Natural Treatment for Lice

Natural Treatment for Lice

I hope you don’t have to read this, because treating lice really sucks! I will try to make it as easy as I can, as I have tried many different strategies including using chemicals, essential oils, combing, and the suffocation method.  I definitely prefer the suffocation method, as it works great and it doesn’t involve using chemicals or the tiny nit comb (my kids hate that!) Studies have proven that it is just as effective as any chemical treatment, and that when done correctly the nit comb was not necessary.  This saves a lot of time!  There are two components to the treatment; the actual lice killing by suffocation and the house/ bedding clean up.  If only one child has confirmed lice I would still recommend treating everyone in the house. It can be hard to see lice in your child’s hair- looking in damp hair is a bit easier as they move slower.   Lice eggs can be identified vs dandruff as they are hard to remove from the hair, where dandruff comes off easily. 

Suffocation Method with Cetaphil cleanser

This is definitely my favorite way to kill lice. The treatment involves covering the scalp and hair with Cetaphil (face cleansing lotion), combing it out, and blow-drying the remaining lotion into the hair. The dry lotion stays on the hair overnight or for at least 8 hours.  The bugs get trapped in the lotion and the blow dryer bakes them.

Things You'll Need

  • Cetaphil Skin Cleanser, at least 24 ounces (generic is ok) 

  • 8-ounce applicator bottle, designed for use with hair products. (helpful but not essential) 

  • Hair comb (regular pocket comb plus a wide tooth if your child has longer hair) 

  • Bath towel and light coloured face cloth or hand towel

  • Blow dryer

Step 1

Place 8 ounces of Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser in a plastic applicator bottle.  The bottle comes with a hand pump which can also be used.  Add essential oils to the mix, 20-45 drops (optional - see below).  Drape a towel over the shoulder of the person before starting the treatment.

Step 2

Apply Cetaphil liberally to dry hair, using most or all of the 8 oz bottle. Massage well into the scalp. Be sure the Cetaphil is thoroughly and equally covering all areas of the scalp and hair.  Start at one side of the scalp and slowly move systematically through the whole head in a criss cross pattern.   The whole scalp must be completely covered. It takes a while to be thorough enough. When in doubt add more lotion. If your child has longer hair add more cleanser to the dispenser (another 4 oz) and do the ends until all hair is saturated. 

Step 3 

Use fingers to massage lotion into the scalp. Try not to tangle the hair

Step 4

Wait 2 minutes, then comb out as much of the excess Cetaphil as possible. Start with a wide tooth comb for longer hair and then do the pocket comb.  You can examine the combed out lotion to see if lice were actually present by rubbing the lotion onto a white cloth.  If you see any little black specks in the lotion, they are adult lice. The combing step is completed when you can't see any more cleanser coming off on the comb. Do a good job because the more lotion you remove with the comb the faster the blow-dry phase. After you are finished with the comb, clean it by soaking in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes, or put it through the dishwasher.  

Step 4

Using a hair dryer, thoroughly dry the hair. For this treatment to be effective, the entire scalp and hair must get completely dry, so the remaining cleanser dries onto the scalp and hair. Expect this process to take triple the time it usually takes to dry the hair.

Step 5

Leave the treatment on overnight, or for at least 8 hours. You may want to cover the hair with a shower cap. In the morning, shampoo and style hair as usual with a clean comb or brush.

Step 6

Repeat in 7 days, and again 7 days later. This is essential to disrupt the life cycle of the lice eggs which hatch every 7 to 10 days.  If you still feel itchy- don’t worry, it doesn’t mean it was not successful.  It can take a few days for the itch to settle even after the bugs are gone. 

Variations

  • I have also used conditioner when I didn’t have cetaphil, and it seemed to work fine. It’s cheaper too :) Some varieties do not blow dry as well as cetaphil.

  • I like to add essential oils to the cetaphil, for extra killing.    About 30 drops of tea tree / bottle of cleanser, or lavender if it is for a small child.  (optional)  

House clean up:  Lice can only live for 1-2 days while not on a host.  They are heat sensitive so using a hot dryer or the freezer will kill them/ remove eggs.  

Once a week: (same day as treatment)   Wash all the bedding, or at least put it in the dryer. I tend to change pillow cases more regularly, sometimes daily. 

Any clothes worn while doing the treatment and towels also need washing. I also put hats, helmets, jackets, favourite stuffies, and recently worn shirts/sweaters in the freezer for 2 days.  

Common mistakes to avoid:  Not using enough cleanser, not completely covering the scalp, not completely drying the lotion, and not repeating the treatment every 7 days.  If you are still finding adult bugs the second time I would repeat an extra time.

Good luck!!!

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