One of the worst feelings in normal daily life has got to be when one of your kids comes home from school scratching their head.
I know there are lots of far worse things that can happen, but the prospect of dealing with an outbreak of head lice just fills me with dread.
The constant combing, the constant fights about the constant combing, the extra washing, separate towels, the constant reminders not to share hair brushes…it just adds to the list of daily chores.
It’s not just children, either. The trend of taking selfies requires us grown-ups to get more up close and personal, and this gives head lice the ideal opportunity to find a new host.
Lice have been around for a very long time. In fact, archaeologists have reported finding head lice in the remains of human hair which was found to be nine thousand years old. Head lice and pubic lice were also found in the mummy of Ferdinand II, King of Naples from 1467 to 1496.
What we really need to know here is the best way to deal with lice. Read on to discover more about these tiny little creatures and which shampoos are most effective in helping to get rid of them once and for all!
Head Lice ShampooClick for price
- OUR TEA TREE OIL SHAMPOO FOR HEAD LICE PREVENTION FOR KIDS relies on natural ingredients, no harsh chemicals, to eradicate...
- ROSEMARY ESSENTIAL OIL FOR HAIR LOSS treatment for women & men repels lice as it improves your hair and stops shedding. Our...
- TEA TREE LAVENDER SHAMPOO HEAD LICE REPELLENT SHAMPOO leaves your hair smelling fresh for you as it calms & soothes your...
LICE NO MORE
Lice Shampoo & ConditionerClick for price
- Lice Killing Shampoo & Conditioner in one Lice Treatment (includes lice comb)
- Maximum Strength Lice Treatment for Human use
- Eliminate Lice from your family & home
Lice & Nit ShampooClick for price
- Full Strength Application for 100% Removal of Resistant Super Lice and Nits
- All in One Pesticide Free 15 Minute Application in a Family Sized Bottle ( up to 6-9 uses per bottle).
- Clinically Tested in 3 Countries, Hypoallergenic & Safe for Hair, Skin and Eyes.
Lice Killing ShampooClick for price
- AMERICA'S #1 LICE BRAND: For more than 10 years, RID Lice Killing Shampoo has been a proven, effective treatment for removing...
- SHAMPOO: RID Lice Killing shampoo and conditioner treatment is easy to use and proven effective.
- APPLY TO DRY HAIR: For the most effective treatment, read and follow the package directions carefully.
Natural Lice ShampooClick for price
- NON TOXIC AND SAFE - Mom approved and pediatrician recommended for kids over the age of two, this non-toxic lice treatment...
- EASY TO USE - Simply massage into the hair and scalp for 15 minutes. Detangle hair with comb or brush to ensure total...
- IT WORKS - LiceLogic naturally destroys head lice, nits, and eggs for kids and adults. Use it until the lice infestation is...
What Are Lice?
Lice are very small insects that live in human hair whenever they get the chance. Adult head lice are approximately the size of a sesame seed.
There are several different species of lice, but the particular species that prefers to live in human hair is exclusive to humans. This video gives a great insight into lice:
Female adult lice are generally brown in color, but they may have a reddish color when seen shortly after feeding. The eggs they lay can range from transparent or white to a sandy or light brown color.
The female louse lays her eggs, or nits, near the roots of the hair, attaching them to the hair shaft with the lice equivalent of Super Glue—they’re very hard to remove from the hair without a special fine-tooth nit comb.
The good news about head lice is that unlike body lice, they don’t carry any diseases that are harmful to our health. Head lice are also not a result of poor hygiene; they are equally happy living in clean or dirty hair.
How Are Lice Transmitted?
Lice can’t fly or jump; they’re transmitted through direct contact. Just one case of head lice can cause a large scale infestation in families and schools if not treated appropriately.
This is a real issue for many parents because children tend to have lots of head to head contact with each other. Some experts, however, say that it’s an increasing problem in teenagers, too.
Marcy McQuillan, a head lice expert who runs two head lice removal clinics in California, told Time magazine that she has seen a dramatic increase in head lice cases in teenagers in the last few years. McQuillan thinks this is linked to the popular trend of taking selfies.
Taking selfies is not only limited to teenagers, though. I’d struggle to think of anyone of my friends who hasn’t appeared in some kind of selfie in the last couple of years.
