How to Use Neem Oil for Head Lice

neem oil featured image

Discover whether neem oil is a good choice for lice treatment, how to use it, and how effectively neem oil kills and prevents head lice.

Are you looking for a natural approach to lice treatment?

If you have already tried multiple rounds of lice 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 immune to most over the counter and prescription lice treatments. 

As a result, millions of parents around the world are turning to home remedies for an alternative treatment. 

This article explores the home remedy of neem oil and a full review of using neem oil as a lice treatment compared to other lice treatments and home remedies. Topics include: 

Neem for Lice: Does it Work?

Does Neem Oil Kill Lice?

Neem Oil Lice Treatment

Better Home Remedies and Treatments

Neem Oil for Lice Prevention

Super Lice

A super lice bug at high magnification.

If you’ve been struggling with lice for a while, you’ve probably had lots of people giving you bad advice.

Probably the most frustrating are the health professionals and websites that say things like, “If you don’t get rid of lice, it’s probably because you didn’t follow the instructions.”

That simply is not true. You’re not getting rid of lice isn’t because you aren’t following instructions, it’s because pesticide treatments DO NOT WORK.

Lice Resistance Trend Graph

The current strain of head lice, “super 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.

Multiple studies prove that lice are immune to treatments that worked in the past. Sadly, many people try brand name lice products five or six times before finally giving up and trying something new. 

The struggle is real.

About My Lice Advice

Tens of millions of people across the world struggle with lice for weeks, months, or even years, you shouldn’t be one of them! 

Neem Oil

neem smell

The first thing you should know about neem oil before going any further is…

NEEM OIL SMELLS AWFUL!

Many people gag at the pungent smell of neem oil. And, once you put neem oil in your hair, it will smell nasty for a very long time, even if you wash it several times.

I’ve had plenty of experience with neem, and if I were to describe the scent, I would describe it as a cross between onions, garlic, and peanuts. 

You know how after you chop an onion, your hands smell like onions for an hour or so. The same is true of neem oil, except your hands and hair will smell like that for much longer. 

neem tree

If you’re okay with all of that, then keep reading. If you’d prefer your hands, hair, and home not smell putrid for a week, then you should check out my Coconut Oil for Lice or Tea Tree Oil for Lice article instead.

Neem oil is not an essential oil; it’s closer to a vegetable oil. Neem oil is made from the seeds of the tropical neem tree found in Asia. The oil has been used for centuries to treat all sorts of ailments, including treating skin conditions, hair conditions, and as a pest repellent.

It’s safe on the skin and scalp, and you can find it in cosmetics, but it can be toxic if ingested.

The ingredient in neem believed to treat head lice is azadirachtin… but does it work?

Neem Oil: Does It Work?

confused researcher

With neem oil, you have two categories of people: One group of people “believers” think neem is a miracle cure for everything, including lice, and the other group of people say they’ve tried neem oil, and it doesn’t work.

The studies on neem oil are conflicting as well. One shows it as a “miracle,” and other studies show it as ineffective.

The study quoted by those touting neem as a miracle cure claims neem oil can not only kill head lice but also prevent lice eggs from hatching. 

But is that true?

neem oil pie graph (1)

In the most reputable study of neem oil, participants applied neem oil to their lice-infested heads every 3 days for 2 weeks! Even despite this rigorous regime, 75% of people still had a head full of lice after 2 weeks of this neem lice treatment. 

In another thorough study on neem oil and head lice, the results were very obvious...

Neem oil does not cure lice.

Neem Oil: The Experiment

After reading all of these conflicting studies, I decided that I should do a neem oil experiment myself before posting this article.

jar of lice

I have done multiple experiments testing lice home remedies ranging from rubbing alcohol to Listerine to hair dye, and this experiment was similar.

Because I work with people with horrific lice every day, I am in a unique position to test something like this out, so I went ahead and did my own neem experiment before posting this article.

lice near the jar

I had to do this experiment a little differently because some claim that 100% neem oil needs to be used, while others claim that you should use a mixture of neem oil and shampoo together.

So, several live lice were collected from a recent client with a severe infestation of head lice and divided evenly between two jars.

Jar #1- 100% pure neem oil
Jar #2- A mixture of neem oil and regular shampoo in a 1:2 combination.

neem oil

Lice and hair were slathered in one of the two neem mixtures and left for 30 minutes.

After the time was up, I removed the hair/lice from the jars, washed the neem oil or neem mixture out of the hair, and placed the lice on a white paper towel in an empty mason jar.

Initially, the lice were immobile and looked dead, but I waited…

This is really common- lice immersed in any oil or liquid become immobile and appear dead for a while.

This common phenomenon, termed “playing dead” by researchers, tricks a lot of people.

The truth is that most lice are closing up their breathing holes and conserving energy, not dying. 

This “hibernation- state” fools a lot of people. Don’t be tricked by head lice!

The “hibernation- state” protects lice, making it so that they can conserve energy, and no toxins or liquid will penetrate their breathing holes. 

