Home remedies for head lice
Lice are tiny insects that feed on human blood. Adult lice measure 2–3 millimeters in length and lay their eggs on hair, close to the skin.
They can infest pubic hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, though they most commonly live in the hair on the head.
As lice lay eggs that hatch quickly, an infestation can build up rapidly. Killing lice requires the elimination of both the insects and their eggs. If a person uses a treatment that does not kill the eggs, they will need to repeat it once the eggs have hatched.
Many people believe that home remedies can kill lice, eggs, or both. Below, learn about these remedies, as well as when to seek medical treatment and how to prevent lice from spreading.
- Anise oil
Anise oil may coat and suffocate lice. A 2018 study of natural remedies for lice in children found that anise oil was one of the most effective natural remedies.
Although other natural remedies were frequently effective, anise oil was one of just two that permanently eliminated lice. People who used other herbal remedies typically reported reinfestations within a couple of months.
- Olive oil
Olive oil offers similar benefits to anise oil, potentially suffocating lice and preventing them from coming back. Like anise oil, it ranked among the most effective remedies in the same 2018 study. People who want a highly effective home remedy should consider using olive oil and anise oil together.
Olive oil may have other benefits for the hair and scalp.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a popular treatment for dry skin and hair.
The researchers behind a 2010 study in Brazil explored the effects of several natural head lice remedies and compared the results with those of over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.
Of the tested remedies, the team found that pure coconut oil was the only effective treatment. Within 4 hours of applying the oil, an average of 80% of the head lice were dead.
The two most effective medicated shampoos killed 97.9% and 90.2% of lice in the same period.
- Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a popular home remedy for many skin conditions because of its antimicrobial properties.
In a 2010 study, researchers measured the effects of a tea tree and lavender oil blend on head lice in 42 people. After three treatments at weekly intervals, 41of the participants no longer had head lice. This success rate is comparable to that of many prescription and OTC treatments.
However, other research assessing tea tree oil as a treatment for head lice has found the remedy to be less effective. Also, tea tree oil can sometimes irritate the skin and may cause a rash or itchiness.
- Petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly may kill lice by suffocating the insects and possibly their eggs.
Petroleum jelly can be greasy and messy, and removing it may require repeated washings. However, for people with treatment-resistant lice or an allergy to lice shampoos, it may be an effective option.