Cetaphil Lice Treatment: Does it Work?


Discover the truth about using Cetaphil as a lice treatment and whether or not it’s worth your time.

If you have head lice, you probably want to get rid of it and fast! 

You’ve probably already tried several rounds of over-the-counter treatments that have failed. Head lice today have grown immune to all the old treatments that once worked in the past, so millions of parents around the world are turning to other alternatives and home remedies.

You may have heard that Cetaphil cleanser can kill lice. But is it true?

This article answers the following questions (clicking takes you straight to that section of the article):

Cetaphil for Lice: Does it Work?

Review of Using Cetaphil as a Lice Treatment

Are There Better Treatments than Cetaphil?

How to Use Cetaphil as a Lice Treatment

Super Lice

lice walking

Firstly, you should know that if you have struggled with head lice, you are not alone and it is certainly not your fault. The current strain of head lice are immune to the pesticides found in over-the-counter treatments and prescriptions. Most of these treatments won’t kill lice, no matter how long you leave them on.

Lice today are called “super lice” because they have genetic mutations that make them immune to most treatments. They are VERY difficult to kill.

Multiple studies prove that lice are immune to treatments that worked in the past, but most parents don’t know that. Sadly, many people try brand name, over the counter products five or six times before finally giving up and trying something new. 

Cetaphil for Lice: Does it Work?


If you are not familiar with the Cetaphil lice treatment, here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

You coat your or your kid’s hair with a bottle of Cetaphil, combing it through the hair and then using a blow dryer until it’s no longer damp. The idea here is that the layer of Cetaphil will suffocate the head lice. Some sites even recommend leaving the Cetaphil on for up to eight hours before washing it out. Then, you repeat this process for three or four weeks. 

Working in my lice center, I have helped hundreds of families dealing with lice. All these families had tried multiple over-the-counter treatments and home remedies without success, including the Cetaphil treatment. 

Many have painstakingly applied and blowdried Cetaphil onto their child’s head multiple times over the course of a month, hoping that the Cetaphil would suffocate the head lice. 

However, these parents wind up disappointed and discouraged when at the end of a month of the Cetaphil regime, their child still has a head full of (live) lice.

A lice quickly crawling through a woman's blond hair.

I do believe the Cetaphil treatment regime works for some people, but, I personally have seen the Cetaphil lice treatment fail more than I have seen it succeed.

Lots of lice treatments fail for multiple reasons, but when the Cetaphil treatment fails, you have wasted almost a month of precious time, not to mention resources. 

For those people that this regime works for, I believe it is not the Cetaphil cleanser that cures lice, but the combination of intense lice combing and blow drying that actually gets the job done.

Cetaphil is not a terrible home remedy, and it’s fortunately not dangerous like some others. It also has some good principles, like combing and blow drying.

The major issue with the Cetaphil method is that most people waste about a month on this home remedy when they could have treated their lice in a day or two using a better treatment regime. Even worse, at the end a month of the Cetaphil regime, many people still have head lice. 

I do not recommend Cetaphil as a lice treatment for the following reasons:

#1: There are better treatments and home remedies that’ll cost you less than Cetaphil (see below).

#2: Cetaphil will take you at least three weeks, and often doesn’t work.

#3: You’ll continue to have lice for a month.

#4: The Cetaphil treatment is complicated and easy to “mess up.”

#5: The Cetaphil treatment is time consuming.

#1: Cetaphil Will NOT Save You Money!


Don’t go the Cetaphil route thinking that you’re going to save some money on more “expensive” lice treatments--you won’t! For the Cetaphil treatment, you need several bottles of Cetaphil. For someone with crew cut or short hair, it requires 8oz. Someone with shoulder length hair will need 12oz, and someone with long or thick hair may require two full bottles!

A bottle of Cetaphil cleanser usually costs around $10, but remember you have to repeat this process at least 3 times! 

cetaphil cost

For someone with long, thick hair, it may cost you $30-$50 to buy all of the Cetaphil you need for multiple treatments.

The best lice treatments out there are dimethicone-based treatments. These treatments will cost you around the same amount as Cetaphil (maybe even less) and they are much more effective. When it comes right down to it, you’d rather spend your money on something you know will work than something that may or may not. 

Dimethicone Treatments are Better Than Cetaphil

towel shoulders (1)

Dimethicone is not a home remedy.

It’s not a prescription.

Dimethicone is not usually found at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is a completely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! It outperforms everything else when it comes to killing lice. In studies, dimethicone killed 100% of lice bugs with one treatment for most of the people tested.

