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Getting Vaseline Out of Hair Is Horrendous

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Q. A couple of weeks ago someone wrote to you about persistent lice in a child's hair, regardless of what lice treatment they used. You suggested coating the child's hair with mayonnaise or Vaseline.

DO NOT USE Vaseline! Vaseline is not water soluble, nor does it respond to any soap or shampoo on the market.

When I was in junior high, Vaseline in girls' hair was an initiation stunt that made parents and beauty salons despair. There was simply no way to remove it. Please don't suggest this again.

A. It is extremely difficult to get petroleum jelly (Vaseline) out of hair. We learned this many years ago after hearing from angry parents.

A consensus eventually developed that the first step for removal is to treat with mineral (or baby) oil. The second step is to wash the mineral oil (and at least some of the Vaseline) out with Dawn dish detergent (keeping it out of eyes). The third step is regular shampoo.

Other people have reported success with Goop (mechanics' hand cleanser), Campsuds (camping soap from Sierra Dawn), Charlie's Soap all-purpose cleaner or greasepaint (theatrical makeup) remover.

Different lice eradication strategies can be found at PeoplesPharmacy.com. Favorites include Cetaphil cleanser that hardens overnight and suffocates lice or rinsing with Listerine to kill the critters.

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Our family learned a thing or two about lice after an outbreak in our daughter's first-grade classroom. (We bathe our children nightly, and also wash their hair.)

1. Nine children were affected, all were girls. Were told girls are easier targets due to longer hair, and closer proximity to each other when talking or mingling as compared to boys.

2. Remarkably, fresh, dry, clean hair provides a more suitable anchor for lice eggs. Children with oily hair are less prone to an infestation due to the hair shaft being too slick to lay eggs upon!

3. Boy's shorter hair often, but not always, allows for easier inspection.

4. Lice may be becoming immune to commercial lice treatment products. We used a popular, recommended brand. But it only kills live lice, not the eggs attached to the hair shaft.

5. Nits are extremely small. Most attach at the base of the hair root, but many are not. We found more away from the scalp. Our school nurse showed a good technique to tell if it is one. The only sure-fire way of removing them is to inspect each strand of hair. Even the lice comb which came with the kit did not remove all of the nits. Slide the hair shaft between closed fingernails. A nit will require substantial pressure to remove.

6. What worked best for us? Canola oil. We rounded up the entire family, had everyone soak their hair in canola oil, place a shower cap over it, and watch T.V. for two hours. It did the trick. To remove the oil simply wash the hair with shampoo. That's it. Removing the remaining nits was easy and they slid right off.

I'm not sure what the chemical composition of the cement which holds a nit to the hair shaft (most likely a protein), but if someone patents it, you'll have a glue which surpasses super glue.

Hope these tips are of assistance.

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