Coconut Oil for Head Lice Tutorial

coconut featured

If you’re looking for a natural and effective way to kill head lice, coconut oil is one of the best home remedies out there.

Anyone struggling with lice today knows that it is no small feat. Perhaps you’re looking for a natural approach to lice treatment, or you’ve already tried a few rounds of treatments that have failed.

If you have tried other treatments that have failed, you should know that you are not alone, and it’s not your fault.

The new strain of head lice, called “super lice,” is extremely difficult to get rid of. After using multiple rounds of over the counter treatments with no success, many parents are turning to home remedies like coconut oil.

This article answers the following:

How effective is coconut oil at killing lice?
How effective is coconut oil at killing lice eggs/nits?
Coconut oil and essential oils to kill head lice
Coconut oil and apple cider vinegar
Coconut oil for lice tutorial

Super Lice

A super lice bug at high magnification.

Super lice are the newest strain of head lice, and they are becoming increasingly common. This new type of lice is immune to the traditional pesticide treatments that worked on lice in years past. 

The difficulty with super lice is that they have a genetic mutation that is unphased by pesticides, so over the counter treatments don’t kill these lice or their lice eggs no matter the strength or how long you leave them on.

A recent study shows that about 98% of lice today have the super lice mutation.

If you’ve tried treatments and still have lice, assume you’re dealing with super lice.

How Effective is Coconut Oil at Killing Lice?

A few studies have compared coconut oil to traditional over the counter treatments. The pesticide common in over the counter treatments that lice are becoming immune to is called Permethrin.

There have been three credible studies testing the effectiveness of coconut oil vs. the effectiveness of Permethrin lice treatments. 

While coconut oil was not effective against killing lice completely, one study showed coconut oil’s average lice kill rate about 80%, compared to the traditional pesticide Permethrin (that only had a kill rate of 42%). 

That means that coconut oil is about 2x more effective than the traditional over the counter lice treatments.

More Effective Than Coconut Oil

a better way

Although coconut oil has an average kill rate of about 80% on head lice, most people would prefer something closer to 100%. If you’d like to go the coconut route feel free, but you should know that there are a few very safe super lice treatments out there that do not use pesticides and are SIGNIFICANTLY more effective at killing head lice than coconut oil.

The active ingredient in these treatments is dimethicone. Dimethicone is a silicone-based oil that interrupts lice’s ability to breathe and excrete water; it kills lice in 15 minutes.

Studies have also tested dimethicone against pesticides, and dimethicone has come out on top of all other treatments, time and time again.

One study shows that of the children treated with dimethicone, 98.3% were free of all lice, which is significantly more effective than the pesticide Permethrin (kill rate of 42%) or Coconut oil (kill rate of 80%).

pesticides, coconut oil, dimethicone percentages

Dimethicone is the biggest kept secret of professional lice centers. But, fortunately, 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, I base all of my reviews on the quality of the products)

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. Ladibugs 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 most straightforward treatment to use. It kills all lice within 20 minutes. You’ll need to retreat in about 10 days.

Coconut Oil with Essential Oils

essential oils coconut

Coconut oil is an excellent carrier oil for essential oils. A carrier oil is any oil used to apply essential oils to the scalp or skin in a gentle way. 19 essential oils have shown to have some effectiveness against head lice, but the most common for helping to kill head lice are:

Tea Tree

Anise 

Ylang Ylang

Lavender

The study that tested coconut oil, anise, and ylang-ylang was most effective, but it also involved doing the treatment multiple times.

Studies on tea tree oil are the most promising, showing high kill rates of lice. But, as with most treatments, tea tree oil has limited effects on lice eggs.

You should treat essential oils with respect. Many people have skin reactions to essential oils, so be careful. You may even want to test an area of the skin before putting them on your scalp. A good rule of thumb is 10 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of coconut oil. For example:

¼ cup (2 oz) Coconut Oil = 20 drops essential oil

½ cup (4 oz) Coconut Oil = 40 drops essential oil

Does Coconut Oil Kill Lice Eggs?

Lice eggs in brown hair

Although coconut oil has shown to be effective at killing lice, it is not effective at killing lice eggs (also known as nits). So, if you use a coconut oil treatment, you must remove every nit from the head to prevent it from hatching. Those that focus only on killing lice and not on removing nits from the head will find themselves in a never-ending cycle of head lice.

Here’s what that cycle looks like...

You kill all the lice. You think you’ve gotten rid of everything, but you leave a few lice eggs in the hair. Those lice eggs hatch within a few days, and, shortly, those lice begin laying eggs. Within a few weeks, you have a full infestation all over again. You go around and around in this circle of “getting lice back” from yourself.

Coconut oil lice cycle

Apple Cider Vinegar and Coconut Oil for Lice

apple cider vinegar

Usually, people that understand that coconut oil doesn’t kill lice eggs advise soaking hair in apple cider vinegar to loosen lice eggs. I have an entire article dedicated to apple cider vinegar. The theory is that the acidity of apple cider vinegar eats away at the glue that holds lice into place on the hair strand.

As someone who removes lice and lice eggs from people’s hair every day, I have not seen a difference in vinegar, easing the removal of lice eggs. I think people that feel like apple cider vinegar makes nits easier to remove just want to believe that’s true because it’s such a daunting task.

A more effective way to break down the glue that holds nits in place is enzymes. The Ladibugs Kit comes with an enzyme mousse that you leave on the hair before combing through it, which is why it is my top pick for treatment kits. The kit has the serum for killing lice and the enzyme mousse to help remove lice eggs. Lice will be dead right away with the lice killing serum, but enzymes like this generally work best at breaking down lice glue if used multiple times.

How To Remove Lice Eggs

check hair

I know, removing lice eggs from the hair is difficult. After using a crumby lice comb with little success, many people resort to “nit-picking,” which is manually removing individual lice eggs from the hair with your fingers.

Nit-picking is an option, but it is incredibly time-consuming, tedious, and overwhelming, and sadly most parents still miss several nits. Just two nits mean staying trapped in this lice cycle again and again.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs is with a professional-level head lice comb.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs, and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a lousy comb. There are only a few good lice combs on the market today, and you can’t find any of them at the drugstore. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. 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.
If you combine coconut oil, the Nit Free Terminator, and persistent combing, you can get rid of head lice.

Coconut Oil For Lice Tutorial

To get rid of head lice with or without coconut oil, you need to:

  • First Kill Head lice
  • Second Remove Lice or Repeat Treatments
  • Third Clean Your House
  • Fourth Check Back

Kill Head Lice with Coconut Oil

I’ve been pretty clear that coconut oil is not the most effective way to kill head lice, but of the home remedies, it is one of the best. Coconut oil kills about 80% of head lice, with a good lice comb, you can get rid of lice with coconut oil.

Step 1 - Prep Your Child

towel shoulders (1)
  • Beginning with completely DRY hair is essential because if you expose lice to water, they close their “breathing holes” which makes them less susceptible to being killed by oil.
  • Place a towel around your child’s shoulders; this will be a messy process.

Step 2 - Prepare Coconut Oil

coconut sign

Regular coconut oil is solid at room temperature, which makes it a little more challenging to apply.

  • Melt ½ cup to 1 cup of coconut oil in the microwave until it is at least partially liquid (start with 30 seconds and add more time as needed). Feel free to use more or less coconut oil depending on hair length. Typical is ½ cup for short hair and 1 cup for long hair.
  • Add essential oils if desired.

Step 3 - Focus on the Scalp

coconut hair parted

Section your child’s hair and slather coconut oil directly to your child’s scalp. Focus most of your attention on the scalp and roots of the hair, because this is where lice usually reside.

Step 4 - Comb through the Hair

comb through hair

After you apply coconut oil to the scalp, comb the coconut oil through the rest of the hair. Saturate the hair with the remaining coconut oil.

Step 5 - Wait

wait

Coconut oil is going to be more effective at killing head lice the longer you leave it on. You should leave coconut on for at least 4 hours, but I recommend at least 8 hours with coconut oil for maximum effectiveness. Most people do this treatment overnight.

Step 6 - Cover the Head...or Don’t

  • If you have a safe shower cap or another hat for your child, then feel free to put it on her. 
  • DO NOT put plastic on your child’s head and send her to bed. Using a plastic bag is dangerous and can kill your child, as it did with the parents in this news story.
  • You do not need to cover the head at all. Put your child’s hair in a bun and send her to bed. Coconut oil does not stain the same way other oils stain. Just wash her bedding the next morning, and all of the coconut oil will come out.

