A woman in white gloves looks through a girl's hair for lice.

Unveiling DIY Lice Treatments That Actually Work

Feb 06, 2024Maria Jaworski

Head lice are a common concern, especially among school-aged children, causing distress to both kids and parents alike. While there's no shortage of commercial treatments, many families are turning to home remedies for safer and cost-effective solutions. 

This comprehensive guide delves into tried-and-true DIY lice treatment methods, from the meticulous process of wet-combing to the natural potency of essential oils and the smothering properties of household oils like olive and coconut.

Wet Combing

Wet-combing is a method to treat head lice that involves using a fine-toothed comb to manually remove lice and nits (lice eggs) from the hair. It is a simple, chemical-free technique that can be highly effective when done correctly.

Why Wet Combing Works

  • Physical Removal: Instead of relying on chemicals, wet-combing manually removes lice and nits from the hair. This can be especially beneficial for those resistant to traditional treatments. 
  • Safety: Wet-combing poses no risk of chemical exposure, making it safe for all ages, including toddlers and pregnant women. 
  • No Resistance: Lice cannot develop resistance to physical removal, unlike some chemical treatments.

Required Tools and Tips for Success

  • Specialized Lice Comb: Look for a metal comb with closely spaced teeth.
  • Good Lighting: Ensure you are in a well-lit area or use a headlamp to see lice and nits clearly.
  • Magnifying Glass: This can be helpful to differentiate between dandruff and nits.
  • Patience: Wet-combing can be time-consuming, especially for long or thick hair. Be patient and thorough for the best results.
  • Entertainment: Equip your child with a tablet loaded with shows, books, or games, or provide coloring books, small toys, or audiobooks to keep them occupied.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Preparation: Wet the hair thoroughly. This makes it difficult for lice to move around. Apply a generous amount of conditioner to the wet hair. This lubricates the hair, making combing smoother and trapping the lice.
  2. Divide and Conquer: Divide the hair into small sections using hair clips. This ensures you comb through every strand and makes the process more manageable.
  3. Start Combing: Using a specialized lice comb (preferably metal, as they tend to be more durable and effective), start at the scalp. This is crucial as lice live close to the skin where they feed and lay eggs. Slowly comb from the roots to the ends of the hair. After each pass, wipe the comb on a white paper towel or cloth to check for lice and nits.
  4. Repeat: Go over each section multiple times from different angles to ensure all lice and nits are removed.
  5. Rinse: Once you have combed the entire head, rinse out the conditioner.
  6. Regular Checks: Wet-combing should be repeated every 3-4 days for at least two weeks to ensure that newly hatched lice (from any missed nits) are removed.

Essential Oils

Five small bottles all labeled with essential oils that work as DIY lice treatments.

Essential oils, derived from plants, have been long praised for their therapeutic properties. When it comes to lice, certain oils can either repel these pests or make the environment inhospitable for them.

Best Oils to Use

  • Tea Tree Oil: Known for its antiseptic and antifungal properties, tea tree oil is often cited as a top choice for lice treatment. Some studies suggest it can kill nymphs (young lice) and adult lice.
  • Lavender Oil: While it might not be as potent against lice as tea tree oil, lavender oil's pleasant scent and calming properties make it a popular choice in repelling lice.
  • Eucalyptus Oil: This oil can be effective in repelling lice, thanks to its strong scent and inherent properties.
  • Peppermint Oil: With its strong menthol scent, peppermint oil is believed to be a deterrent for lice.
  • Rosemary Oil: Often combined with tea tree and lavender oils, rosemary can help in repelling lice and soothing the scalp.

Application Methods and Precautions

  1. Dilution is Crucial: Never apply essential oils directly to the scalp. Always dilute them with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) before application. A common ratio is 10-15 drops of essential oil to 2 ounces of carrier oil.
  2. Spot Test: Before full application, do a patch test on a small area of skin to ensure no allergic reactions occur.
  3. Leave-in Treatment: Mix the diluted essential oil with some conditioner and leave it in the hair for a few hours. This can enhance the efficacy.
  4. Daily Spray: For prevention, fill a spray bottle with water, add a few drops of your chosen essential oil, and mist the hair daily.
  5. Essential Oil Shampoo: Add a few drops of essential oil to your regular shampoo for an added layer of protection against lice.

Note: Keep the oil away from the eyes and mouth. Always supervise children during application and ensure they do not ingest any oil.

Olive or Coconut Oil

An opened coconut along with solid and liquid coconut oil on a white background.

Both olive oil and coconut oil have properties that make them unfavorable environments for lice. They can effectively suffocate and immobilize lice, making them easier to comb out. Additionally, these oils can help to loosen nits from the hair shaft. 

For added efficacy, combine oil treatment with other natural remedies like essential oils.


  • Natural and Safe: Free from chemicals, these oils are safe for all ages and hair types. 
  • Hydrating: Beyond lice treatment, these oils provide hydration, leaving the hair soft and conditioned. 
  • Accessible: Both olive and coconut oils are common household items used to treat lice naturally, making this treatment convenient and cost-effective.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Choosing the Oil: Depending on availability or preference, choose either olive oil or coconut oil. While both are effective, coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid, which can help kill lice.
  2. Warm the Oil: Warm the chosen oil slightly to make it more fluid and easier to apply. Ensure it's comfortably warm—not hot—to avoid burns.
  3. Application: Start with dry hair. Apply a generous amount of the warm oil, ensuring every strand is coated from roots to tips. Pay special attention to the scalp, nape, and behind the ears, where lice are most common.
  4. Leave It On: Once fully coated, cover the hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap. Let the oil sit for several hours, ideally overnight, to maximize its smothering effect on the lice.
  5. Comb It Out: After the treatment duration, use a fine-toothed lice comb to comb through the hair, section by section. The oil should make it easier to slide out the lice and nits.
  6. Wash It Out: Use a mild shampoo to wash out the oil. It might require a couple of washes to remove all the oil residue.
  7. Repeat: Depending on the infestation's severity, repeat the treatment once or twice a week until no more lice or nits are found.

Prevention Measures

While treating a lice infestation promptly is crucial, taking steps to prevent future occurrences is equally important. Here are some simple, yet effective preventative measures to help keep lice at bay:

  • Avoid Head-to-Head Contact: Lice primarily spread through direct contact. Teach children to avoid head-to-head contact during play and other activities.
  • Don’t Share Personal Items: Items like combs, brushes, hats, and headphones can harbor lice. Avoid sharing these to limit the spread of lice.
  • Regular Cleaning: Lice can’t survive long off the human head, but regular cleaning of bedding, clothing, and personal items can help eliminate any stray lice or nits.

When DIY Lice Remedies Aren’t Enough

A professional looking through a girl's hair for lice treatment options.

While home remedies like wet combing, essential oils, and diligent cleaning are effective at treating lice, they require consistency, patience, and a keen eye. In some cases, the expertise of professionals like Hair Fairies becomes invaluable.

Whether dealing with persistent infestations, sensitive scalps, or simply seeking convenience and guaranteed results, Hair Fairies offers relief for distressed families. 

With our experienced staff, personalized advice, and a variety of treatment options, we can make treating head lice a comfortable and successful experience.

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