SAFE AND EFFECTIVE REMEDIES TO TREAT HEAD LICE ON NATURAL HAIR



WHAT ARE HEAD LICE? 

Head louse which is scientifically known as Pediculus humanus capitis, is a tiny wingless parasite that live on the human scalp and hair. Head lice feed on blood drawn from the scalp. The good news is that they don't spread diseases. Head lice have three forms; the nit (egg), nymph and adult. 



The nits are eggs laid by the adult female louse at the base of the hair shaft close to the scalp. They are very small (about the size of a pin head), oval-shaped and often confused with dandruff. They are firmly attached by a sticky substance to the hair shaft making it very hard to remove. They take about 8 to 9 days to hatch into nymphs. Nits die within a week when outside of the human head. 


A Nit


The nymph is an immature louse that hatches from the nit. It looks just like the adult louse but is smaller. The nymph feeds on blood to survive and takes about 9 to 12 days after hatching to mature into an adult louse. They can only live for several hours when outside of the human head. 


An Adult Louse and Nymph 



The adult louse is the fully grown and developed louse. It is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs and ranges from grayish-white to brown in colour. It feeds on blood to survive, lives for about 30 days in the human head and lays from 6 to 10 eggs a day making it approximately 180 to 300 eggs in 30 days. This makes it very hard to get rid of them. The adult louse can survive outside the human head for 24 to 48 hours. 

Having lice in your hair is a very dreadful experience not only because of the discomfort it causes but also how you are perceived. 

I remember reaching out to a few people after I discovered lice in my hair. The first thing that came to their mind was poor hygiene. That's so wrong! Lice can thrive well in both clean and dirty hair. Anyone with hair can become infested when they come in contact with a live louse or its nits. 

HOW TO GET HEAD LICE

Head lice are wingless and can only move by crawling. The only way to get them is if you come in contact with them in some way. Below are some common ways to get lice; 
  • Head to head contact 
  • Sharing combs, brushes, head wraps, clothing, bedding, headphones etc. with an infested person. 
  • Seats of public transit vehicles 
  • Hugging an infested person 
  • Airplane seats
  • Weaves 
Note: Head lice cannot be gotten from pets. 

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE HEAD LICE INFESTATION 

The best way to know if you have head lice infestation is when a lice louse falls out of your hair. Some other symptoms you should look out for are; 

Itching: Head lice are fast crawlers so you won't know they are there even when you part your hair. Severe tching is the first sign that draws attention to them. The itching is an allergic reaction to their saliva so if you are not allergic to their saliva, you won't itch. The itching becomes more potent at night because lice are nocturnal insects. They are more active in the dark. I had an unbearable itch for up to a week before I eventually saw lice fall out of my hair. 

If your scalp itches like hell even when you know your scalp is clean and free from dandruff or any other scalp issues then you should check yourself. 

Nits: Finding nits in your hair is one sign of head lice infestation. Part your hair and check your roots. Nits are usually attached at the base of the hair shaft about 1/4 inches from the scalp. Nits are laid close to the scalp for warmth and easy access to the scalp for food once they hatch. 

How to Tell Nits from Dandruff

Nits are darker in colour than dandruff. They only become white or yellowish after they hatch. Unlike dandruff that can easily fall off when dusted or washed, nits are firmly attached by a sticky substance to the hair shaft making it hard to remove. 

Another sign of head lice infestation is a tickling feeling of something moving in your hair. 

HOW TO PREVENT HEAD LICE INFESTATION 

As said earlier, head lice can only be gotten from coming in contact with the live lice or their nits. Here are a few things to do to keep the chance of an infestation slim; 
  • Don't share items that touch your hair like combs, towels, brushes, headphones etc. 
  • Avoid head to head contact with people
  • Wash your hair tools and accessories often. 
  • Wash your bedding at least once a week. 
  • Add a few drops of essential oils like tea tree oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil etc. to your shampoo and oil mix. Their smell repels lice. 

