The better and more thoroughly you treat an outbreak of lice, the less likely it is to become a recurring problem. Figuring out how to get rid of lice naturally takes some continuous effort, but so do conventional options. Plus when it comes to how to get rid of lice naturally, you may already have many of the ingredients you need on hand. Because of this, natural lice remedies can also be more cost-effective.
How to get rid of lice naturally pretty much always involves a fine tooth comb. Wet-combing is a natural lice remedy that you need to repeat every three to four days for a minimum of two weeks after you don’t see any lice present. How do you wet-comb for lice? The person with head lice needs to have their hair completely wet. It’s also a good idea to add some conditioner (ideally a natural anti-lice conditioner). Next, using a fine-tooth nit comb (available at stores and online for under five dollars) you need to comb the entire lice-infested scalp starting at the scalp to the hair ends. Conduct this careful combing at least two times during a session.
It’s important to know that if your child has lice and is only two months of age or less, then you should not use any medicated lice treatment products. Also, you should only use your hands and a fine-tooth comb to remove the lice. For a child of this age, wet-combing, as I just described, is recommended every three to four days for three weeks after the sighting of the last live louse.
2. Sanitize Brushes & Combs
When it comes to how to get rid of head lice, you definitely want to address the tools that have been used in a lice-ridden person’s hair, especially before and after wet-combing. So take all of the combs and brushes and wash them using very hot (130 degrees F at the lowest) water and soap. You can also soak the brushes and combs in rubbing alcohol for at least one hour. You can even do both the washing and the soaking if it makes you feel better. And to be on the safe side, include all the hair-styling tools in the household. Also include any and all objects that go into hair like barrettes, hair ties, headbands, etc.
3. Get Out the Vacuum
If you want to know how to get rid of lice naturally (or conventionally), you can’t focus only on the infected person and overlook their physical surroundings. Any good conventional or natural head lice treatment advice will include advising you to vacuum thoroughly and often during a lice outbreak and afterwards. You should give all of the floors and furniture in your home a good, thorough vacuuming. Vacuuming your furniture and floors can remove a lice-infested person’s hairs that could still have viable lice eggs attached and about to hatch. You also may want to cover furniture after vacuuming. You can use a plastic painter’s drop cloth to cover furniture for two weeks to prevent a reoccurrence of lice in your home.
4. Wash At-Risk Items
When you learn someone in your household has lice, you need to do more than just treat the lice on the person. You also need to make sure that you wash any items that could be contaminated with lice. Not only will this help naturally treat the current lice outbreak, but it will also prevent transfer of lice to someone else or reinfestation of the same person.
What are some of the items in your home you should make sure to wash? I’m talking about clothing, bedding, blankets (not just in the bedroom) and stuffed animals. To ensure that you thoroughly de-lice these various items, make sure that you wash them in soapy water that is very hot (at least 130 degrees F). Dry them at a high heat setting until thoroughly dry, with a minimum dry time of 20 minutes. If you have anything that you can’t wash, but you think could possibly be contaminated, you can seal these things in an airtight bag for at least two weeks. (7)
5. Natural Anti-Lice Hair Products
The hair products you choose for yourself and your children can contribute significantly to your efforts when it comes to how to get rid of lice naturally. There are natural options for anti-lice shampoo, conditioner and conditioning hair sprays on the market today. I recommend finding natural anti-lice hair products that score well on EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetic Database and using them as part of your lice treatment and prevention plan.
6. Lice-Killing Essential Oils
According to Mayo Clinic, clinical studies have demonstrated that some specific essential oils can have a toxic effect on lice and lice eggs. Some of top choices for anti-lice essential oils include tea tree essential oil, anise essential oil and ylang ylang essential oil. Lavender and eucalyptus essential oils also have been shown to be effective.
A 2010 study found that a topical lotion that contained 10 percent tea tree oil and one percent lavender oil resulted in a 97.6 percent elimination of lice after the final day of treatment. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of study subjects using a common conventional lice treatment containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide got rid of their head lice.
You can combine these lice-killing essentials oils with coconut oil for a natural anti-lice treatment. A study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics revealed that a combination of coconut oil and anise spray was a more effective natural alternative to permethrin lotion, a commonly prescribed lice treatment. While 82 percent of study subjects had success with the coconut anise mixture, only 42 percent of the permethrin users had relief.
Yet another study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal found even greater success using a combination that included coconut oil, anise oil and ylang ylang oil. This mixture was applied for 15 minutes at a time three times at five day intervals. This natural lice treatment was successful in 92.3 percent of the children and caused no serious side effects.
7. Oil/Smother Treatment
Many natural lice treatment plans will recommend using food items like mayonnaise and butter to smother lice. These can work. But, I recommend using something a little less messy and a lot less offensive to your sense of smell. I’m talking about multi-purpose oils like almond, coconut and olive.
First, coat the hair in the oil of choice.You can put the oil on your hair and comb it through. Or you can try coating the comb and putting it through your hair. Just choose whatever works best and gets your scalp and hair completely coated. Using hair clips, you may want to separate the hair into more manageable sections. Make sure to do this under good lighting. Rinse the comb frequently under very hot water as you’re working. Once you’ve combed out and coated all of the hair in oil, shampoo and rinse your child’s hair twice in a row. This approach is recommended every day for a week. For the two following weeks, continue to perform wet-combing (No.1 on this list) every night to make sure the lice are all gone.
8. Head Lice Coconut Oil + Essential Oil Treatment Recipe
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon each of ylang ylang, anise and tea tree oils (can swap for other anti-lice oils according to what you have on hand/what agrees with you or your child)
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
This should be enough for shoulder-length hair, but double the recipe for longer hair.
- Blend the coconut oil and essential oils together.
- Apply the oil mixture all over the scalp, massage in well and pull through the ends.
- Comb through the hair with a fine tooth comb.
- Cover head in a shower cap and allow to sit for 2 hours. If possible, sit in the sun or use a hair dryer to periodically warm up the cap.
- Carefully remove shower cap, and seal in a zip-lock bag for disposal.
- Comb hair again before washing and rinsing thoroughly, twice.
- While hair is still wet, combine 2 cups of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup water in a small spray bottle. Saturate the hair, spraying ½ the bottle on the scalp and hair.
- Lean over the sink and pour the remaining mixture over the hair, massaging lightly.
- Rinse thoroughly and comb hair once again with a fine tooth comb.
- Follow with a light application of coconut oil. Style as desired and allow to remain on the hair until next washing.
As with most lice treatments, you need to repeat the process every five to 10 days for a couple of weeks. This helps to ensure that you eradicate all lice and their eggs. Between treatments, comb hair morning and night with a fine tooth comb, and use coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner. As coconut oil both repels and kills lice, at the first notification of a lice outbreak, start using coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner.