checking for lice and nits

Q. Is there a safe and easy improvement on the method of removing head lice? My wife is a kindergarten teacher and this annual ritual is wearing us both out. Her students bring lice from home, and they spread to the teachers and other students. Please help!

A. There is one novel approach that is both easy and safe. Dampen the hair, coat it with the facial cleanser Cetaphil and then use the blow-dryer. The Cetaphil hardens and forms a barrier that suffocates lice. Leave it on overnight, then shampoo it out in the morning (Pediatrics, Sept. 2004).

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  1. Elizabeth

    We are a family of 10… my husband, myself, 5 girls with shoulder-length or longer hair, and 3 boys. Last spring/summer, one of our girls brought home lice from camp. I started treating right away with over-the-counter treatments. Nothing seemed to work, although I followed instructions, washing, combing with metal combs, laundering everything etc. After a couple of months, I was frustrated and exhausted and took them to the doctor.

    Our insurance covered a stronger version of permethrin, so we tried that. Again, to no avail. The lice were resistant. The girls heads especially were getting red from all the treatments. We then tried several home remedies… coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, etc. Seemed to work temporarily, but they came back. So many hours spent washing, combing, laundering. It’s been over 10 months. Tried everything.

    Found out yesterday that these resistance lice are prevalent as of the last 7 months in more than 20 states in the U.S. So… if this is hitting you, you are not alone. My heart goes out to you.

    We tried Cetaphil last night for the first time using the Nuvo method. It took me 5 hours to coat and dry all 10 of our heads. I have washed out 5 heads of hair so far today, and I did not see a single living louse. I am thrilled, as this has never happened before and so hopeful this will finally work!! Planning on continuing, praying this works and that we will again be a lice-free home…and so will you! Blessings!! :)

  2. Amy

    This was the only thing that got rid of my daughters’ infestations after bringing them home from school. Even prescription lice treatment did not work.

  3. gerri

    I have been battling head lice since last september and I spent 2 to 3 hours almost every night combing through my daughters hair and I feel exhausted and close to despair. I’ve tried 3 different over the counter remedies, olive oil, coconut oil, listerine all to no avail. I’m back to combing through conditioned hair with the nitty gritty comb which helps a bit but is not getting everything either. Head is itchy again within an hour of finishing! Willing to try cetaphil but that product is not available in Ireland. Can anyone suggest an alternative lotion? Any suggestions greatly appreciated..

  4. Cindy H.

    I tried Cetaphil last night on my daughter who had lice since Tuesday. First night we used RID and 15 minutes later, the bugs were still very much a live. I spent the next 2 hours picking and killing each one, one at a time. The next morning, I found 20 more. I continued to check and remove all bugs and eggs 3 times a day. By day 3, I found 76 in all.

    So, last night I tried Cetaphil. I drenched her hair, combed it out, dried it out and then she slept with a plastic shower cap.

    In the morning, she showered and I checked her for lice again and found 1 live baby crawling around and only removed 3 eggs (which were extremely easy to remove).

    I am hopeful most were killed and rinsed away, but I was disappointed in the fact I still found one alive and well.

    • Ann

      Did the Cetaphil end up working for you? I think a lot of us would like to know.

      • Sharon

        Cetaphil has not worked for me in the sense that it kills the lice or even smothers them. A PubMed research paper I read stated that lice can hold their breath for up to 55 hours. That put a whole new perspective on my many futile efforts around smothering over these past 8 months of lice trauma.

        What Cetaphil HAS done is suspend them in one area of my head that can get detected when they start trying to work themselves out of their confinement. Two things are helpful here:

        1. I can add more heat to that area and attempt to kill them using the 60 second rule of high heat (and a bit more cetaphil)

        2. It breaks the cycle of reproduction – since they can’t hook-up! While I have a terminator comb, it is still amazing how even moving through small sections, I can fail to remove them all. Therefore, it is a game of persistence while I use all the tools at my disposal. Olive oil, coconut oil, Listerine, dimetichone, etc. have not completely eliminated, only reduced the population.

        And yes, I clean everything daily. It has taken me too long to figure out how to manage the battle of attrition, but I hope I am on the winning end of this struggle that’s come close to claiming my sanity on more than one occasion.