So this is perhaps something which we all need to be aware of and understand the possible implications of selfies and other activities that require us to come into close contact with others.
That just leaves the problem of how to deal with asking someone you’re just about to take a selfie with whether or not they’ve got head lice…getting your magnifying glass out is not likely to be taken very well by most people!
Sharing personal items like hairbrushes and combs, hats, baseball caps and headbands and other accessories is another way in which adult lice and eggs can be transferred to a new host.
Making sure everyone in your family has their own hairbrush, and doesn’t share any of these items is a good way to avoid transferring head lice to other people.
What Happens if Lice Aren’t Treated?
Head lice progress through three life stages. The egg, once laid, incubates in the warmth of the scalp and hatches eight or nine days later.
The nymph, or baby louse emerges from the egg casing, which can remain stuck to the hair shaft and move further away from the scalp as the hair grows. The nymph matures for around 12 days before becoming an adult.
The adult stage of a louse’s life, which can be anywhere from 10 to 40 days, is focused on eating and reproducing.
When one female adult louse is fertilized by a male louse (one male can fertilize up to 18 females in a day), the female louse lays up to 10 eggs a day. Head lice continue to mate sporadically throughout their life.
If one female is transferred to a new host and lays 10 eggs on the first day, the chances are that you probably won’t spot the adult female or one of the 10 eggs, so she can go about her business as usual.
By the time the first eggs are hatched and the new nymphs have matured to adults, the original adult will have laid around 200 eggs. Once the first batch of new female adults start laying eggs, there’s going to be more than 50 new louse eggs laid per day, with an extra 50 or more added each time a new batch of eggs from the original female hatches and matures.
Once the ‘grandchildren’ of the original adult start to lay eggs, numbers of live lice and eggs start to rise rapidly, and can end up in severe infestations like this one (warning—don’t watch this if you’re eating…):
What Are the Symptoms of Head Lice?
It’s possible to have head lice and experience no symptoms at all, so it’s extremely important to check all family members regularly.
Things like dandruff, specs of dust and dirt, and flakes that form from build-up of products such as hairspray can be mistaken for lice eggs, and can make a correct diagnosis difficult.
People with head lice often experience itching, and this can be one of the first signs, particularly if the itching is concentrated around the nape of the neck and behind the ears.
There can be a sensation of things moving in the hair. The lice are more active when it’s dark, and this can cause difficulty with sleeping, and the affected person can become tired and irritable.
Some people can have an allergic reaction to the head lice bites. This can cause extreme itchiness, and sores on the scalp to develop. One of the few complications of having head lice is that the sores can become infected.
As the symptoms of having head lice can be subtle until the numbers of lice start to grow, it’s extremely important to educate your family members on what to look for. It’s also essential to know how to check for head lice properly.
How to Check for Head Lice
To diagnose head lice, there are steps you need to follow to increase your chances of seeing and identifying live adult lice and eggs. We’ve put together a guide of how to check for lice correctly.
Find a comfortable place for the affected person to sit. You need to be able to move around the person freely to check specific areas.
Make sure you have lots of natural light so you clearly see the hair roots and scalp.
The adult lice move quickly, and will try to hide in the hair roots when they’re exposed. This means you need to be fast and focused when checking for lice. A magnifying glass may help.
Observe the Scalp
Part the hair and have a good look at the scalp. Observe the hair roots, looking for the eggs. If you see something you suspect to be an egg, try to remove it with your fingers. If it’s very difficult to remove, it’s highly likely that it’s a lice egg.
Keep parting the hair in different direction, concentrating first on the areas behind the ears and around the back of the head and gradually working your way across the whole scalp.
Each time you part the hair, look at the area from different angles to help identify eggs and increasing the chances of seeing the live adults.
Head Lice Shampoos and Nit Combs
These products are designed to use either chemicals or natural substances to kill the adult and nymph lice.
Because the egg casing provides a protective layer for the baby louse inside many head lice shampoos, including the ones that use pyrethrins as the active ingredient, don’t kill the eggs.
For this reason head lice shampoos are intended for use in conjunction with a head lice comb. This is a special comb with very fine teeth which pull the eggs, and the adult lice, out of the hair.