Dimethicone does not kill lice eggs, however, so you’ll still need a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

For years, the only places you could get dimethicone products was at a professional lice center, but a few lice centers have started selling their products online and you can purchase them through Amazon. Here are the two best on the market:

(A quick disclosure: these are affiliate links, and I earn a commission from qualifying purchases; however, all of my reviews are based on the quality of the products.)

These are my top picks for something better than Cetaphil as a lice treatment.

Best Over All Kit

The Ladibugs Lice Elimination Kit comes with a serum that kills both lice and super lice. It also comes with an enzyme mousse that helps loosen lice eggs, making them much easier to remove. This is a one-and-done kit, which means you have everything you need for one person in one kit. The enzyme mousse can be used multiple times over several days to remove lice eggs.

Easiest-to-Use Lice Killer

Lice Clinics Lice Remover Kit comes with an easy-dispenser and is probably the easiest treatment to use. It kills all lice within 20 minutes. You’ll need to retreat in about ten days.

Home Remedies That Are Better Than Cetaphil

Dimethicone treatments kill head lice, which is why I recommend dimethicone treatments over home remedies. However, if you really want a home remedy instead, here are the best ones:

Get A Good Lice Comb

Everyone I’ve met who has gotten rid of lice with the “Cetaphil treatment” has one thing in common…

They simply combed the hair.

In this case, they can give Cetaphil the glory, but the real honor should go to the lice comb.

The only method that is 100% effective at killing lice eggs and lice bugs is removing them from the head. Lice eggs have to have the heat of the head to grow and hatch, so if you remove them from their heat source, they will quickly die.

The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

This is the comb that I use in my professional lice center every day. 

The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your child’s hair. 

Coconut Oil

coconut featured

If you’re dead-set on using a home remedy, Coconut oil is your best choice, especially if you add tea tree oil to it. 

In studies, coconut oil alone killed 80% of head lice. Combined with essential oils, though, it’s success rates increased. Essential oils that may increase coconut oil successes are tea tree oil, anise, and ylang ylang. 

Unfortunately, coconut oil has little to no effect on lice eggs. It neither kills lice eggs nor prevents them from hatching.

Complete removal of lice eggs from the head or several repeated treatments are necessary for coconut oil to completely get rid of head lice. Read my full article and tutorial at this article, Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.

Tea Tree Oil

essential oils coconut

Tea tree shampoo at your local salon will not kill head lice. Tea tree must be used in high concentrations to kill lice, and the concentrations in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.

However, in one study, highly concentrated tea tree and lavender essential oils were compared to traditional pesticide treatments. Tea tree oil actually killed most lice whereas the pesticide treatments only killed about 25% of lice.

Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp may cause severe reactions, so tea tree should be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, etc. As mentioned above, I recommend coconut oil because coconut oil kills lice whereas olive oil does not (read article here). 

The major disadvantage of tea tree oil is that it has little to no effect on lice eggs. Lice eggs WILL hatch after a tea tree treatment, unless they are manually removed from the head.

I outline exactly how to kill lice with tea tree oil in my article, Tea Tree Oil For Lice: How to Kill and Prevent Lice Using Tea Tree Oil.

Blow Drying

blow dry one hand

Blow drying can be a helpful tool for getting rid of lice because hot air blown at the roots at high speeds can kill lice eggs. 

Blow drying, however, cannot be a treatment in and of itself because blow drying is not effective at killing lice bugs and can actually spread head lice if done with live lice in the hair.

For blow drying to effectively help get rid of lice, you must first treat head lice with a product effective against super lice, then remove as many eggs as possible, and finally, blow dry the hair in small sections. For a full tutorial, check out my article, Blow Drying To Kill Lice and Nits.

#2: Cetaphil Takes 3 Weeks


Remember, in my experience, the Cetaphil treatment does not kill lice. However, let’s say that it does kill lice every time... This whole process still takes a FULL THREE WEEKS!

I know there are some out there who have been struggling with lice for a very long time, so three weeks may not seem like a big deal. For most people, though, having lice in your house for three weeks is absolutely unbearable. Why struggle for so long with something that could be treated within a day or two?

#3: You Continue to Have Lice Almost a Month

The Cetaphil idea is that you leave lice eggs in the hair, wait for them to hatch, and then keep killing them once a week for about a month. 

You do realize that means that you’ll have lice for a month, right?

Baby lice, adult lice, it’s all the same. There are little bugs crawling in your hair for a full month. Meanwhile, you’re contagious, spreading lice to your family, friends, and classmates.

Even if all of that were acceptable to you, it would be unbearable when, after going through this process for a month, you still have lice.