Does Neem Oil Kill Lice? 

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

What I found is that similar to other treatments, the lice played dead when I immersed them in neem oil. After I rinsed them, I saw lice “playing dead” for a few more minutes. But I waited...

And within 15 minutes of being rinsed, the lice “resurrected” back to life. 

These results are prevalent for many home remedies like mayonnaise and olive oil. 

The first lice resurrected back to life within 15 minutes, but at the end of the hour, half of the lice from both neem test groups were alive and well.

The lice stayed alive until I finally threw them away 24 hours later.

thumbs down

No, neem oil is not an effective lice killer.

Neem oil is not a “miracle” head lice cure. Neem oil can kill a few head lice, but it will not get you any closer to getting rid of head lice.

Neem is similar to other “smother” home remedies where lice appear to be dead but are not. Lice soon resurrect back to life after being rinsed from neem. These lice are capable of feeding and breeding just as before the neem treatment.

Better Treatments and Home Remedies Than Neem Oil

Dimethicone is the best lice treatment on the market today.

Dimethicone is not a home remedy.

It’s not a prescription.

Dimethicone is not available at your local drug store.

cover hair (1)

Dimethicone is an entirely 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 for most of the people tested.

Dimethicone does not kill lice eggs, so don’t think you can just do a treatment and walk away. You’ll need to get a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator and get all of those lice eggs out of the hair or else they’ll hatch, and you’ll go around and around with head lice.

For years, the only places you could get dimethicone products 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, I base all of my reviews on the quality of the products.)

These are my top picks for something better than Neem 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. 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 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 Neem Oil

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

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’s 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, so you’ll need to get a good lice comb like the Nit-Free Terminator.

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

Tea Tree Oil

essential oils coconut

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.

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 levels in tea tree shampoo are not adequate.

Applying tea tree oil directly to the scalp may cause severe reactions, so you should dilute tea tree 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.

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 you remove them 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.

Neem Oil for Lice Prevention

lice prevention

Lice have a keen sense of smell, and they are attracted to human blood, just like sharks and mosquitoes.

You can use lice’s keen sense of smell against them. Because lice are so sensitive to smell, they will instinctively run away from any scent they don’t like.

Is neem oil one of these scents?

neem lice repellent (2)

In a study testing different lice repellent scents, neem oil was tested and didn’t perform exceptionally well. A combination of citronella and neem repelled some head lice, but it wasn’t dramatic.

Two essential oils stood out:

Tea Tree Oil and Peppermint oil were the best repellents, by far.

Tea Tree oil repelled 55% of head lice.

Peppermint oil repelled 34% of head lice.

To be honest, neem oil smells so bad that it’s not just bugs that won’t want to be around you. Your hair will smell so bad that even you won’t want to be around yourself.

Believe it or not, your secret weapon lies in essential oils--the same essential oils that smell amazing to you, not nasty to you. If you want to buy a lice repellent spray, Ladibugs detangling spray has a mixture of neem and spearmint if you’re looking for something with neem.

These are my top picks for lice repellent sprays. Or you can learn to make one yourself on my DIY Lice Prevention Spray Tutorial.

Neem Oil Lice Treatment (Not Recommended)

neem treatment

After seeing neem oil in action (or should I say inaction) against head lice, I can not in good conscience recommend using neem oil for head lice. It simply doesn’t work.

Neem oil doesn’t kill lice, but if you want to waste your time on it, that’s your prerogative. Here’s how you’d do it:

Neem oil is very thick and viscous and can become solid at room temperature (similar to coconut oil). The best way to make neem easier to apply is to run the bottle of neem under a stream of hot water until the oil melts.

  1. Apply 100% liquid neem oil or a mixture of neem oil diluted in shampoo (1:2 ratio) directly to the hair and scalp (Neither combination gets rid of lice, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose).
  2. Leave on the scalp and hair for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Wash hair multiple times with a clarifying shampoo to remove the oil. This will likely take numerous rounds of washing and a lot of shampoo to get most of the oil out.
  4. Anticipate your hair to be very oily and very stinky for the next week.
  5. Anticipate still having lice, because neem oil doesn’t get rid of head lice.

Summing it Up…

Neem oil stinks at getting rid of head lice (pun intended).

While there are some out there that would have you believe that neem oil is a “miracle cure,” it is not. Neem oil does not kill lice. Using neem oil will not get you any closer to getting rid of head lice.

Neem oil is a lice repellent but is not nearly as effective as tea tree oil and peppermint at deterring head lice. 

My advice… 

Neem oil smells terrible, and it doesn’t kill head lice, so this seems like a no-brainer to me. This is what you should do...

Step 1: Get a Nit Free Terminator Comb. 

Step 2: Use a Dimethicone lice treatment or an effective home remedy like one I recommend in my home remedies article.

Step 3: Flush that neem oil down the toilet, so it doesn’t stink up your house or your hair any longer. 

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