Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Treat Head Lice Without Lindane

We are enthusiastic about many home remedies that have been around for decades. But just because a compound has a long history doesn’t make it safe.

This is especially clear when it comes to pesticides. Over the years, many have been discontinued, at least in the US, because they have proved too dangerous. But new hazards of old chemicals are being uncovered all the time. An international agency has just declared the lice shampoo lindane a hazardous cancer-causing agent, so parents are well advised to look for ways to treat head lice without lindane.

Q. My 10 year old just brought lice home from a friend’s house and gave it to her five brothers and sisters and myself. We have always used lindane but the doctor said to use permethrin instead.

That didn’t work. What else can we do? And what is wrong with lindane?

A. The FDA has asked doctors not to use lindane to treat lice unless all other treatments fail. Lindane can trigger seizures, a condition that is much more serious than lice.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently listed lindane as a carcinogen. It increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (Lancet Oncology, online June 22, 2015).

Ways to Treat Head Lice Without Lindane

There is a lice treatment that your doctor could prescribe, Ulesfia, which contains benzyl alcohol. It is pricey, however, especially for treating six kids plus yourself.

Other prescription lice treatments include Sklice (ivermectin) and Natroba (spinosad).

Smothering Lice with Cetaphil

You might consider treating the family with Cetaphil cleanser. This contains cetyl alcohol.

Dampen the hair, coat it with Cetaphil and blow it dry. Leave the hardened Cetaphil on overnight so that it can suffocate the lice (Pediatrics, Sep., 2004). Then wash it out in the morning.

Another popular home remedy is drenching the hair in Listerine. Although we are not aware of any studies of this treatment, you can read about other people’s experience here and here.


Rate this article
4.5- 10 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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.