How to Handle Lice Naturally |

How to Handle Lice Naturally

beth September 12, 2012

Written by Beth

Every parent of a school-aged child lives in fear of that call. You know the call, “Hi, this is Mr. B from Susie’s school. I am calling to inform you that there has been an outbreak of lice in your child’s classroom.” At that moment, you might slightly panic and have some phantom lice crawling on your head. I can feel the phantom lice on my head just writing about it now. Ick.

What are lice anyway?

According to the CDC:

“The head louse, or Pediculus humanus capitis, is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several time a day and live close to the human scalp.”

They have three stages in their life cycle: egg/nit, nymph, and adult. Nits are about the size of a knot in a piece of string and are hard to see. They rest at the base of the skull, up to an inch from the base of the skull. They often appear white or yellow but can look different colors depending on a person’s hair color. They take an average of 8-9 days to hatch, so doing a second round of treatment after 7-10 days of the original treatment is recommended. The second round will kill off the hatched lice and prevent the life cycle from repeating itself. Nymphs are hatched nits but immature. They grow into the adult louse.

Deterring Lice

If your family is lice-free and you want to stay that way, add 1-2 drops of tea tree essential oil to your shampoo every time they wash their hair. To be safe, add it to everyone’s shampoo/conditioner/vinegar rinse at the rate of 10 drops per cup of solution. Tea tree will repel the lice and keep them from taking up residence on your head.

Handling Lice

When you are told your child has lice, you may jump up and rush to the drug store for one of the well-known chemical-based lice treatments. These treatments have some pretty nasty side effects, and the ingredients can cause neurotoxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, biochemical or cellular level changes, developmental/reproductive toxicity… I could go on. So, how do we avoid these toxins and eliminate those pesky bugs?

Mayonnaise or Coconut Oil

This is a pretty well-known natural lice remedy. Buy a jar of mayonnaise (fresh from the shelf, not from the fridge, since cold mayo would be uncomfortable) or coconut oil and smear it all over your head, thoroughly covering the hair, behind the ears, around the forehead, and down the neck. Anywhere these little buggers will live. If you use mayonnaise, let it sit for two hours (no longer as it can go bad and cause food-borne illness), then wash it out using shampoo. You may have to wash a few times to get clean-feeling hair, and rinse the hair with 50/50 vinegar/water solution afterward to loosen the nits and help them slide out of the hair. If you use coconut oil, cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap and leave it on for at least two hours or overnight. To wash out, you will have to shampoo (possibly multiple times).  Rinse hair with vinegar/water solution.

Once the hair is washed, get a good quality nit comb, preferably stainless steel, to boil it between treatments and comb through the hair systematically, looking for any nits. The nits secrete a glue-like substance that keeps them firmly attached to the skull. The vinegar solution should dissolve this so they can be easily combed out. If they are still sticking, do another vinegar rinse and leave it in for a few minutes before rinsing it. Pick out all the nits you see, and repeat treatment between 10 days to kill the lice that might have hatched since the last treatment.

Olive Oil & Essential Oils Solution

Olive oil is also used to smother lice, and according to a Harvard School of Medicine study, it is the most effective oil to use. To make a simple solution, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz. Olive Oil (use more base oil for longer hair)
  • 10 drops each of rosemary, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, and peppermint essential oils. (Exclude eucalyptus for children under 2 years of age).

Simply combine the essential oils with the base oil and mix well.

To use, just rub the oil thoroughly throughout the hair, being sure to cover behind the ears and the back of the neck as well. Cover the head with a plastic shower cap or plastic wrap and let it sit AT LEAST 1 hour (up to 8 hours). Wash with shampoo and the vinegar rinse mentioned above. Comb the hair with a nit comb in small sections being sure to go through every piece of hair. Repeat this in 7-10 days.

Use caution when using this solution. If it gets into the eyes rinse the eye with olive oil. Oil will dilute the oil and soothe the eye. Water will disperse the oil too quickly, causing increased irritation.

Other Precautions:

Lice do not spread because of improper hygiene. They spread from direct contact from one human host to another and get transferred from clothes, scarves, hair ties, and other personal objects that touch the hair. Lice cannot transfer from animals to humans and vice versa, so your pets are safe.

Lice can live for 24 hours away from their human host. Be sure to wash every piece of clothing, bedding, stuffed animals, and anything soft in HOT water and dry on the HOT cycle. If it is something you cannot wash in hot water for fear of damage, run in the dryer on hot for at least 30 minutes. For comforters or other bedding you cannot fit into the wash, double bag it in a garbage bag and let it sit for at least 24 hours to let the lice die. I would probably leave it up to a week, just to be on the safe side.

Vacuum the carpets, couches, chairs, and other upholstered surfaces well and immediately throw away the vacuum bag. If you have a bag-less vacuum, empty the container and clean the filters thoroughly. Vacuuming should get rid of the lice nicely, but as an extra precaution can create an upholstery spray using the same ingredients as the olive oil/essential oil hair treatment. Add 2 ounces of water with the above oil combination and shake well before using.

With these natural solutions, you should be able to deter and handle head lice naturally without applying pesticides directly to your family member’s scalp.

How have you handled head lice naturally?

This is the writings of:

  1. Great tips! Lice are no fun. I’m actually dealing with them right now…. I do a lot of the same treatments. Here’s my twist on a couple.

    Coconut oil with lavender, rosemary and tea tree essential oils. Spred it over the hair and leave on for a few hours. Wash out. Comb out nit and lice, dip comb in hot water each time. Use a blow dryer or let hair air dry. Devide hair into sections and clip. Leave a tiny section down. Plus nits from hair with the tips of your finger nails. Place the nit between your thumb nails, pressing together. If you hear a pop the nit was still alive, if you don’t it is get an empty shell.

    I make a spray of apple cider vinegar, tansy, lavender, tea tree oil, and rosemary. Spray on head one or twice a week and on others in the household as a preventative. I also add tea tree oil to everyone’s shampoo and a preventative.


  2. From all my reading, it’s important to bag up items for about 2 weeks. They can live up to 10 days I’ve read without food. This seems true from my experience because my son pulled out a pillow we stashed away the end of last week due to lice. Within half an hour he had bites on his head and we had to clean the whole room all over again. 🙁


  3. Thank you so much for addressing the issue of lice. We were deep into treatment about a month ago and had a really hard time finding reliable information. We tried Nix, Rid and LiceMD. None of them worked. I came to your site and there was nothing so I went on the forum and still nothing so I posted it. I got some useful information, but I got the best information from my friends and the local health food store. Here is what I found worked… comb, comb, comb. Make sure it is a metal comb. the plastic ones are not close enough together. Here is what we did. My 15 month old had it. I coated her hair with olive oil. Then I coated the rest of the kids hair with olive oil mixed with Tea Tree Oil and just left it on. They didn’t have school and we weren’t going anywhere with lice. We combed every day and are still combing. Not sure when I will stop. I still spray their hair with water mixed with Tea Tree Oil. I have been told that mint will help repel the Lice. May try that soon. I know that most people who get on this site may use all natural shampoo, but Suave makes a “natural” shampoo with rosemary and mint in it and it is pretty smelly (nice kind of smelly). It doesn’t cost much either, got it at Walmart for $2.50 for extra large bottles. Thank you SO SO MUCH for posting this. I will never judge anyone with lice again!!


  4. Thank you all for sharing your experiences! There are so many great alternatives out there, I am so glad to learn about more.

    Debbie I had read anything from 48 hours to 2 weeks. I am glad to know (and sorry to hear) that 2 weeks is a more realistic number. Thank you for sharing!


  5. About the things you can’t wash/dry with heat: I’ve friend’s who bag all that up and put it in a freezer for 2 days. It works! :] If I ever have to deal with lice, I’ll need to pray for a lot of patients; I don’t know how ya’ll can “nit-pick” through every bit of hair for so long…except that it’s necessary!


  6. Our 4 year old’s pre-k class has a few cases of lice. I’m SO glad there are other remedies than the chemicals and I WILL be buying a lice comb this evening. 🙂


  7. The Robi comb is amazing! It is a lice comb that when it detects a louse or nit electrically zaps them dead, instantly. Then you clean the comb off with the brush in the kit and go through another section of dry hair.


  8. […] How to Treat Lice Naturally 10 Tips to Get Rid of Lice Naturally […]


  9. Thank you very much, got some really useful information.


  10. My kids have sensative skin so I didn’t even want to try chemicals for fear of lasting effects. I used a product called Nit Kit that I found on which is a company I use regularly for my acne treatment. Anyway, the kit came with a metal comb like suggested on this site and a magnifying glass so I could actually see the tiny specks, the price was reasonable, and it seemed to kill the lice so they couldn’t just jump out of her hair.


  11. What do I do if I don’t have a nit comb and I can’t buy one?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

Meet My Family
Love our content? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get our FREE Nourished Living Cookbook!