This is what most people I have met experience: a month of torture and still having a full blown lice infestation after the month is over. It’s just not worth it, is it?

#4: It is Complicated and Easy to “Mess-Up”

frustrated mom

It is possible that many people are unsuccessful with the Cetaphil lice treatment because they are simply “doing it wrong.”

Honestly, though, the instructions are pretty intense and unforgiving. Many sites promoting Cetaphil as a lice treatment say:

“We have seen the treatment fail when parents do not follow instructions.”

pointing blame

A statement like this is discouraging to parents who follow the instructions and still have lice.

I see this statement made by professionals all the time. 

They say it’s YOUR FAULT when you can’t get rid of lice because you didn’t follow the instructions.

It’s not your fault. The issue truly lies with the treatment itself being too ineffective to work anywhere close to 100% of the time. 

#5: It is Time Consuming

I already mentioned that this process is going to take you at least three weeks to a month. However, when I say time consuming, I am talking about blow drying your child’s Cetaphil-saturated hair.

Blow drying your child’s hair from wet to dry is usually no big deal. However, blow drying your child’s hair, saturated in thick, globby, Cetaphil cleanser, is going to take you a VERY LONG TIME.

One of my clients said it took her three hours to blow dry the Cetaphil on her child’s head. Even after all that, her daughter still had tons of LIVE LICE crawling in her hair when I saw her the next day.

Blow Drying Without Cetaphil

blow drying mom

Blow drying does help with lice, and though it doesn’t kill most lice, it can decrease the chances of lice eggs hatching. If you want to blow dry your child’s hair, go for it, but skip the Cetaphil! Here’s my Blow Drying for Lice Tutorial.

Why Some Well-Intentioned People Recommend Cetaphil

well intentioned friends

People that recommend Cetaphil as a lice treatment are well intentioned and trying to be helpful. However, the claim that if you slather Cetaphil on your child’s hair for a month, you don’t “have to” use a lice comb winds up being negative for most parents. Frequently, at the end of the month, many children will have more lice eggs than when they started, and it will be even more difficult to get rid of them.

My experience in the real world is that people that have Cetaphil “cure” their lice have one thing in common:

They combed the hair with a lice comb for three weeks.


Combing your child’s hair with a high-quality lice comb for three weeks straight will usually get rid of head lice, but give the credit to the lice comb, not the Cetaphil cleanser!

In my experience, Cetaphil cleanser DOES NOT kill head lice. I have seen this home remedy in action, and most head lice are alive and well after a round of Cetaphil. 

How to Use Cetaphil as a Lice Treatment

cetaphil hair

I pride myself in keeping my website honest. I only recommend treatments I believe in, and Cetaphil is not one of them.

I do want you to be well informed, though. So, here is a brief summary of the Cetaphil process...

Here’s how you accurately use Cetaphil as a lice treatment:

  • Buy at least 3 bottles of Cetaphil cleanser (remember, this’ll cost you around $30)
  • Put half a bottle of Cetaphil in a squirt bottle and apply it in an exact zig-zag pattern on the head.
  • Apply the other half of the bottle of Cetaphil until all of the hair is completely saturated (this may require more than one bottle depending on the thickness of your hair).
  • Blow dry the hair with the Cetaphil in it (this can take up to three hours or more for someone with thick, long hair)
  • Leave it in the hair all day (at least eight hours)
  • Repeat the process over and over and over again for three weeks.
  • This is just a summary; the instructions are pretty hefty, and you can find them here. 

http://nuvoforheadlice.com/?page_id=9 (Be sure that you read the reasons I DO NOT recommend Cetaphil as a lice treatment first.) 

Summing it Up…

The Cetaphil process is time-consuming, requires multiple treatments over the course of a month, takes at least three weeks to work, and even then often doesn’t get rid of lice. 

The major issue with Cetaphil is that most people waste about a month attempting this home remedy when they could have cured lice within a day or two using a better treatment. You will be much more successful at getting rid of head lice with a dimethicone-based lice treatment and using the Nit-Free Terminator Comb

Cetaphil is not the worst home remedy out there because it’s not terribly dangerous. If you desperately want to go the home remedy route, I recommend you check out my Coconut Oil Tutorial.

The intense regime of the Cetaphil treatment (which involves coating the hair with a bottle of Cetaphil, combing for three weeks, and blow drying for three weeks) can get rid of lice for some people. However, for those people that this regime works for, it is not really the Cetaphil itself that cures lice, but the combination of intense lice combing and blow drying that actually gets the job done.

My recommendation is to skip the Cetaphil, buy a dimethicone lice treatment and a good lice comb, and kiss lice goodbye in a day or two.

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