personal care

A Natural Lice Treatment That is Effective and Frugal

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This natural lice treatment is effective and also happens to be the cheapest way to treat lice as well.

effective natural lice treatment

What started out as a good Monday morning, turned out to be lousy…literally.

Breakfast dishes cleared away, lunches made, bag packed, uniform on, teeth cleaned… we were walking out the door with time to spare when the my son said, ‘my head is itchy, mum.’

There they were, little bloodsuckers fleeing from the light of day (or so it seemed) as I parted his hair to have a look. And much to my son’s delight, a day off school while mama-monkey meticulously picked through his hair was in order.

I now fully appreciate the origin of the phrase ‘nit-picking’. At the end of the day, nothing gets those eggs out like mamma’s fingernails of death.

According to the Better Health website, head lice are very common and (fun fact) have been around so long, they predate human evolution. They are not fussy and don’t discriminate between heads. Despite old wives tale, it doesn’t matter how clean or dirty your hair is, if you rub heads with a lousy friend, you’ll probably become lousy yourself.

So once infested, how do you get rid of head lice?

Natural Lice Treatment that’s Frugal

I asked the experts on Facebook – aka mums – and the response was almost unanimous: avoid the expensive chemical treatments, the best way to treat head lice is the comb and conditioner method.

I have tried everything ever Sunday (at least) over approx. a 3 year period. Nothing is magical…I just consistently comb with conditioner now.” Anneka

And the official experts back up what mums know best. Numerous official websites including the NSW Department of Health website and the Victorian Better Health Channel argue that the comb and conditioner method is best for treating head lice.

[The comb and conditioner] method is the preferred way to detect and treat head lice because it is effective, does not contribute to insecticide resistance in head lice and also presents a low risk of skin irritation.” [source]

Chemical treatments are not always the easy or reliable solution we hope for because lice have built up a resistance to the chemicals and may not be killed.

Having said that, there natural solutions that do effectively kill head lice. This study shows tea tree oil to kill 100% of head lice in 30 minutes at a 1% dilution, which is the strength considered safe for kids over 6. It’s important to note that a very small number of people are allergic to certain essential oils, so it’s a good idea to do a patch test first.

Looking for a way to prevent head lice in the first place? Check out the article: Prevent Head Lice with a Natural No-Nit Hair Spray.

So what is the comb and conditioner method of lice removal?

This method of removal involves smothering the hair with a cheap conditioner and then combing the lice and nits (eggs) out meticulously with a special nit comb.

What you need:

  • Cheap white conditioner, natural conditioner or coconut oil
  • A regular comb
  • A nit comb
  • Tea Tree oil (optional)

How to do it:

  1. Apply cheap conditioner or coconut oil to dry hair. If you’re using tea tree oil, add a few drops to the conditioner and mix together in the palm of your hand. 5 drops per 25mls of conditioner will give you a safe 1% dilution. When applying the conditioner, make sure you get right down to the scalp where the lice like to hide and feed and really smother the hair with conditioner.
  2. Leave the conditioner in for at least 10 minutes. The conditioner does not actually kill the lice, but stuns them and prevents the lice from being able to grab onto the hair, making for easier removal. If you use tea tree oil, it may kill the lice.
  3. Use a normal, everyday comb to detangle hair and separate into sections.
  4. Then, using the fine-toothed nit comb, comb each section, right from the roots of the hair to the tips. Wipe the conditioner onto a paper towel or tissue after each comb. Use a white tissue so you can see the lice and eggs. Keep combing each section of hair until no more lice or eggs appear on the tissue. This takes a while, so sit your child down on a low stool in front of you and let them watch a DVD or play a game while you nit-pick.
  5. Repeat this process every couple of days until no nits and lice remain. This can take up to 2 weeks as eggs that may have been missed (small, sticky little things they are) hatch and the cycle starts again.

This isn’t a quick-fix solution, but it’s the most effective and it can save you potentially hundreds of dollars on chemical products that don’t always work.

What about treating bedding, hats etc. for Lice?

If you’re thinking the next step is to sanitize your whole home from top to bottom, you can breathe a sigh of relief because the experts advise this is unnecessary.

Research suggests that bed linen, hats, clothing and furniture do not harbour or transmit lice or nits and that there is no benefit in washing them as a treatment option. Nits and lice only live on the human head. They quickly dehydrate and die if removed from the head.” [source]

Although other sources suggest washing pillowcases and towels of those who have head lice, as well as any combs and brushes used.

Preventing Head Lice

While you may not be able to completely avoid head lice, you can reduce the likelihood of getting them by tying hair back and checking hair regularly.

Check, check, check hair daily or weekly – make it part of your hair washing routine.

You can use a natural DIY anti-nit spray to help deter head lice, or you can add tea tree oil to your regular shampoo.

Check out the Facebook post for other great tips and tricks that Frugal and Thriving readers have tried for getting rid of hair lice and share your own tips and success stories.

Get rid of head lice without spending a heap of money on chemicals with this natural and effective head lice treatment.

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15 Comments

  1. Another helpful thing to know is that the lice eggs hatch in about 7 days, and then it takes about another week for them to be mature enough to breed themselves. So you can just do the conditioner treatment once a week for three weeks in a row, and you should get all the bugs, then all the eggs that have hatched, then any you may have missed, and have ‘broken the cycle’ of reproduction. If you find any lice on the third week, just repeat the following week. Of course, it’s hard to resist having another go at the little buggers before that first week is up! And squishing the eggs with your fingernails is awfully satisfying.

  2. I am curious about something I read online and wonder if anyone has ever used it? It is simply to brush the hair to get rid of lice. The brushing everyday for a month breaks the legs apparently, and the lice cannot get to each other to breed. It might be worth trying, as it is easier than most other methods.

    1. Yes, this can work but you have to use a metal comb I think. I found with the plastic nit comb, the lice clings to the dry hair fairly successfully.

  3. The last time we had head lice break out at my son’s school I just sprayed his scalp and his hats with my homemade insect repellant, which has tea tree, citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, lavender and sage essential oils in witch hazel. He has never gotten lice.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      I know right, my head is itching too :).

      Thanks for your comment. Hope you’re having a great day.

    2. This is my to go method and it always work for us.. Sadly we encountered lice the first week of camp grr.. also I recommend using a clear bowl of water to rinse your comb and you’ll be surprised that when u pick up and look at the bottom you’ll see all of them in there!

  4. Coconut oil is fabulous too! Keep it in overnight. Or 12 hours. Wash hair and use lots conditioner and run through with a nit comb.

  5. This article and comments were extremely informative, thank you. I have very long hair and fear I have some nits. I cannot use toxic chemicals. I will dothis treatment along with the use of Tea Tree E.O.. I am interested the combination of your Essential Oils that you used .

    1. So glad I found this site. I think ive been battling head lice for 4 months. I treat my head and my husband has a long ponytail. He thinks im freakin nutz.

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