Olive Oil For Lice Treatment Tutorial: Does Olive Oil Kill Lice?

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Discover whether olive oil is a good treatment for lice and how effective olive oil is at killing lice.

Are you looking for a natural approach to lice treatment?

Have you already tried a few rounds of treatments that have failed?
The new strain of head lice, called “super lice,” is extremely difficult to get rid of because they are immune to over the counter treatments!

As a result, many parents are turning to home remedies like olive oil as an alternative.

This article answers the following:
Does Olive Oil Kill Lice?
Olive Oil and Tea Tree Oil for Lice
Olive Oil and Vinegar for Lice
Benefits of Olive Oil as a Lice Treatment
Disadvantages of Olive Oil as a Lice Treatment

Does Olive Oil Kill Lice?

olive oil 1

The theory behind olive oil is that it can “smother” and suffocate head lice if left on the head for 8 hours. Multiple studies tested the effectiveness of olive oil on head lice. 

In a recent study comparing the effectiveness of six different home remedies on head lice, hair was completely saturated in olive oil and left to sit for a full 8 hours. After 8 hours, researchers examined the hair for live vs. dead head lice.

How did olive oil do?

Olive oil killed only 2% of head lice.

Yes, you read that correctly. 

Olive oil killed 2% of head lice, and 98% of head lice were still alive after being completely covered in olive oil for 8 hours.

So, does olive oil kill lice? NO!

Why Do People Recommend Olive Oil?

oil on spoon

Studies show that submerging lice in oil or water causes them to go into survival mode. One of their greatest survival skills is that they hold still and stop breathing. 

Historically, people believed that lice could only hold their breath for 6 hours, but multiple studies have debunked that theory. For example, one study shows that many lice can hold their breath up to 12 hours, while another study shows some lice living past 14 hours.

When you submerge lice in oil, they usually go into a hibernation state to conserve energy. One study termed this as “playing dead.” When people use olive oil for head lice, this “playing dead” is what they see, and they assume that lice are, in fact, dead.

The studies also show that lice usually remain in this hibernation state after removed from oils but “resurrect” back to life within a few hours and are soon at full strength and capable of breeding just as before the treatment.

Olive Oil Compared to Other “Smother” Treatments

Olive oil is not the only smother treatment, but it is irrefutably one of the least effective at killing head lice. Let’s compare olive oil as a lice treatment to other smother treatments.

home remedies olive oil infographic

Dimethicone is the Best!

Dimethicone is not a home remedy.

It’s not a prescription.

You usually can’t find it at your local drug store.

Dimethicone is the best-kept secret of lice centers throughout the world. It’s what I use in my lice center every day.

It is a 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:

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.

Best All Natural

If you want to use an all natural product that outperforms most home remedies my top pick is Head Hunters WipeOut. To be clear, WipeOut is not a dimethicone product. Instead it kills head lice with natural ingredients, staphysagria and ledum palustre, which you can’t find in stores.

Be sure to get the kit that comes with the “Pro-Lice” Nit Free Terminator comb.

Coconut Oil is the Best Smother Home Remedy

coconut featured

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

Coconut oil is one of the most effective home remedies. Two studies show coconut oil killing about 80% of head lice after being left on the head for extended periods. I recommend leaving it on the head for at least 8 hours. 

Unfortunately, coconut oil, like most other home remedies and lice treatments, has little to no effect on lice eggs. Coconut oil doesn’t kill lice eggs or prevent them from hatching.

Removing lice eggs from the head or repeated treatments over 3 weeks are necessary for coconut oil to get rid of head lice effectively. 

Read the full article and tutorial Coconut Oil For Head Lice Tutorial for more information.

Petroleum Jelly For Head Lice


In a study, Petroleum Jelly or Vaseline was significantly better at killing lice than olive oil (62% vs. 2%). It also has more effect on helping lice eggs not hatch than olive oil. 

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. But, if you’re still interested in it, then read my article Vaseline For Lice: Does It Work?

Olive Oil and Tea Tree Oil for Lice

essential oils coconut

While olive oil itself is not effective against head lice, it can be a great carrier oil for something that is proven to kill lice. Studies testing highly concentrated tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)l have shown tea tree to kill lice very well, although it does not have much effect on lice eggs.

Tea tree oil straight on the scalp can cause severe skin irritation. So as with all essential oils, it is best to dilute it with a carrier oil such as olive oil. Carrier oils make it less likely for people to have adverse effects from essential oils such as breathing problems or skin irritation. Other carrier oils are almond oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil.

When mixing tea tree and olive oil, the recommendation is 10 drops of essential oil for every 1 oz of olive oil. Continue to the Tutorial portion of this article to learn more.

Olive Oil and Vinegar for Lice

apple cider vinegar

Many people claim that the acidity of apple cider vinegar eats away at the glue that holds lice into place on the hair strand, which makes them easier to remove.

In a study testing vinegar on both live lice and lice eggs, apple cider vinegar did the worst against both head lice and lice eggs. 

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 more likely people are looking for a “cure” against lice eggs, and they want to believe apple cider vinegar makes a difference, but it doesn’t.

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. 

Does Olive Oil Kill Lice Eggs or Prevent Them From Hatching?

Egg of the head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) on a hair. The picture was taken after an anti-lice treatment  (Oxyphthirine - a substance based on Triglycerid producing a kind of film at the surface of the eggs and lice that induce asphyxia).  This egg is therefore dead and its aspect can be slightly different from an alive egg. It seems to be slightly deshydrated.  Scale : egg length= 0.57 mm  Technical settings :  - focus stack of 42 images - microscope objective (Nikon achromatic 10x 160/0.25) on bellow (160 mm extension)

Yes and no. In one study, lice eggs were covered in olive oil for 10 days straight and compared to lice eggs not covered in oil. The eggs not smothered in olive oil had a hatch rate of 87%, lice eggs covered in olive oil for 10 days had a hatch rate of 56%.

I’m not impressed, are you?

All it takes for lice to reinfest your head is 2 lice eggs hatching (one male, one female). So, having 56% of lice eggs hatch instead of 87% doesn’t make a difference. Either way, you will get reinfested with head lice.

The Best Way to Kill Lice Eggs

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.

The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb, and you can’t find it at the drugstore.

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

Benefits of Olive Oil Lice Treatment

Although it is clear that olive oil doesn’t kill lice, it can still help you get rid of lice.

Olive Oil Freezes Lice and Eases Combing

Checking with comb

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

Removing lice and lice eggs from the hair with a professional level lice comb will get rid of lice. Having olive oil in the hair can help the comb slide through hair easily.

Risks of Olive Oil Lice Treatment

Plastic Overnight Can Be Deadly


Olive oil lice treatments require you to saturate the hair in olive oil, place a plastic cap on it and then have your child sleep in it. Leaving plastic on your child while she sleeps can lead to suffocation as it did in this news story:

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

...a plastic shopping bag was placed over her head, a common home remedy for head lice. The girl was left unattended and apparently fell asleep, allowing the bag to slip down over her face, suffocating her.”

Olive Oil Treatment Tutorial

Step 1 - Prep Your Child

towel shoulders (1)
  • Begin with completely DRY hair. 
  • Place a towel around your child’s shoulders; this will be a messy process.

Step 2 - Mix Olive Oil with Essential Oils

essential oils coconut
  • Typical olive oil measurements: Crew cut hair- 2 oz, Shoulder length hair- 4 oz, Mid back hair 8 oz
  • Using essential oils like tea tree will increase the chances of successfully killing head lice. Mix 40 drops of tea tree oil with 4 oz of olive oil.
  • Other essential oils that have some effect on head lice are lavender, ylang-ylang, and anise.

Step 3 - Rub into the Scalp

section hair

Section your child’s hair and rub olive oil directly onto 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 olive oil to the scalp, comb the oil through the rest of the hair. Apply the remaining olive oil to the rest of the hair until it is saturated in oil.

Step 5 - Wait


Leave olive oil on for at least 8 hours. 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. This is dangerous.

Step 7 - Rinse or Don’t Rinse

rinse hair

You can rinse the olive oil out in the morning, or you can leave the oil in the hair while completing the next step.

If you want to do a vinegar wash/soak for 10 minutes-1 hour, 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 and Lice Eggs With a Lice Comb

combing hair

Olive oil DOES NOT kill lice or eggs!! It freezes them.
Your best bet is to use olive oil to freeze lice and comb them out of the hair.
The biggest mistake you can make is not removing all of the lice and eggs from your child’s hair. Lice left in the hair WILL “resurrect” after being rinsed, and nits left in the hair WILL hatch and reinfest your child.

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

Repeat Treatments

Instead of removing lice eggs from the hair, some people would rather just apply olive 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’s not likely to work, considering olive oil doesn’t kill lice or lice eggs.

Step 8 - Clean Your House


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 greater) 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 Frequently

Checking with comb

Keep combing through the hair every few days for a full two weeks with or without olive oil. 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…

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. 

Olive oil is not an effective treatment as it does not kill head lice even after being left on the head for 8 hours. Head lice usually lice “play dead” when covered in olive oil, but “resurrect from the dead” 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. Go for a dimethicone lice treatment like Ladibugs or Lice Clinics, or a natural treatment like Head Hunters, to get rid of lice faster.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

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