Step 7 - Rinse or Don’t Rinse

rinse hair

You can rinse the coconut oil out in the morning, or you can leave the coconut oil in the hair while completing the next step. If you want to do a vinegar wash/soak for 10 minutes, this is the time to do it. I don’t recommend vinegar for the reasons stated above, but it’s up to you.

Remove Lice Eggs vs. Repeat Treatments

Option #1- Remove Lice Eggs

combing hair

Coconut oil DOES NOT kill lice eggs!!
One of the biggest mistakes people make with any lice treatment, including coconut oil, is not removing all of the lice eggs from their child’s hair. Any nits left in the hair WILL hatch and reinfest your child.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs permanently is with a Nit Free Terminator Comb.

Option #2- Repeat Treatments 

Instead of removing lice eggs from the hair, some people would rather just apply coconut oil to their child’s head every few days for the next few weeks with the assumption that over time all lice will be killed, including those that hatch from the eggs over the following weeks.

That might work, or it might not. Remember, coconut oil only kills 80% of head lice.

If you choose the “repeat treatments” method, your child will have lice for several weeks, because every day new baby lice will hatch from the eggs left in the hair.

To me, that’s not an acceptable option. 

But, if you want to do the repeat treatment option, then you will need to repeat applying coconut oil to the hair every 3 days for the next 3 weeks.

To sum it up…

Leaving Lice Eggs/Repeat Treatments = Lice for Weeks

Removing Lice Eggs = No More Lice!!

To me, there it’s a no-brainer. 

Get a Nit Free Terminator Comb; it’s the smartest “lice” decision you will ever make.

Step 8 - Clean Your House

dryer

Don’t go insane with the house cleaning; this is the easiest step.

Clean your house using the following principles as a guide (or check out the article Lice Cleaning Checklist to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home):

Think 48 Hours
Focus your attention on cleaning items that have been in contact with the lice-infested individual within the last 48 hours. Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours on household items.

Do Not Use Lice Sprays, Vacuum Instead
Lice sprays do not work on lice at all, and they are hazardous. Vacuuming surfaces such as couches and mattresses are more effective at killing lice than sprays.

Clean Your Brushes
Soak hairbrushes, combs, and hair accessories (such as hairbands, clips, and headbands) used by the person with lice in hot water (135° F or higher) for at least ten minutes. (I do not recommend boiling brushes and combs, however, because they will melt.)

Items in the Dryer
Put items in the dryer for 40 minutes on high heat.

Bag Items for 2 Days
Lice can’t live without blood for very long, so anything that could have lice on it will be safe to use again after 48 hours. If an item is something that you cannot run through the dryer, like a favorite stuffed toy or delicate clothing, you can seal it away in a bag for a couple of days.

Don’t Forget Carseats
Vacuum the car seats of the infested individuals.

Step - 9 Check Back

Checking with comb

Whether you’ve chosen to remove lice eggs or you’ve decided that you want to do the repeat treatment thing, I recommend continuing to comb through the hair every few days for a full two weeks to make sure you’re not finding any lice in the hair. After 2 weeks of finding no lice, you’re in the clear.

Summing It Up…

Coconut oil has about an 80% kill rate for lice bugs. I recommend leaving it on the scalp for at least 8 hours. You can add essential oils to the coconut as desired to increase its effectiveness.

Coconut oil does nothing to affect lice eggs. If you leave lice eggs in the hair, they will hatch. You have two options, you can remove all of the lice eggs with the Nit Free Terminator comb, or you can do several rounds of coconut oil for 3 weeks. I recommend removing lice eggs because it is significantly more productive, and you will get rid of lice much faster.

Dimethicone treatments have proven more effective than coconut oil and are what most professional lice centers (including my own) use. The best dimethicone treatments are Ladibugs and Lice Clinics.

For those looking for an all-natural home remedy, coconut oil is one of the very best there is! Just be sure to tackle the lice egg situation, so you don’t get stuck in a never-ending cycle of baby lice hatching and reinfesting the family.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

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