DIY head lice treatment with essential oils (a how to)

Every parent views with dread the arrival of the Fall term at the end of the Summer break and it’s no coincidence that advertisements for head lice treatments start to appear on television around this time.  When children congregate together as they do at school, they share more than stories about their summer vacation – yes, it’s head lice.

Many of the branded treatments have lost their effectiveness due to overuse and also the ceremonial sacking of the nit nurse, phased out in the 1980s and 1990s as not politically correct and ‘embarrassing and humiliating’ for the children.  However, the nit nurse was the one effective thing and since then, nits have been allowed to run riot.  Overuse of proprietary shampoos in the last twenty years has made the little critters resistant to a lot of previously tried and tested remedies. Dealing with a head lice outbreak is a real chore and creates a lot of work for parents so, what can you do to keep nits at bay?

It does sound laborious but combing through the child’s hair daily to remove lice and to check for lice is a very effective way to get on top of the problem.  Using a chemical treatment like shampoo made people lazy when it came to frequent combing and as life gets busier, mums want to reach for a quick fix remedy.  The problem is these don’t work now.  The other drawback with pharmaceutical products is the chemicals they contain – many people just don’t want to expose their children to these.  Insecticidal lice shampoos have been linked in some studies to health and behavioral issues in children.

Combing the hair through with a nit comb daily will remove a percentage of the head lice.  Any combing is preferable but wet combing is more effective as it makes the lice easier to see.  Wash the hair daily or very regularly and you will also leave head lice behind in the bath or shower.  Remember, this is a war with many battles to fight and persistence will have its rewards.  Soak the lice comb in vinegar for 30 minutes on each occasion after you have used it.

What role can essential oils play in eliminating head lice?

Many parents loathe to use harsh chemicals on their children’s heads  – it’s not as if they work well anyway.  However, essential oils alongside a daily regimen of combing with a lice comb can make a big impact on an established head lice problem.  And essential oils are natural, they do not introduce any harmful chemicals to your child’s hair or skin.

These are some of the favorite essential oils that can help you tackle head lice:-

  • Tea tree oil
  • Neem oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Oil of Cloves
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Peppermint oil

Different oils work in different ways.  Tea tree oil seems to just kill the head lice because it has insecticidal properties.  Neem oil disrupts their lifecycle whereas lavender appears to offer a more preventative effect. Alternatively, sprays in conjunction with regular nit combing can work a charm:

Lice Shield contains Citronella, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Cedar, and Geranium. SoCozy for kids contains Tea Tree, Rosemary, and Peppermint Oils

How to make a DIY head lice treatment

Choose your essential oil and mix 15-20 drops with a base oil like olive oil, about a quarter of a cup full.  Blend together and then apply to the scalp using balls of cotton wool.  Leave on the hair and scalp overnight.  Comb the hair out in the morning with a nit comb and then shampoo and rinse thoroughly twice.

An alternative to a base oil is rubbing alcohol and the oils can be added to this and then decanted into a spray bottle.  It is easier to spray the hair and saturate it.  Again, the solution must be left in place for 12 hours.  This spray is also an excellent preventative treatment at the start of the school term and on any occasion when your child is lice-free but you suspect or have been told that there are head lice about.

You can also make a shampoo with essential oils and a castile soap and use it regularly to act as a preventative against head lice.  Head lice dislike essential oils and you can create an environment that can discourage head lice.

Essential oils will not work if you do not also have a protocol of combing the child’s hair with a nit comb or fine-toothed comb.  This is really important to remove the lice and their eggs and it is only a double-pronged approach – oil and combing – which will eventually get rid of them.

Our Tips: How to treat head lice quickly

  • Keep hairbrushes and combs scrupulously clean – wash and disinfect daily
  • Change pillowcases daily and wash them on a hot wash cycle if you are treating head lice
  • Do not reuse a towel that has been used to dry the child’s hair
  • Read the advice on head lice treatment from the CDC.

 Always remember…

Essential oils are very strong and their use with children needs care.  You should always patch-test a little of the oil mix first to make sure that there is no allergic or adverse reaction.  And never use the oils neat or undiluted as they will be far too strong and can cause skin irritation and sensitivity as well as other health issues. Always seek the advice of the school nurse or a medical professional.

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