense, attention to head and house hygiene will help you.
Eggs (nits). While a couple of small lice can get lost in thick hair, nits are much more noticeable, especially if you are meticulous in regard to hair care. A female louse attaches the eggs ¼ of an inch away from the scalp, and they look like little white specks. The nits attached over ¼ of an inch away from the base of the hair shaft are almost always dead or already hatched. It feels like they are grains of sand in the hair roots, which you can touch when shampooing. But, unlike some debris or dandruff they are nearly impossible to remove with your fingers.
Larvae and adults.Yes, sometimes they are not easy to notice because of their small size (larvae are tinier than adults), but adult lice run around in the hair. They are especially active at night, so you’d better inspect your (or your child’s) head at night. Do it as soon as possible once your kid is back from summer camp! Use a magnifying glass to look at the entire head, and don’t forget divide hair into different strands. Pay special attention to the occipital region of the head and behind the ears, as these are favorite spots of parasites.
Feces. Just like any other blood-sucking insects, lice may be invisible, but they have not yet learned to hide their feces. Pay attention to dark spots on the scalp as these are signs of live adults. Also check your clothes in the neck and shoulder area, and the pillowcases for these spots.
Above is an image from my personal experience with Lice. This is a louse that hatched one week later after treatment with special shampoo and many hours of combing. My research indicates that despite still moving (albeit slowly) the louse is not viable to reproduce as it has been damaged by the chemical treatments. However, it is an excellent reminder to follow treatment instructions very carefully and be thorough. Note his needle like “feet” for clinging tightly to the scalp and hair shaft.
As a rule, the symptoms are crystal clear. This is especially true for infected children under 12 years of age, whose scalp is more susceptible to bites than that of adults. The latter, incidentally, completely lack sensitivity to bites in rare cases. Typically, the following symptoms are observed.
As the Ohio State University Extension scientists explain, when a louse pierces human skin with its jaws, it injects histamine together with saliva. The former causes irritation and itching, and can even provoke allergic reactions in the worst-case scenario. By the way, all the blood-sucking insects are doing the same, so the reaction to any insect bites may be allergic.
This symptom is the result of a previous one. It is especially common among kids who don’t always realize that such severe itching should be reported to adults, they simply keep scratching instead. Secondary infection is possible due to that (scalp bacteria can cause it).
This sensation is felt because the lice crawl fairly quickly – about 1 inch in a few seconds.
Just like the bed bugs, lice are especially active at night and bite at night more.
These horrid symptoms will unlikely go unnoticed, but we hope that you’ll be able to detect them at the earliest stage if you use our tips.
In this section we’ll describe all known methods. There are only 2 methods approved by science.
Which one is more effective and reliable? Actually, it is using lice shampoos (pediculicides) along with combing because this helps to eliminate all blood-suckers: pediculocides work against larvae and adults while combing will remove the nits. Pediculicide action is proven both by scientists and doctors, in contrast to natural products, which often do not work, or sometimes have a placebo effect. Yes, many believe in natural remedies, but we do not encourage you to experiment with them. Anyway, we have to tell about all possible treatment methods and it is up to you to choose the most appropriate one.
The most common pediculicide is a medicated shampoo, which helps kill adults, and eliminate further breeding at this stage. Some of these shampoos have ovicidial effect, i.e. they can kill nits. But basically there is no such effect or it is weak and therefore requires repeat use of shampoo in 7-10 days to get rid of the new ones that have hatched from the eggs.
Why are the nits so difficult to neutralize? Well, the aim of pediculicide shampoos is a louse. Once you inflict damage to it, you can kill these parasites. But when a louse is only on the nit stage, the nervous system is not formed completely, so pediculicides have barely any effect on nits. Instead, they do well with larvae and adults. The shampoos work by killing the adult lice and stop them re-producing, but the nits that have already been laid will hatch after 7 to 10 days, thus the re-treatment recommendation at this point. Still, to choose a truly effective treatment, you need to know what it should contain.
The scientists believe that chemical insecticides that are often used against certain insect species for too long (over ten years) can partially lose their killing action since the insects become resistant to the chemicals and pass such resistance on to next generations. Most products, including shampoos, contain widespread insecticides, namely permethrin or pyrethrins. They are considered to be effective, but as Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist from University of Kentucky College of Agriculture claims , some lice populations may also acquire resistance to the effects of permethrin-based products. He adds: “Resistance to pyrethrin/piperonyl butoxide formulations appears to be less common”.
Mind that both permethrin and pyrethrin act on the adult lice, but do not have ovicidial effect, i.e. they do not kill the eggs. An adult louse should die within 30 minutes (when using pyrethrin) to several hours (when using permethrin) after medicated shampoo treatment. If you find live parasites after the time stated (up to 8 hours), then the lice are resistant to this insecticide. In this case, stop using this product and get another shampoo (if you used a permethrin one, buy pyrethrin and vice versa). Repeat and wash the head with shampoo after 7-10 days.
CDC (Centers for Disease control & prevention) warns the users of the pyrethrin use restrictions: “Pyrethrins generally should not be used by persons who are allergic to chrysanthemums or ragweed. Pyrethrin is approved for use on children 2 years of age and older”. Permethrin is considered to be milder, as shampoos containing it can be used even on 2 month old babies
In the past the insecticides containing lindane were quite popular. But, as the University of California Statewide IPM Program and CDC experts explain, lindane is extremely toxic and its use is associated with unpleasant side effects for both the patients and the medics. It also strongly pollutes the water and has a lot of use restrictions: it is forbidden to treat pregnant women, the elderly, infants, people with a variety of different diseases and those weighing less than 100 pounds with it. Therefore, although lindane shampoo 1% is approved by the FDA for the treatment of head lice, it is not recommended as a first-line treatment. “While lindane is still available by prescription, pyrethrin and permethrin are safer, more effective, and less polluting than lindane “.
Enzymes (oxidoreductase, transferase, lyase, hydrolase, isomerase, ligase etc) – NO, they are ineffective
Nowadays the so-called enzyme shampoos and gels containing non-toxic enzymes are very popular. They are promised to interrupt the breeding cycle by dissolving the adults’ exoskeletons and the glue that grips nits to the hair. Allegedly, after using this shampoo or gel, nits are actually fall off your hair.
This doesn’t turn out to be true, as according to the same University of California Statewide IPM Program specialists: “Enzymatic treatments, including shampoos that claim to dissolve eggs, the cement that attaches eggs to the hair, or the exoskeleton of the adults, are also available to use against head lice. Although these materials are very appealing because of their relative nontoxicity, in university-conducted research trials none of them has yet proven to work as advertised”.
What do you do if you do not want to treat your head with chemicals? Scientists are still arguing about the effectiveness of oils. Some believe that oil absolutely does not work, while others, like the University of California Statewide IPM Program specialists recommend trying soap shampoos containing coconut or olive oil. To observe the effect, you need to wash your hair with this shampoo 3 times with a 4 day interval. However, there may be no killing effect as no one gives a guarantee – so it’s best to turn directly to the specialized shampoos. On the other hand, the oils can produce repelling effect, so as a preventive measure, you can use tea tree oil based treatment.
Homeopathic shampoos or gels are a waste of time and money. Homeopathy does not work in this area: you will only end up having even more lice while you wait for a shampoo to work. Gels will not cope with the task either, although, they are promised, like products with enzymes, to dissolve the nits glue.
Conclusion : don’t be driven by ads! You’d better use proven permethrin or pyrethrin shampoos as they are most effective.
Don’t be astonished that we’ve picked only two products. Surprisingly, among the many louse shampoos found on there are only two worthy and proven options that are approved by both doctors and the FDA and that really work. They are NIX and RID. Therefore, we will tell you about them. Let us warn you that there is one shampoo that is very popular, but is homeopathic. As we have mentioned above, according to the scientists, homeopathy is useless.
This Nix set for Check current price for contains a special permetrin 1%-based cream rinse. This pediculicide is also approved by the FDA for the treatment of head louse hence the Nix products are recommended even by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moreover, permethrin is considered to be gentler than pyrethrin that is why you can use a permethrin cream rinse even for treatment of children from 2 months of age and older. For convenience the set contains not only the 2 pediculicide bottles but also 2 nit combs which are especially important if you want to simultaneously treat two patients. Conveniently, all of this can be bought for only Check current price
FYI: The manufacturer claims that Nix products will kill both adult lice and eggs. We’ve already explained that nits cannot be killed with pediculicides, they can only be combed. Don’t blindly rely on a single product. The treatment must consist of two parts: shampoo (or cream rinse) head treatment and combing!
One of truly effective shampoos which can be used for kids over 2 years old is the RID for Check current price manufactured by the world famous pharmaceutical giant Bayer. The product is made in the USA. Its active ingredient, Pyrethrins (naturally occurring pyrethroid extracts from the chrysanthemum flower) was approved by the FDA.
This is a kit containing of 4 items. The system is complex.
The manufacturer, in this way, first suggests that you wash your kid’s hair with a special pediculicidal shampoo; then use the gel for removing the lice and nits out of their hair. Since the parasites attack not only humans but also their accommodation, the kit also contains spray for treating the furniture, mattresses, pillows and other household objects which aren’t supposed to be washed in the washing machine (remember to treat your car as well).
Price: Check current price
The label states that it contains natural ingredients: sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, and water. What alarmed us is the inscription that this is a homeopathic drug. As we’ve mentioned above, the scientists confirm that homeopathy cannot kill a louse.