The comb can be difficult to pull through the hair, especially with long hair. Nit combs can be used on wet hair, and it can help to comb the hair through with conditioner still in it, particularly for those with long hair.
It’s best to detangle the hair with a wide toothed comb first, then separate the hair into small sections. The nit comb needs to go through each strand of hair from root to the end; otherwise adult lice can avoid the comb and eggs may be left on the hair strands.
Treatment of head lice with a shampoo that doesn’t kill the eggs relies on eradicating the adult lice with the first treatment, then combing out the majority of the eggs.
It’s possible, though, that some eggs can remain in the hair, and we know that if only a couple of them hatch, the whole problem is likely to start all over again.
To prevent this from happening, many head lice shampoos require a second treatment around 10 days after the first application. This allows enough time for any of the eggs left behind in the hair to hatch, but the nymphs which emerge from the eggs are not mature enough to lay new eggs.
This means that the second application should kill all of the remaining live adult lice, and there shouldn’t be any more eggs left unhatched.
Natural Head Lice Shampoos
Many people like the idea of using health care products with natural ingredients. Some prefer to do so to protect the environment, others choose natural products to minimize the amount of harsh chemicals on their skin and hair.
This is completely understandable; many of the chemical based head lice treatments are based on chemicals such as pyrethrins, permethrin and DEET.
While unlikely to cause problems in very low doses, permethrin is actually a neurotoxin, and pyrethrin can cause skin irritation, headaches, nausea, tingling of the extremities and other nervous system problems.
There’s a concern for some people, however, that products based on natural ingredients may not be as effective as products that contain chemicals.
Well, it really depends on the ingredients in each individual product. What we do know, however, is that head lice are becoming increasingly resistant to some of the chemicals that have been used to treat them.
On the other hand, some natural ingredients have been proven to be very effective in killing head lice, and some of the natural remedies have been around for a very long time. The ancient Greeks, for example, noted the effectiveness of cedarwood oil in dealing with head lice.
One research trial found tea tree oil to be 100 percent effective at killing head lice when a 1 percent solution of tea tree oil was applied to the lice for 30 minutes.
The research also found that a 2 percent solution of tea tree oil also caused 50 percent of lice eggs not to hatch.
Further research has also indicated that several essential oils, including tea tree, eucalyptus, marjoram, pennyroyal and rosemary were more effective than two of the most common chemicals used to treat head lice.
Other oils, including sage, cade, clove bud, lavender, myrtle and rosewood were all just as effective as the chemical treatments.
One thing to note for the sake of safety, though, is that you shouldn’t just go out and buy these oils and apply them to hair as a DIY treatment. Many essential oils, including those mentioned here, are very powerful and can have detrimental side effects, especially if too much is used.
So natural treatments can be very effective in getting rid of head lice problem, but the best plan is to use a preparation that has been developed by experts—whether that’s a local aromatherapy practitioner or a store-bought product that contains essential oils.
Make Sure You Banish All the Lice
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adult lice can survive for one to two days without food if they fall off the scalp.
Lice eggs are unable to hatch unless they’re maintained in optimum conditions—they need the warmth of the scalp to incubate and develop before they’re able to hatch.
The CDC doesn’t advise going as far as fumigating your home. It says that the routine cleaning of items in your home like rugs, carpets and other fabrics such as car seats is important, though, as live adults can survive in fabrics, and re-attach to the original host or find a new home in a second head!
Equally, laundering bed linen and any other fabrics the affected person has used within the last two days, such as towels, and clothes is very important to make sure none of the miniature monsters are lying in wait for you or any other members of your family.
Research indicates that washing bed linen on a regular hot wash and drying in a hot clothes dryer will kill any live lice. The hot wash must be over 60 degrees, and clothes and other fabrics, such as bed linen need to be in a hot clothes dryer for more than 15 minutes to be effective.
Precautions for Use
It’s important to follow the correct procedure when using treatment for head lice. Here are our top tips for making sure you get rid of the little critters safely.
Firstly, do not use any treatment for head lice unless you’re sure they’re present. Most treatments contain harsh chemicals which you don’t want to expose your hair and scalp to unless it’s absolutely necessary.
To check whether or not head lice are present, follow our guide to checking for head lice effectively. If you can’t identify any adult lice or eggs, don’t proceed with any head lice treatment, seek advice from your medical practitioner instead.
It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instruction to the letter, even if you’ve used the same product in the past, and think you know how to use it correctly. The manufacturer might have had to change the ingredients of their product for some reason and this could potentially mean they also changed the usage instructions. Reading or rereading the complete instructions is the best way to make sure you maximize your chances of success.
Don’t leave head lice treatments in contact with the hair and scalp for longer than the period of time specified by the manufacturer. This can cause skin irritation.
With all head lice treatments, including the natural ones, make sure eyes are protected from the shampoo. A face cloth or small towel will do the job nicely during application.
Have the person being treated close their eyes while rinsing the product out of the hair, and if any of the shampoo does get into the eyes, rinse thoroughly with clean running water.
All of the head lice treatment shampoos—again, including the natural ones—contain potent substances that are aimed at killing a living organism. If anyone happens to ingest any of the shampoo, it’s best to contact a poison control center, or your medical practitioner, for help and advice.
These kinds of products can cause skin irritation. If the person being treated experiences any redness, inflammation, an increase in the amount of itching, or any open sores, contact your medical practitioner immediately.
Head lice can also affect eyebrows and eyelashes. If these areas are affected, do not attempt to treat them yourself; seek medical advice.
Once you’ve eliminated all of the head lice, keep doing regular checks on all family members. This is important, as head lice can re-infest anyone at any time.
There are head lice repellent products, such as shampoos and leave-in sprays, which many people report are effective in preventing re-infestations.
What Is the Best Shampoo for Lice?
Hunting high and low through many different head lice shampoos, we’ve chosen five of the best products for closer inspection. We chose a range of different products, some which use traditional chemicals and others natural shampoos which contain no harsh chemicals.
There should be something here for everyone. Have a look through the good and bad points for each product to choose the shampoo that’s best suited to your needs. This shampoo offers a natural solution to head lice using tea tree, rosemary and lavender essential oils, which we know from research are highly effective lice killing agents. Most users reported that this shampoo worked very well for them, although a minority of people disagreed. Many people found this shampoo very soothing, which helped with the itching, and most found their hair and scalp were in great condition after use. Interestingly, people also use this shampoo to stop re-infestation, and reported that it works as a preventative measure too! As the least expensive product we reviewed, users also thought this shampoo was great value. This shampoo was very popular with users, who found it much more effective than alternative products they’d tried. People also found it didn’t dry their hair out. Some users noticed a big reduction in symptoms right after the first treatment. A couple of people found this shampoo didn’t improve their symptoms, but the general consensus from users was that this product is effective, easy and pleasant to use. A lot of users commented on the low price; reporting excellent value for money. People generally loved this shampoo, especially for the fact that it’s more natural and non-toxic. Most users found it to be easy to use, highly effective and gentle on the hair. Some users reported seeing dead adult lice dropping from the hair when rinsing the shampoo out. A minority of users were disappointed with their results, and others commented on the unpleasant smell. The only other drawback is that there’s no comb included. This was one of the less expensive products we reviewed, and many people commented on the great value for money. This is a well-known brand in the head lice shampoo market. It’s part of a range of products from this manufacturer, which also includes a lice and egg comb-out spray and a home lice spray. The vast majority of people found this shampoo easy to use and were impressed at its effectiveness. The two treatments, seven to 10 days apart was very successful. The only downsides were that a small number of users noticed dandruff in their hair following treatment, and the treatment wasn’t effective for a few people. In general, however, most people thought this shampoo was a good-quality product, and offered good value for money. This shampoo really got people talking. Most were very impressed with the effectiveness of this shampoo. Some people found that as well as killing the adult lice and loosening the eggs from the hair shafts, this shampoo really helped improve dandruff symptoms and the condition of the scalp and hair. One or two users reported this shampoo didn’t work for them, but the vast majority of people loved it, and found it worked very well. Although this shampoo is more expensive than others we reviewed, most people thought it was well worth the money.
Active ingredients: tea tree
rosemary and lavender essential oils.
