Don't feel discouraged or alone if your children happen to bring home some unwanted visitors. Even Madonna had lice problems with her kids.
The first time my daughter and I ended up with lice we just used the chemical concoction that the pharmacist recommended. The smell was awful and it burned our scalps. At the time I had no idea that lice could actually be treated naturally. The next time my daughter had lice in her hair, we used natural solutions to get rid it. It required a bit more work, but we all agreed that it was healthier and less painful.
I will now pass on our family's natural solutions for getting rid of lice, because I wouldn't want any other family to feel they have no choice but to use chemicals on their children's heads.
Natural Solution #1: Tea Tree Oil
The first and best weapon against lice and nits is tea tree oil. I purchased the shampoo that has tea tree oil in it, but I didn't find it very effective. What I recommend is purchasing a bottle of pure essential tea tree oil and adding it to your shampoo.
You should NOT use tea tree oil in just any kind of shampoo that is conditioning or is a 2 in 1 with conditioner in it. Why? Because when you go to try to remove the nits with either your fingers or a comb, you'll be sliding right over them and they will be even more difficult to remove off the hair shaft. Do not condition your hair after washing with the tea tree oil shampoo mixture!
How much should you use? Pour out in your hand the usual amount of shampoo you would use to lather your hair and then add 10 drops of tea tree oil.
How long should you lather? Here is another step that people are not aware of! You must lather your hair for10 minutes if possible. 5 minutes is the minimum. I know, my arms got tired too. Take a break when you need to, and let the shampoo mixture sit in your hair for a few extra minutes if you find lathering for that long too tiring. I recommend doing this in the bathtub so you won't end up running out of hot water in the shower. Repeat again in 12 hours. Repeat in 7-10 days.
Natural Solution #2: Olive Oil
Olive oil is excellent for removing the bugs (name: louse, and they are lousy!) from the hair. This treatment works for minor and severe infestations.
The best olive oil to use is light, not virgin or extra virgin because it doesn't have as strong of a smell. If extra-virgin is all you have, then that's ok too. It doesn't make a difference where the lice are concerned, only if you don't like smelling like salad dressing.
You must apply the olive oil very liberally to the entire scalp area and completely saturate the entire hair shaft. (You may want to use an old towel to protect your clothes from the oil, or wear a tank top). Basically, your hair should be dripping with olive oil. Depending on the length of your hair, you may end up using quite a bit. If you don't like the feeling of cold oil on your head (we all found it soothing, but everyone is different) then pour approxiamately 1/2 cup of oil in a microwave safe container and heat for 20 seconds.
After you have applied the oil, pile your hair on top of your head and wrap it with either plastic wrap, or use a plastic bag. Make sure that the plastic is tight against your hair and there is no air in between. Leave on for an hour, 2 hours is best.
Repeat in 3 days, and then again in 3 more days.
You'll find something really cool happens while your hair is under the plastic. The combination of heat and oil causes all the little louses to scurry to the outside of your hair away from your scalp and you should be able to pick them off easily. If possible, use a really good nit comb to go through your hair completely afterwards to catch any bugs that didn't make it to the top.
How to wrap hair in plastic
Natural Solution #3: Vinegar
White vinegar works best for making it easier to remove the nits from your hair.
After rinsing out the shampoo in your hair with water, use a pure vinegar rinse on your hair. I should warn you, it's very strong and I found that having hot water in the shower while I rinsed made the vinegar smell even more intense. I recommend setting your shower temperature to just warm or temporarily stopping the flow of your shower. Do not rinse your hair out with water after you have rinsed with vinegar!
Have a small, flat container close by that you can pour some white vinegar in. This is what you will use to dip your nit comb or whatever comb you are using into the vinegar. Keep the comb moist with vinegar as you work through the hair. The vinegar acts as a glue remover for the nits and makes it easier to remove them.
The best comb for removing nits is similar to the one shown in the Amazon picture. You can find one like this in your drugstore and it is more effective than an ordinary comb.
Natural Solution #4: Henna
When I was pregnant and while breastfeeding I used henna to colour my hair and to get rid of the lice that ended up in my hair from my older daughter.
Henna on it's own will get rid of lice, but is best if used in combination with fenugreek or artemisia. For difficult infestations, add 25g or artemisia or fenugreek per 100g of henna. Use body art quality henna.
