By Lice Clinics of America
Historically, the only pediculosis treatment available was a comb used for removing head lice and eggs (also called nits). Today there are many more options, with varying degrees of safety, cost, speed and efficacy. These basically group themselves into five categories: lice combs, suffocation products, lice chemicals (pesticides), essential oils, and heated air (dehydration).
Many of these products are home lice treatments geared toward self-treatment. However, due to frustrations and difficulty in treating lice at home, there has been a growing shift toward professional lice treatments. You may decide that for you, getting the best pediculosis treatment means having a professional do it for you. See this map to find some professional lice-treatment centers near you.
Lice combs are made of either plastic or metal (our preference) and are used for manually lifting head lice and eggs out of the hair. If used in experienced hands, combs can get rid of lice eggs and hatched lice very effectively (and safely). A complete comb-out can be time-intensive. It can sometimes be painful and difficult to do effectively by beginners. Learn more about lice combs.
Suffocation products kill lice by plugging their airways (called spiracles). This treatment group is made up of some common household items like mayonnaise and Vaseline, as well as commercial products that often use silicone-based active ingredients. Suffocation products can be quite time-consuming and messy. They typically have relatively low efficacy in killing the lice eggs, so multiple applications are usually needed. Learn more about suffocation products.
Many over-the-counter and prescription lice shampoos contain pesticides. Early on they were quite effective at killing hatched lice, but that efficacy has been dropping for many pesticide-based products because of evolving lice resistance to pesticides. Also, pesticide-based lice products typically have low efficacy in killing the lice eggs, so multiple applications are usually needed. Learn more about pesticide-based lice drugs.
Often advertised as a “chemical-free” alternative to pesticide solutions, many homeopathic products now use common essential oils to kill head lice. They can be safe alternatives to chemical solutions, but they are usually not regulated by the FDA. Like pesticides and suffocation products, most remedies made from essential oils also have low egg-killing efficacy, so multiple applications are usually needed. Learn more about herbal remedies for lice.
Heated air is a relatively new way of treating head lice, and scientific data show it is highly effective. I’m not suggesting you use a hair dryer to treat your pediculosis, though. The professional AirAllé® lice device is an FDA-cleared device specifically created to desiccate and kill lice through heated air. It has been proven to be safe, fast and effective at killing lice and 99.2 percent of the lice eggs. Learn more about AirAllé.