No harsh chemicals.
Improves hair condition.
Prevents hair shedding.
Soothes and hydrates the scalp.
Not effective for a minority of users.
Active ingredients: piperonyl butoxide
Made in the US.
Kills live lice and removes eggs.
Includes lice comb.
For people over two years old.
Leaves hair soft.
One or two people found it didn’t improve symptoms.
Softens and dissolves nit glue.
Suitable for children and adults.
No artificial colors.
Animal cruelty free.
Gentle on the scalp.
Nit comb not included.
A few users found this shampoo ineffective.
Active ingredients: piperonyl butoxide
Kills live lice and removes eggs.
Includes lice comb.
Safe for use on anyone over two years old.
Leaves hair soft.
No heavy chemical smell.
A minority of users reported dandruff as a side effect.
A few users found it didn’t work for them..
Active ingredients: enzyme blend
essential oils and extracts.
Made in the US.
Kills live lice
helps to remove eggs.
Safe to use on children.
Suitable for vegans.
Not tested on animals.
Leaves hair well conditioned.
Invigorating peppermint fragrance.
No nit comb included.
One or two people found this shampoo didn’t work for them.
This shampoo offers a natural solution to head lice using tea tree, rosemary and lavender essential oils, which we know from research are highly effective lice killing agents. Most users reported that this shampoo worked very well for them, although a minority of people disagreed.
Many people found this shampoo very soothing, which helped with the itching, and most found their hair and scalp were in great condition after use.
Interestingly, people also use this shampoo to stop re-infestation, and reported that it works as a preventative measure too! As the least expensive product we reviewed, users also thought this shampoo was great value.
This shampoo was very popular with users, who found it much more effective than alternative products they’d tried. People also found it didn’t dry their hair out. Some users noticed a big reduction in symptoms right after the first treatment.
A couple of people found this shampoo didn’t improve their symptoms, but the general consensus from users was that this product is effective, easy and pleasant to use. A lot of users commented on the low price; reporting excellent value for money.
People generally loved this shampoo, especially for the fact that it’s more natural and non-toxic. Most users found it to be easy to use, highly effective and gentle on the hair. Some users reported seeing dead adult lice dropping from the hair when rinsing the shampoo out.
A minority of users were disappointed with their results, and others commented on the unpleasant smell. The only other drawback is that there’s no comb included. This was one of the less expensive products we reviewed, and many people commented on the great value for money.
This is a well-known brand in the head lice shampoo market. It’s part of a range of products from this manufacturer, which also includes a lice and egg comb-out spray and a home lice spray.
The vast majority of people found this shampoo easy to use and were impressed at its effectiveness. The two treatments, seven to 10 days apart was very successful.
The only downsides were that a small number of users noticed dandruff in their hair following treatment, and the treatment wasn’t effective for a few people. In general, however, most people thought this shampoo was a good-quality product, and offered good value for money.
This shampoo really got people talking. Most were very impressed with the effectiveness of this shampoo. Some people found that as well as killing the adult lice and loosening the eggs from the hair shafts, this shampoo really helped improve dandruff symptoms and the condition of the scalp and hair.
One or two users reported this shampoo didn’t work for them, but the vast majority of people loved it, and found it worked very well. Although this shampoo is more expensive than others we reviewed, most people thought it was well worth the money.
All of the products we reviewed were effective in helping to manage head lice for most people. However, in our opinion, the best of the best when it comes to lice shampoo is the Tea Tree and Rosemary Head Lice Treatment Shampoo.
Like most users, we loved the fact that this is a natural shampoo, and most people found it to be very effective at killing lice. Almost all users commented on the nice scent of this shampoo, and many people continued using it even after lice had been eradicated. They found it worked well in preventing recurrence of lice.
A few users reported this shampoo didn’t work for them, which is a shame. We’d advise, as always, to follow the manufacturer’s instruction to the letter. This is the best way of ensuring you achieve optimum results.
So we did the math: add the really great value for money of this shampoo to the excellent performance for most users, subtract any harsh chemicals and divide the head lice by the natural active ingredients in this product.
It doesn’t take a math genius to work out that this shampoo will help keep a few extra cents in your pocket while not giving the head lice any chance to multiply!