  5. Jennifer
    San Antonio

    We’ve battled this a long time, I am trying the Cetaphil today.
    For the itching, you may have got all the little buggers(!) off the scalp, but can expect a skin allergy about 2 weeks after they’re gone.
    For the nits, some have recommended a vinegar rinse to dissolve the “glue” that sticks on the hair shaft.
    (This I want to try desperately, but my 10yo won’t stand for it) (vinegar is awesome!)

  6. Rebekah B.
    United States

    I am new to the Cetaphil I just found out about this remedy a couple days ago. I use baby oil the baby oil works perfectly. Apply the baby oil to dry hair get the hair thoroughly saturated with the baby oil. I have left it in overnight use the metal combs for better results to remove the dead lice and nits… Use a lot of shampoo to get out the baby oil. (Option) You could also use a flat- iron after the hair has air dried or blow dry it if you want…

    I use the flat-iron just in case I miss a nit or two the heat from the flat-iron will kill it… Make sure to sterilize all brushes, wash bed linen, pillowcases, etc… Vacuum floors, furniture, possibly the vehicle cause the nits can hatch… Any stuffed animals that you can’t wash I would recommend putting them in a bag sealing it and store away for 2 weeks… Also keep a small spray bottle filled with listerine mouthwash and spray in your son or daughter hair before going to school or wherever, lice does not like the smell of listerine it keeps them away and out of your hair :) *Hope this is helpful*

  7. snic

    I can now report that the Cetaphil treatment I linked to above works very well. I followed the instructions to the letter, applying three treatments at one week intervals to my daughter’s hair. It is a bit messy (Cetaphil gets dripped and splashed everywhere) and time-consuming (it takes a *long* time to blow dry a headful of hair wet with Cetaphil). However, it is nowhere near as tedious as combing for nits. After just the first treatment, I couldn’t find anymore lice in her hair.
    Fast forward a few weeks: I got a scare from the school nurse, who said she found nits on my daughter’s hair. The only ones she could find were several inches away from the scalp, which means they must be dead (nit casings, not actual lice eggs): lice lay their eggs on the hair right next to the scalp, and hair grows at 1/2 inch per month. The nits were so far away from the scalp, they must have hatched long ago. But she insisted that the school has a no-nit policy. I ended up taking my daughter to a professional nit comber, who charged me a lot of money to remove a total of 10 nits, all of them non-viable. She found no evidence of an active infestation.
    So, I have professional confirmation that the Cetaphil treatment worked. Schools really need to stop their no-nit policies. Lice are contagious, but nits are glued to the hair and can’t be transmitted. So, after one Cetaphil treatment (which kills all the lice, but not the nits), kids should be allowed to go back to school.

  8. snic

    Gigi, go to for complete instructions on how to use Cetaphil to get rid of lice. I haven’t used this yet, but am going to try it.

  9. Gigi

    I have been battling with these resistant pests for 6 months. I have tried everything including 4 rounds of pesticides, non-pesticides shampoos, coconut oil shampoos & conditioners, mayo, olive oil, Listerine, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, an electronic zapping comb, etc. So now I am going to try Cetaphil. Does anyone know if you put the Cetaphil on dry or wet hair?

  10. Tims

    Two years ago my entire family had a severe case of head lice including my 4 year old daughter, 6 & 10 year old sons and my wife – I was spared (after ignoring my son scratching his head for a month thinking it was a nervous habit).
    We settled on the Cetaphil method. It worked 100%. No cleaning sheets, vacuuming the house, washing couch covers, etc.
    2 years later we had it again on all three children, this time my wife avoided it. Again, the Cetaphil method worked perfectly. I have seen numerous friends pay a women around the Cleveland area who comes in and supposedly gets rid of any lice problems. She charges $500. On at least 5 occasions that i am aware of this process has had to be repeated multiple times. 2 of these friends finally agreed to the use the Cetaphil method we had learned of. Again, 100% success.
    I have no issues with chemicals, i am not a green or organic person, we were just desperate and our pediatrician recommended this method.
    I URGE anyone with a family lice problem to use it!!

  11. sarah

    We are trying the Cetaphil treatment now to see how it works. If it doesn’t we’ll go for the old reliable Vaseline treatment. I thought I’d share it here, in case it can help those desperate enough to try it. We had lice a few years ago– my preschool daughter and I were both full-blown.
    We went the “nuclear” solution and put a thick coat of Vaseline all over our heads and left it there 8-10 hours. It was a nightmare to get out (used alternating baby oil and shampoo– baby oil breaks up the Vaseline– but it takes tons of washes). But, it did the job! I know because my husband couldn’t see the nits, so I never got “nit picked” but never had another nit hatch.
    Months later, I’d still find nits way down on the shaft of my daughter’s very thick hair and I’d say “thank goodness we used Vaseline!” or we’d be infested over and over again.