FYI: Let us remind you that the combination of a lice shampoo and combing is the most effective type of treatment. After you’ve killed all of the adults and larvae with shampoo, it is a must to comb the nits.
Which Lice Comb Should You Pick and How Do You Use It?
Combs are the only effective remedy for nit removal. The process is long, tedious, but 100% effective. Most importantly, you should be careful and sure to liquidate all the eggs, or else the lice will breed and torment you at night again. But do not rush immediately to look for any comb as a mediocre one will not work.
Plastic or Metal?
Use a metal comb with long teeth. Ordinary plastic ones are not suitable to remove the lice out of your head. They are useless because they bend easily and keep their teeth are separate from each other. Short-toothed models (both plastic and metal) won’t be suitable either. You might like not only ordinary metal, but also modern electronic devices, which have the functions of a comb and a vacuum cleaner. With such a device you will not have to remove by hand any nits found as they are stored in a container inside.
All metal combs are similar as they have long teeth made of steel and tightly pressed to each other with a comfortable handle. A classic bestseller, however, has long been renowned by thousands of customers.
It is a best seller in the Lice Combs category and has over 1600 customer reviews.
This is quite a large item here before us; its dimensions are 3×4 inches. It is made of stainless steel and the teeth are micro-corrugated so that the nits which are firmly attached to the hair are hitched up better. There are also corrugations on the handle. This is made to prevent the comb from sliding out of your hands when dealing with very thick hair. Nit Free Terminator is durable enough for the manufacturers to issue a lifetime warranty for it. Its country of origin is the USA.
The buyers of this product note that it is more advantageous than many of its rivals. According to them, the micro-canals which are located on the teeth can really grip on more nits. In addition, the Terminator works fine for thin and fragile hair as well. We weren’t able to find any complaints concerning the breakage of it, but we were able to find a few pieces of advice instead. The customers recommend using it on wet hair. Over 90% of the consumers consider the Terminator useful.
Unlike others, this one is available in sets of 2, 6, 10, 12, 24 and even 100 units for mass treatment. The reasonable price begins when you buy a set of 6 units or more.
Price: (depending on the number in a set) Check current price
Electronic combs are ambiguous gadgets. On the one hand, they facilitate nit removal and safeguard others against as the found eggs are not touched or shaken on the fabric due to the fact that some models of these devices work like vacuum cleaners and thus all eggs are collected in a container inside the device, which is then easily possible to flush down the toilet.
It is a combination of a hair brush and a mini vacuum cleaner. It is the most gentle and soft hackle because its metal teeth ends are rounded. When you comb the hair, vacuum sucking in its handle starts to work and all of the lice and nits gripped are transported into disposable soft bags. Price: Check current price
Let’s now get back to the actual technique, we’ve drawn up the main tips:
It’s important to protect the person who is going to comb a contaminated patient from possible infection. We have prepared several tips for these brave warriors.
You can make your own lice prevention shampoo by adding a few drops of essential oil in your regular shampoo, or you can buy a ready-to-use one. It depends on your preferences, and on which essential oil smell is most pleasant for you: tea tree, lavender or rosemary oil?
If you prefer 100% organic products and tea tree smell, read our detailed review of Using Tea Tree Oil to Repel Lice.
Below we have listed some ready-to-use shampoos with the rosemary oil which can be used on your or your child’s head.
This is a classic shampoo made by a famous manufacturer. It is positioned a children’s product, but it can be used by adults as well. It contains a whole range of vitamins, minerals, and the main lice repellent: essential oils. This preventive product costs almost Check current price and has a decent rating. A free bottle of a brand hair conditioner is supplied with the shampoo.
The manufacturers boast of the fact that their shampoo is officially recommended by the pediatricians. Apparently the clinical tests have shown an effectiveness of 90% of using this shampoo and conditioner along with the brand’s spray. However, we didn’t find anything about some particular licenses or certificates of any medical institutions. The customers praise simultaneous use of the shampoo and the conditioner as they both do their job quite fine.
Please note that you can buy the shampoo separately from the conditioner on Fairy Tales Repel Shampoo, Rosemary, 12 Fluid Ounce will only cost you Check current price! Those who are buying large volumes (or the parents of many children) can buy a 32 oz. bottle. Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Shampoo, 32 Ounce costs only Check current price.
|NIX Permethrin Lice Treatment Family Pack 2×2||Elimination kit||Permethrin|
|RID Complete Lice Elimination 3 Item Kit||Elimination kit||Pyrethrum extract|
| Licefreee ||Elimination kit||Sodium chloride, benzyl alcohol, and water. This homeopathic product is not effective|
|Nit Free Terminator||Metal||–|
|LiceGuard RobiComb||Electronic||It’s not effective|
|Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Creme Shampoo+ Conditioner||Preventive shampoo & conditioner||Rosemary, citronella, tea tree, mint, and sage and lemongrass oils |
Here are some lice prevention tips as per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: