Dealing with a child who has head lice is an exercise in frustration. Having a good lice shampoo or a reliable lice treatment on hand will save you a lot of irritation. Miniscule in size and mighty in strength, these insects latch on to strands of hair and can seem impossible to get rid of. Small consolation, but you are not alone in your struggles: About 6 to 12 million kids ages 3 to 11 get head lice every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The good news is that, despite the may fear-mongering myths about lice, the critters aren’t dangerous to your child’s health, although they can cause scalp irritation and itchiness.
Treatments vary, but in most cases the first line of defense is to wash your child’s hair with a lice-specific shampoo.
“You need a really good comb. We have something called the Terminator. It’s awesome. The teeth need to be close together. Cheap and plastic won’t cut it. The nits are so hard to get out,” says Risa Barash, owner and founder of Fairy Tales hair care, which treats lice.
Per the Mayo Clinic, more research is needed to prove that any specific products work to actively repel lice. But some ingredients, including rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon grass oils may be effective. But here’s the catch. They’re classified as natural, so they’re not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, says Barash, “lice don’t like the smell of rosemary, tea tree, peppermint, citronella, and lavender. Nothing is 100 percent. But given the choice, they’ll pick another head that doesn’t smell like it.”
Sprays and lice shampoos aside, you can teach your kid avoid head-to-head contact with other kids. Teach them to not share hats, headbands, brushes, headphones or anything else that touches their noggin. And instruct them to keeps their hats and other clothing separate from those of other kids.
As far as treatments go, the options range from chemical washes to all-natural rinses, each of which has its pros and cons. These are some of the best in each category.
Best Lice Treatments
Recently one Fatherly editor dealt with an epic, impressive lice infestation. And the nice lice lady who did the comb-out said this is a spray that's reliable in keeping the critters at bay. Is this lice treatment foolproof? Nope, but nothing is. That being said, lice are not fans of rosemary, citronella, geranium and sage, which are all in this lice prevention spray.
One of the best-selling brands in the U.S., you can trust RID to get the job done (use on kids age 2 and up). The product contains piperonyl butoxide (PBO) and pyrethrum extract, active ingredients that have been shown effectively eliminate lice. To use, apply the shampoo to dry hair first, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then lather and rinse. The product includes a nit comb, which you should use after rinsing to gently remove any lice from your child’s hair. Repeat after 7-10 days.
This pre-shampoo product can be massaged through your child’s dry hair before bathtime. Let this lice treatment sit for 10 minutes, then comb the provided nit remover through his hair. Bathe and shampoo as usual. The pesticide-free formulation uses to dimethicone to fight off the bugs.
Taking the natural route to getting rid of lice doesn’t have to mean sacrificing effectiveness.This lice prevention shampoo uses organic rosemary, citronella, peppermint, lavender, tea tree, and geranium oils to create a naturally lice-repellent environment. It also includes jojoba, aloe, and chamomile to soothe the scalp and provide itch relief. You can use it to treat a lice infestation, but the shampoo is mild enough for use as a daily prevention wash.
This treatment was formulated to address the so-called super lice breakout seen in the past few years. This all-natural product uses the power of essential oils and herbs to dissuade lice from hanging out in your kid’s hair. Use first on dry locks, then massage it vigorously into the scalp under running warm water. Rinse.
Created by the largest network of urgent care lice clinics in the U.S., this product uses essential oils, especially mint, to repel lice. Spray this lice prevention treatment on your child’s dry or wet hair before showering, then run a nit comb through. This spray works as a detangler as well as a conditioning agent, leaving your child’s strands soft and shiny. After application, your child can wash his hair with his usual shampoo, or use a lice shampoo.
This electric lice comb can be rough on a kid's scalp, so beware. But the cool thing is, it vacuums up head lice and eggs.This thing is loud, so younger kids tend to freak out a bit (speaking from experience). But it does suck up lice, eggs, and nits, although you have to be patient and work at it.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
This article was originally published on