The head louse is an external parasite that makes its home on the scalp. Contrary to popular belief, the presence of head lice — pediculosis — does not suggest poor hygiene habits. Lice are easily spread from person to person, meaning that if you come into direct contact with someone who has lice, you are likely to get lice yourself. Head lice can live up to 30 days on a host. During that time, they will feed on the host’s blood and lay eggs, called nits. A lice infestation is unpleasant, but the harsh, chemical-based treatments commercially available can be just as bad. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, children and babies, and those who prefer natural alternatives can try home remedies for lice, instead.
Almond or Olive oil
Olive and almond oils act as sedatives on lice. They can slow the bugs and weaken them, making them easier to remove from the scalp and hair. Smother your head and hair with oil, then either use a nit comb right away or leave the oil in overnight by wrapping your head in a towel or shower cap. Letting the oil sit overnight will have a greater effect on the lice and make them easier to remove in the morning. Whether you immediately comb the hair or wait overnight, thoroughly rinse the comb after running it through each section of hair. Afterward, shampoo and rinse the hair twice. Repeat this process every day for one week.
Tea Tree Oil
Essential oils are a great, natural way to deal with head lice. Oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, nutmeg, clove, neem, and lavender oil can all have positive effects, but tea tree oil is a well-known natural lice treatment and is a common ingredient in commercial products. For a home remedy, add three to ten drops of essential oil to three ounces of olive oil. Massage this into the scalp and leave for a minimum of 12 hours. Comb and shampoo twice.
This vegetable oil is native to India and acts as a natural insecticide, helping kill lice in every stage of their life cycle. You can find a commercial shampoo containing neem oil or make your own by adding a few drops of pure neem oil to an existing shampoo. Use this mixture to wash the hair, then rinse and towel dry. Comb pure neem oil through the hair, wrap your head in plastic wrap or a shower cap and leave the oil in overnight, then wash and comb hair in the morning. Repeat this daily for two weeks.
Garlic and Lime
Garlic and lime paste is a great home remedy. Grinding ten garlic cloves and mixing them with three teaspoons of lime juice creates a solution that will kill the lice and, ideally, make them detach from the scalp and hair. After leaving the mixture in for about half an hour, thoroughly rinse with hot water. Garlic can also benefit lice treatment when added to olive oil, shampoo, or conditioner, or mixed with green tea and lemon. Repeat weekly to make sure no eggs remain.
A common balm for chapped skin, petroleum jelly can suffocate lice. This method is for the committed, though, as the greasy substance can be very difficult to remove from the hair. To use, apply a large amount to the scalp and work through. Cover the head with a towel or shower cap and leave in overnight. The next morning, wash out the jelly using baby oil, then comb with a nit comb to remove the suffocated lice and nits.
Coconut Oil or Mayonnaise
The oily nature of coconut oil and mayonnaise can stop lice from moving and multiplying. It can also suffocate the lice to make them easier to remove. Begin by rinsing the hair with apple cider vinegar to stun the lice. Then, cover the scalp and hair with coconut oil or mayo. Wrap the head in a towel or shower cap for eight hours or overnight. In the morning, comb out the substance along with the dead lice and nits, then shampoo. Repeat daily for one week.
Salt and Vinegar
A straightforward and non-greasy combo to help eradicate lice is salt and white vinegar. Mix a quarter of a cup of salt to one and a quarter cups of vinegar in a spray bottle. Dampen the scalp and hair, then let it soak under a shower cap for two hours before washing and conditioning as normal. Repeat this process every three days. This remedy helps kill nits only, so you may need to add oil to help suffocate and kill the adult lice.
Baby Oil and White Vinegar
Baby oil suffocates lice while still being kind to your hair and scalp. White vinegar is a bit like a cleanser, helping to remove lice or nits from where they are attached to the hair and scalp. Apply a generous amount of baby oil to the hair and comb through thoroughly. Most of the lice will fall off at this stage. Shampoo and rinse, towel dry, then add white vinegar to damp hair. Wrap up your head and leave the vinegar in overnight. In the morning, shampoo and rinse normally.
Those who prefer not to put any products on their scalp or hair can turn to the tried-and-true method of removing lice with a comb specially designed with thin, close-set teeth that can catch both bugs and eggs. Always rinse the comb after every sweep, or the lice may be replaced on the hair. Wetting and conditioning the hair first will make this process even easier. This is a safe method for young children and anyone with sensitivities or allergies to oils or other products. The only drawback is that it takes a long time to comb out the individual nits and adult lice.
Prevent Infestation at Home
In addition to removing lice and eggs from the hair, all products that may have come into contact with the affected person’s hair need to be cleaned, as well. This includes bed linens, soft toys, cushions, throw pillows, car seat covers, and clothing. Additionally, wash brushes and combs daily. If an item cannot be washed by hand or machine, seal it in a plastic bag for two weeks to starve and suffocate the lice. Afterward, shake the item to dislodge any remaining insects.