jar of petroleum jelly

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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  1. Theresa
    Andalusia Alabama

    I have done the most dummest thing. I put Blue Star Orientment in my granny child’s hair for head lice. It killed them but left her hair oily. I am telling you oily so so so bad. Thanks to all who came before me telling their stories, I got it out. With corn starch an Dawn dish soap.

    Don’t use anything but simply Dawn. Took me 2 soaking with corn starch on her hair for one hour then wash out with Dawn. Thank you again for helping me. Theresa

  2. Lynn

    I added Vaseline to my hair because I got Scabies on my scalp and wanted to suffocate them. I gobbed it on, wrapped my head tightly in saran wrap and a shower cap and left it on about four hours. To get vaseline out (all of it) super easily, just pour apple cider vinegar over your scalp generously and then shampoo with hand soap or dishwashing soap, suds it all up, rinse and repeat. I did it three times and it was all out completely, every trace of it. I have long hair and it works like a charm.

    • makayla

      You just saved me and my hair! Thank you so much. I thought I’d never get it out, but you helped me.

  3. Vanna

    I used petroleum jelly on my hair on purpose, Why ? I was having an issue. Long story. I realize I’d made a mistake and tried blotting, used a laundry detergent 2x that is supposed to break down oils, etc, after four days days, I used alcohol based hand cleaner (from the dollar store) on my hair 3 separate times after washing with an acidic shampoo (not the low PH ones). I actually used the dandruff shampoo from the dollar store. By the 3rd time, the greasy feel was almost gone. The suspension agents keep it on your head, but I’d be careful with babies or children. It does smell strong, but evaporates quickly. I did comb it through well after applying a generous amount in sections on my head.

  4. mm

    to prevent lice on your childrens hair I recommend tea tree oil. put a couple of drops with a small amount of shampoo everytime you wash the hair and then every morning remember to tie long hair up, plaits are good,and I always used a few drops on my hands and then smoothed it over my childrens hair. They NEVER got lice after I did this.
    tea tree oil is a natural insecticide. and my daughter had waist length thick hair. after the first time I sat outside after using a pharmacy provided treatment and went through all her hair pulling out eggs that I could see, took 2 hours as she was fair and the eggs didn’t stand out so I sat her in the sun so I could see them.
    Once I started with tea tree oil never ever had them again.

  5. J

    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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