    • Ann

      Did the Cetaphil work for you?

  12. DM

    Originally we saturated our dry hair with a mixture of shampoo and many drops of oil of oregano. I spend hours nit picking and we still felt itchy. After two days we still were seeing nits so I poured Listerine saturating our heads completely for 2 hours and covering our hair with a shower cap and then put vinegar on our heads for an hour also covering with a shower cap.
    The vinegar seems to completely dissolve the nits. Now we have a lot of white flakes in the hair. We still feel itchy so I read about neem oil on line and I have been using the neem oil mixed with tea tree oil for the last several days, I made a small spay bottle with equal parts of both in it and have been spraying my and my daughters heads daily. It seems to immediately stop the itch. It doesn’t smell so great but it stops the itch. Neem is suppose to screw up the life cycle of the lice. Its suppose to make them not want to feed or make eggs.
    Last night I took some coconut oil (which is suppose to eat at the exoskeleton of the lice) and mixed the neem/tea tree oils with it and slept with it on my head. Now I am once again soaking my hair with vinegar for an hour and then will shampoo it all out with the desonex shampoo (I am using the one with sylidic acid because I can’t find the one with coal tar).
    We are on day seven and if I still itch after this I think I’m going to go nuts. This weekend I am also going to dye my and my daughters hair to hopefully end this once and for all. In the event we are still itchy next week I might try the cetaphil.

  13. gg

    I was told by my pediatrician to put it on dry hair, blow dry and out on a shower cap over night. After rinsing and combing through the next day 99% were gone. I like the white vinegar idea cause I found 3 more eggs on my daughter’s head when I did it a second day in a row. I like this method because I can treat as often as I want without overexposure to toxins. I haven’t made it past the first 10 days though, so wish me luck!

  14. Vikki

    Cetaphil was the only thing that helped my sister’s kids…they had tried EVERYTHING, and lice like clean heads rather than dirty ones, so having their hair all clean after the shampoo doesn’t help when they go back to school the next day. Put some cetaphil on the kids’ hair (or yours!) before letting them go to school so the lice can’t jump in there again!

  15. Lorraine

    I have battled these since I found out I had a horrible infestation in January–still have the remainder of it, and am desperately trying everything to get rid of them!!! Things I have tried? Over the counter preparation (like Rid X) this did nothing—they were still there the next afternoon, also tried olive oil, mayonaise, Listerine (this was actually pretty good, but not adequate), Dawn dish liquid, White vinegar, and a lot of crying and broken combs! I am determined to get rid of the buggers so now I am trying the Cetaphil and a lot of blow drying!
    Also will be using Tea Tree Oil Shampoo, and I already use the Coconut Conditioner every time I shampoo, which does seem to keep them at bay, if the Cetaphil doesn’t work I may shave my head (I have hair to my waist!)….I am a grown woman and this is my first run in with them, I taught high school over 15 years and never knew how awful they are, don’t know where I got them, but I am exhausted with nit picking, crying and trying everything I can to eradicate them!!!

  16. JCollins

    THANK YOU!!! After a month-long battle with Head Lice (Kindergarten nightmare!) I found a tidbit in your book about white vinegar dissolving the “glue” which attaches the egg, or nit, to the hair shaft. This worked like a dream!
    I also discovered that permethrin creme rinse (but not Pyrethrin shampoos) works to kill live lice, but NOTHING kills the eggs so you MUST get rid of them PHYSICALLY. After a month of literally snatching out the child’s hair with a metal lice comb, tears, despair, The white vinegar is the savior!
    Thanks AGAIN (and again and again).

  17. NT

    There is a product in health food stores called “Lice Be Gone” that is herbs and natural ingredients, which can be used every night and is non toxic. It cured a case that we had that kept reccuring for 3 months! It is wonderful and safe.

  18. A. A.

    My daughter came home from school with head lice a few years ago. I spent an entire month using lice shampoos and combs and could not get rid of the little things. I found some information about Desonex. There are two types. One with Coal Tar and one with Salicylic Acid. You have to use both. The one with the Salicylic Acid dissolves the glue holding the eggs onto the hair shaft and the one with the coal tar repels the bugs. The head lice were gone in just a few days.

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