HOW TO GET RID OF HEAD LICE

The first advice you get as a lady growing natural hair in Nigeria is to either cut the hair or relax it. I was at the brink of cutting my hair (relaxing my hair obviously wasn't an option, haha) before the research spirit in me kicked in and I headed to Google for possible remedies. There are a lot of proposed remedies online to get rid of head lice and I've compiled a list of the ones I know would suitable for natural hair here but first let me tell you what I did to get rid of mine. 

I used two ingredients; camphor and olive oil. I know the bells are ringing in your head now about camphor but you don't have to worry. According to research, camphor is safe when used externally in small amounts on the skin. Some researches even claim it has great benefits for hair including thicker hair because of its stimulating property. 

I added one tablespoon of crushed camphor in a bottle of olive oil, warmed the mix until the camphor is completely dissolved, applied the oil generously on my scalp and hair,  covered with a plastic cap and left it in overnight. 

Olive oil is said to suffocate lice by plugging their breathing holes and camphor is antiparasitic. It kills the lice and prevents the nits from hatching. 

The next morning I washed out the oil, deep conditioned and had someone help me comb out the dead lice before putting my hair in chunky twists. I repeated this after 9 days but didn't find any lice when combing. I've been using apple cider vinegar as a rinse. I leave it in for about 15 minutes before finally rinsing with water. The vinegar helps dissolve the sticky substance that holds the nits to the hair shaft. 

This is how I got rid of head lice in my hair. Below are other remedies you could use to get rid of head lice;

Wet Combing

Just as the name suggests, wet combing is the process of combing the hair while it's wet with water and a conditioner for extra slip. Other treatments may kill the lice or nits but wet combing is the most effective  way to get them out of the hair. 

Procedure

  1. Spray water on hair (lice stay put when wet so this demobilizes them).
  2. Apply a conditioner with great slip. 
  3. Put the hair in small sections. 
  4. Comb through each section, first with a wide tooth comb, then follow with a fine tooth comb. 
  5. Wipe the comb on a white paper towel after each stroke to see if there are any lice or nits. 
  6. Wash with a shampoo when done. 
  7. Repeat every 4 to 5 days for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

You know the lice are gone when you no longer come across live or nits when combing. 

Note: You can use camphor water as a final rinse after shampooing to help kill the remaining lice and nits. Camphor water can be made by dissolving some crushed camphor in water. 

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is one of the best natural remedies for head lice. Petroleum jelly smothers the lice by clogging their breathing holes making it impossible to breath thereby killing them. 

How to Use

  1. Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly on scalp and hair. 
  2. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  3. Wash with a clarifying shampoo in the morning. 
  4. Comb out the dead lice. 
  5. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Vinegar 

Vinegar does not necessarily kill the lice or nits but due to its acidic nature, it has the ability to breakdown the sticky substance that holds the nits to the hair shaft. This makes it easy to get rid of the nits when combing. 

How to Use

  1. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. 
  2. Add a little oil (preferably coconut oil or olive oil) 
  3. Spray on hair and cover for about 30 minutes to an hour. 
  4. Follow with the wet combing method to get out lice and nits. 
  5. Repeat every 4 to 5 days for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Olive Oil

Olive oil is thought to effectively smother and kill head lice. The oil plugs the breathing holes of the organisms leading to death. 

How to Use

  1. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  2. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  3. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  4. Comb out the dead lice. 
  5. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another carrier oil which is effective in suffocating head lice. If left on the hair for about 8 hours, it can smother and kill the lice. 

How to Use

  1. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  2. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  3. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  4. Comb out the dead lice. 
  5. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Camphor Oil

Camphor, scientifically known as Cinnamomum Camphora, is a combustible, translucent white solid which has a piquant smell and sour taste. Camphor is obtained from the bark of the tree Cinnamonun camphora. Only 50-years old trees produce a waxy substance which is used as camphor oil. Camphor essential oil is said to have antiparasitic properties and is lethal to insects including head lice.  You have to dilute the oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil to make it safe enough to be used on the scalp. You should not use any oil containing more than 10 to 11% camphor. If camphor essential oil is not available, you can add a tablespoon of crushed camphor in a bottle of olive oil or coconut oil to use. 

