Mayonnaise for Lice: Does Mayo Kill Lice?

What's in your cupboard?

Is mayonnaise a good alternative to lice treatment? Does mayo kill lice?

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.

It’s not your fault!

The new strain of head lice, called “super lice,” is challenging to get rid of. After using multiple rounds of over the counter treatments with no success, many parents are turning to home remedies like mayonnaise as an alternative.

This article answers the following:

Does Mayonnaise Kill Lice?
Does Mayo Kill Lice Eggs and Nits?
Mayo Lice Treatment

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 pesticide treatments that come in the kits at your local drug store. 

These super lice have a genetic mutation that makes them unphased by pesticides, so over the counter treatments don’t kill these lice or their lice eggs no matter 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.

Does Mayonnaise Kill Lice? (2)


After trying rounds of over the counter treatments with no success, most people are looking to find a natural home remedy that works to kill head lice. 

For decades mothers have been using mayonnaise as an alternative lice treatment. It’s gross, yes, but if it works, then who cares? But does it work?

Mayonnaise is one of many oils used to “smother” lice. The timeless theory is that lice can hold their breath for 6 hours, so if you leave mayo on the head for 8 hours, then they will suffocate and die. Is it true?

This theory may have been correct for your grandmother’s generation of head lice, but it is NOT true for this generation of head lice.

Here’s what they have found about head lice and oil treatments.

  1. Mayonnaise slows lice down; many lice will become immobile and appear dead.
  2. Lice lay a few fewer eggs if mayo is in the hair (probably because they were moving less).
  3. Lice that appear dead usually “resurrect back to life” in about an hour after rinsing!

Crazy right? Many people that use mayonnaise as a home treatment see these “dead-looking” lice and remove them, but the lice aren’t dead!

Studies looking for alternatives to head lice treatment have examined multiple home remedies, including mayonnaise. 

In the very best study of home remedies, hair was saturated entirely in mayonnaise and left for 8 hours.

How well did mayonnaise do?

Mayonnaise HAD NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on head lice after 8 hours! 

The percentage of lice killed in the mayo after 8 hours was about 20%. Let’s compare the kill rate of mayonnaise to other smother remedies.

home remedies mayonnaise infographic

The Best “Smother Treatment” is Dimethicone

Dimethicone is not a home remedy, it’s not a prescription, and you likely can’t find it at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is an entirely safe, non-toxic oil that suffocates and kills all lice in about 15 minutes! It outperforms everything else in killing lice. In studies, it has an average kill rate of 98% for lice bugs with one treatment.

For years, the only places you could get dimethicone were 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)

Best Overall 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 10 days.

Coconut Oil is the Best Home Remedy Smother

coconut featured

If you’re dead set on using a home remedy to smother lice, then coconut oil is your best choice. 

Coconut oil is one of the more effective home remedies. Two studies indicate that coconut oil kills about 80% of head lice if left on the head for extended periods. I recommend leaving it on the head for at least 8 hours. 

Coconut oil’s effectiveness may increase if combined with essential oils. The study that combined coconut oil with Anise (essential oil) killed 83% of head lice, whereas coconut oil alone killed 80% of head lice. Essential oils that may increase coconut oil success 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 over 3 weeks are necessary for coconut oil to get rid of head lice effectively. Read the full article and tutorial at the article Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial.

Petroleum Jelly For Head Lice


Petroleum Jelly and Vaseline are significantly better at killing lice than mayonnaise (killed 62%). It also has more effect on helping lice eggs not hatch than mayonnaise.

But I don’t recommend it.

It is nasty, and it is difficult to get out of the hair. You’ll be spending a full week just trying to rinse it out. I do not recommend it. But, if you’re still interested in it, then read my article Petroleum Jelly and Vaseline for Head Lice.

Does Mayo Kill Lice Eggs?

coconut hair parted

In the same study, mayonnaise was left on the hair for a full 10 days to see what impact it would have on lice eggs. Mayonnaise did affect the ability of lice eggs to hatch. On the hair smothered with mayonnaise for a full 10 days straight, only about 23% of the eggs hatched, as opposed to those with no mayo where the average is about 87% hatch.

While this is helpful information to know, it doesn’t fix the problem with lice eggs. All it takes for lice to reinfest your head is 2 lice eggs hatching (one male, one female). So, having 23% of lice eggs hatch instead of 87% doesn’t make a difference. Either way, you will get reinfested with head lice.

Also, who plans to have mayo on their head for 10 days straight?

How To Kill Lice Eggs

The only method that is 100% effective at killing lice eggs 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 (the head) they will quickly die.

I know, removing lice eggs from the hair is difficult. Nit-picking is an option, but it is incredibly time-consuming and overwhelming and sadly most parents still miss several nits, and just two nits means lice again.

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

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs before, and they don’t work.” That’s because you are 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.

The Terminator is the lice comb almost every lice professional use in their salon. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals that create a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits. This “barbed wire” catches nits and drags them down the entire hair strand and out of your hair.

Mayo Lice Treatment- How it is Helpful

Mayo slows lice down significantly

Have you seen how fast lice move in the hair? Head lice are perfectly designed to maneuver through the hair with ease and speed. But, putting an oil in the hair can slow them down significantly. Saturating the hair in oil usually puts them into a “play dead” mode, so they are completely immobile. Making them a lot easier to remove since they won’t be running away.

Oil eases combing

Checking with comb

The best way to remove lice and lice eggs from the hair is with a professional level lice comb. Having oil in the hair can help the comb glide through hair smoothly. But, if I were going to pick a lubricant to ease combing, I definitely would not pick mayonnaise. Alternative oils are almond oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. But, I find that conditioner is the best way to ease combing through the hair.

Mayo Lice Treatment- How it is Harmful

In most cases, mayonnaise lice treatments do more harm than good, which is why I do not recommend them.


#1- Mayo treatments can be dangerous and lead to suffocation

Mayonnaise lice treatments require you to slather the hair in mayonnaise, place a plastic cap on it, and then have your child sleep in it. This is actually incredibly dangerous and can lead to death. Here’s a small part of a news story about a tragedy caused by a mayonnaise lice treatment:

“Massachusetts police are investigating the death of an 18-month old child who suffocated, apparently because of a home remedy for head lice involving mayonnaise and a plastic bag.

Sgt. John Delaney says the little girl’s scalp was covered in mayonnaise, and a plastic shopping bag was placed over her head, a common home remedy for head lice. The girl was left unattended and fell asleep, allowing the bag to slip down over her face, suffocating her.”

#2- Mayo wastes precious time and energy

Mayonnaise doesn’t work. Many people see lice “playing dead” and think that they’ve killed them. So they do the treatment over and over again and struggle with lice for weeks or months before wising up and trying something else.

#3- It’s messy and disgusting

Just to state the obvious...mayonnaise smells horrible if left on a warm head for hours. You and your child will likely not be able to eat a sandwich again for months without gagging.

Summing It Up…

Head lice today are extremely difficult to kill because of the new super lice mutation, which has many parents turning to home remedies to smother lice. 

Mayonnaise is not an effective smother and does not kill head lice even after being left on the head for 8 hours. Head lice usually lice “play dead” when covered in oil or mayonnaise, but “resurrect from the dead” an hour after being rinsed. 

Better alternative smother treatments are dimethicone (98% kill rate) or Coconut Oil (80% kill rate). Check out my Coconut Oil for Head Lice Tutorial if you’re looking for a better home remedy. But, my recommendation is to go for a dimethicone lice treatment like Ladibugs or Lice Clinics.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

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