WARNING: Do not use artemisia if you are pregnant or breastfeeding! It is recommended that you do not use henna on a child under the age of 12, and never henna your child's hair without first consulting with their physician to determine if the child has G6PD deficiency.
One of the reasons henna works on lice is because the henna powder is mixed with an acidic solution such as pure lemon juice, orange juice or vinegar. This acidity helps to dissolve the sticky glue on the nits attached to your hair shaft. The mud-like solution is applied to the hair and then covered in plastic wrap. You must leave it in your hair for at least 3 hours.
The gritty/sandy texture of the henna acts as an abrasive on your hair that helps remove the nits in your hair like a fine-tooth comb, getting rid of nits you may not otherwise be able to find with just a comb. Also, the muddy, sticky texture of the henna makes it prefect for smothering any live bugs roaming around on your scalp.
Natural Solution #5: The Robi Comb
I realize that the Robi Comb isn't what you would call "natural" but because it doesn't use any chemicals and it's completely safe for anyone, including kids, I figured it was worth adding. My daughter used it on her hair and it worked great.
The downside to this product is that it seems to work best on thick hair or hair that is isn't fine. My daughter has thick hair and it worked perfectly for her. My hair is fine and it didn't seem to do anything.
My Recommendation for Stubborn Lice or Severe Infestations
The best thing you can do is use a combination of the solutions listed above. I would begin by using tea tree oil in the shampoo, rinsing with vinegar and then shampoo again in 12 hours, followed by another vinegar rinse. Either the next day or the day after use the olive oil treatment to remove the louse from the hair. Repeat the oil treatment in 3 days.
The best thing you can do is thoroughly go through your child's hair or your own hair every day to remove nits. The first day will take the longest, but each day afterwards will take less and less time. Patience and persistence will be your greatest ally against lice.
To Prevent Another Infestation of Head Lice
There are some important actions you can take to ensure that once the lice are gone, they stay gone:
- Thouroughly vacumm your carpets, furniture such as sofas and chairs, curtains and mattresses
- Wash all clothing and bedding in hot water and dry on the hottest cycle on your dryer.
- Either toss out or soak all combs and brushes in boiling water with a few drops of tea trea oil. Be sure to remove any hair still attached to the combs or brushes first.
© 2010 Carolyn Dahl
Sneha Bhat from India on July 01, 2020:
Thank you madam for this article... This article may help many people especially for those who are shy to say that lice can be a big headache. I feel it is even important to maintain a good health which can somehow prevent some amount of accumulation of dandruff.
Jv Lewis on September 04, 2016:
Also look up FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth. Put a tee shirt over you head so that only your face shows. Apply DE and tie shirt shut and leave on a few hrs. Then wash out. Works great in addition to the tea tree oil and vinegar, and with a mild infestation we did not have to use a lice comb (which was a relief as we can't get those thru our hair). It's completely safe if you follow the directions. Avoid contact with eyes and any amphibious pets. That will not go well.
Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on October 26, 2012:
Sara, depending on where you live there are also companies out there that will come to your home and de-lice you, if you have nobody to help you remove the nits. The thing about home remedies like olive oil and plastic wrap, is that you have to keep doing it every 2nd day or so, for about a week to kill all the live bugs and be able to remove most of the nits in your hair.
Dying your hair will NOT kill the nits that are attached to your hair and may thin your hair even more than it is already! If you really want to go that route, use henna!! Leave it in your hair for the max length of time (4 hours or longer!) The gritty texture of the henna and the sticky, muddy consistency of it gets rid of the nits in your hair, plus because you have to mix it with something acidic like orange juice or vinegar it will remove the glue from the nits that makes them attach to your hair shaft.
Sara on September 29, 2012:
I have head lice over a year now !!! I have tried every home remedies , u just name it . My hair was thick and now it's thin cuz of head lice . The good part is on one knows i have it . I will dye my hair and if it does not work I will shave hair . Wish me luck !!!
Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on June 24, 2011:
Wendi, it took me time and research to discover these methods of getting rid of lice if it makes you feel any better! The first time my daughter came home with lice she gave it to me and I didn't know anything about home remedies, we just used that nasty chemical shampoo.. it was aweful!
wendi_w from Midwest on June 19, 2011:
When my kids were little I wish I would have known this the school year always seemed to have one coming home with lice
Rachel on March 13, 2011:
Thanks for the information. I will give it a try.