How to Use

  1. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  2. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  3. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  4. Comb out the dead lice. 
  5. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree essential oil has been proven to have some insecticidal effect due to its major constituents, terpinen-4-ol and gamma-terpinene.  These two constituents makes it an effective option in the treatment of lice and nits. Few drops of tea tree oil can be added to your regular shampoo to prevent head lice infestation. 

How to Use

  1. Dilute the essential oil by mixing 1 part to 3 parts of a carrier oil. 
  2. Apply this generously on scalp and hair. 
  3. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave for about 30 to 40 minutes. 
  4. Wash with a shampoo. 
  5. Comb out the dead lice. 
  6. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Neem Oil

Neem is an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent. Studies show that neem oil has compounds that disrupt the life cycle of insects and is effective in getting rid of lice and nits. You can add a few drops of the oil to your shampoo to prevent lice infestation. 

How to Use

  1. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil.
  2. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  3. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave for about an hour. 
  4. Wash with a shampoo. 
  5. Comb out the dead lice. 
  6. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is another essential oil shown to be safe and effective in treating head lice. However, it is not effective against the nits. It can be used to kill hatched nits at interval until the hair is completely free of lice. Adding lavender oil in your shampoo can help keep off lice. 

How to Use

  1. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil. 
  2. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  3. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  4. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  5. Comb out the dead lice. 
  6. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Peppermint Oil 

Peppermint oil contains a compound called menthol. This compound is responsible for the many benefits of peppermint oil including to skin and hair. Peppermint essential oil is antimicrobial, insecticidal and pesticidal making it a good choice in the treatment of lice. 

How to Use

  1. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil. 
  2. Apply the oil generously on scalp and hair. 
  3. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  4. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  5. Comb out the dead lice. 
  6. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Neem and Tulsi

Neem acts as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent while tulsi (basil) helps improve blood circulation to the scalp. The neem help kill the lice and nits while the basil leaves help keep the scalp cool and reduces itchiness. 

How to Use

  1. Crush or blend 10 leaves each of both neem and tulsi. 
  2. Strain the juice out. 
  3. Mix the juice with a small quantity of coconut oil depending on your hair's length and thickness. 
  4. Slightly heat the mix and apply on scalp and hair. 
  5. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  6. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  7. Comb out the dead lice. 
  8. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Garlic and Lemon Juice

Lice are very sensitive to strong smells. Garlic has a really strong smell which can suffocate the lice and the lemon juice has astringent properties that can kill adult lice and their nits. 

How to Use

  1. Crush or blend 10 cloves of garlic.
  2. Add lemon juice and make into a paste.
  3. Apply generously on scalp and hair. 
  4. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  5. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  6. Comb out the dead lice. 
  7. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

Almond and Lemon Juice 

When crushed, almonds release almond oil which can suffocate lice and the lemon juice helps kill the lice and nits. 

How to Use

  1. Crush a few almonds depending on your hair's length and thickness. 
  2. Add lemon juice and make into a paste. 
  3. Apply on scalp, cover hair with a plastic cap and leave overnight. 
  4. Wash with a shampoo in the morning. 
  5. Comb out the dead lice. 
  6. Do this once a week for 4 weeks to completely get rid of lice. 

After successfully getting rid of the lice, make sure you take preventive measures to avoid reinfestation. 

Thanks for reading.  Let me know when you use any of the remedies above. I hope the article was useful.  Tell me what you think in the comment section. Have you subscribed yet? You are missing out on a whole lot of goodies. Please do before leaving. Don't forget to hit the share buttons. Have a nice day. 

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