Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Getting Rid of Gooey Lice Remedy

Desperate parents are willing to try almost anything to rid their children of lice. Lice shampoo and nit combs are staples of the school year, but unfortunately in the past decade or so, lice have developed resistance to many of the lice shampoos.

The latest prescription product approved to treat lice is Ulesfia, a benzyl alcohol formulation that smothers the critters. It is pricey, though, at $45 for a bottle that is enough to treat one head of short hair. For long hair, you may need two or three bottles for a single treatment.

It is no wonder that home remedies to smother lice have become popular. In one version, the cleanser Cetaphil is used to drench the hair. Use a blow dryer to create a hard “shell” which is left on overnight. Shampoo it out in the morning.

One last resort remedy to suffocate lice is old-fashioned petroleum jelly. Let us warn you, though, that Vaseline is extremely difficult to get out of the hair. Here are some tactics parents have tried:

“My toddler ‘washed’ her hair with Neosporin. I discovered that using Dawn dishwashing liquid cut through the greasy mess. It worked later to remove Vaseline that was used to remove bubble gum from her hair.”

The most complete advice comes from the mother who initially wrote us about Vaseline back in 1997:

“Treat the head lice by coating the children’s hair with Vaseline overnight (with a shower cap). Remove the Vaseline as follows:

“1. Use baby oil to remove the Vaseline in the hair.

“2. Shampoo the hair as many times as necessary with a cheap dish detergent (no lotions) to cut through the baby oil.

“Dish detergent can sting the eyes so be very careful to make sure your child closes and covers the eyes with a wash cloth.

“The most frustrating thing about my experience was that I contacted the CDC and was told that some strains of lice had developed resistance, but not in this country. I was following all the instructions properly and being treated as if I was not doing anything right. Just a few years later the CDC announced that they were finding head lice resistant to common chemical treatments in the US.”

Another person shared his advice:

“I had an experience with motor oil, which has properties similar to petroleum jelly. Never mind how I managed to get motor oil in my hair but I will give one word of advice: Most motor oil comes in screw-cap bottles these days. USE THE CAP!

“After getting motor oil in my hair, I took a shower immediately and tried to wash the stuff out. It didn’t work very well and there was quite an oily residue remaining. Then I remembered Campsuds, a camping soap manufactured by Sierra Dawn products. I’ve used the stuff for 30 years and found that it works as a shampoo as well as for cooking utensils.

“The claim is that it will cut grease, even in cold water, so I tried it on my oily hair. It worked and worked well! I washed, rinsed, and washed again, using water that was as hot as I could stand. This washing removed all the oil.”

Other products people have suggested for removing Vaseline include the mechanic’s hand cleanser, Goop, and plain old Ivory soap. We conclude that even Vaseline should not be used without first considering the consequences!

Rate this article
4.6- 18 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.