It's a dreaded parental moment when your child comes home from school furiously scratching their head. More often than not, it means only one thing: head lice. These little mites are experts at jumping between the heads of primary-school-aged children and have a reputation for being difficult to get rid of.
Thankfully, there are plenty of home treatments capable of permanently banishing nits and their eggs. From shampoos to serums, tea tree oil solutions and nit combs, we've ranked the top 10 best treatments for head lice in the UK. Including fast-acting treatments effective on long, thick hair – even if you've already tried everything – we've also listed where to buy them on Amazon, Boots, Tesco and Asda.
Felipe Partarrieu is a dermatologist, who is GMC registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skin care, and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.
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Felipe Partarrieu is a final year dermatology resident, who is GMC registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skin care, and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.
The first treatment method is applying a concentrated liquid directly onto the hair. These are referred to as serums or solutions, but can sometimes come in the form of a mousse. You are required to leave them in for an allotted amount of time before brushing or washing them out.
Some of these treatments can be very quick, whereas others need to be left on for hours. The downside is that they can sometimes be difficult to spread and wash out, especially those that include oils.
The best way to get rid of lice fast and efficiently is the use of prescription lotions that contain Permethrin. According to the instructions, most products should be left for 15-20 minutes, but many dermatologists prefer to leave them for several hours to enhance their pediculicide effect.
You do not need to use regular shampoo or conditioner after the lice treatment. In fact, it is best to not shampoo again for two days to let the residue that might be left do its effect.
If you want to save yourself some time and tick off two jobs at once, look for a head lice treatment that doubles up as a shampoo. These are easy and quick to use in the bath or shower, making them a convenient choice.
These treatments are similar in application to serums, but with ingredients added to create a nice lather that will clean hair as well as rid it of lice.
Keep kids entertained (and distracted!) during treatment with the best bath toys
A comb is often used in conjunction with the other methods already listed but, if done thoroughly, it can be used by itself. Combing is a good method for eradicating lice on younger children whose sensitive skin could react to chemical products
Combs will sometimes be included within other lice treatment packs, but they can also be bought separately. That said, it is advised that combing should be done alongside other treatments where safe and appropriate to do so.
The wet combing method is highly effective for removing lice, but it relies on consistency to work. It works even better when combined with anti-lice lotions that kill the remaining mites. Applying a mix of water and vinegar in equal parts to the hair helps. You should repeat this treatment every 1 to 2 days until no lice have been found on your child’s head for at least 10 days.
To get rid of head lice, you will need to resort to ingredients that are tough on the little critters, but not on hair or skin. Ingredients like dimethicone, cocamide DEA, Cyclomethicone and isopropyl myristate work by dehydrating the creatures, targeting the problem at its source. In the past, insecticides have been used, but these are no longer considered effective due to a built-up resistance to them.
Popular herbal extracts like tea tree oil have also been said to fight against lice. However, there is a lack of scientific proof when it comes to many herbal remedies. If you're looking for a more natural option, you can find ingredients derived from oils such as geraniol instead.
Looking for more natural products for kids? Check out some of these top-rated shampoos
The time it takes for a head lice treatment to have the desired effect varies wildly. Sometimes, you'll only need to leave it on hair for 5 minutes, while other treatments will require that they be left on for 2 hours or more to fully work their magic.
Treatments that take a long time can make the process more tedious than those with a quick turnaround, but while you're waiting for the time to pass, whoever is receiving the treatment is free to roam and get on with other things.
While you can use non-chemical treatments such as a comb on children of any age, all anti-nit treatments can be quite hard on soft scalps. When it comes to chemical treatments, like serums and shampoos, most of these won't be suitable for kids under 6 months. In fact, some are only suitable for those older than 2 or 3 years in age.
While it's important to follow the guidance on age, don't take it to mean that these chemicals are too harsh for kids. Kids are overwhelmingly more likely to be afflicted by nits than adults, so all treatments are made with children in mind.
Treating a tot? Make sure they're safe and supported with a baby bath seat
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All-in-One Shampoo With Nit Comb
An Effective Shampoo Kit You Can Easily Incorporate Into Bathtime
5-Minute Treatment Solution
A Super Speedy Solution That Works in Just 5 Minutes
Head Lice Treatment Mousse
A Light Mousse That's Easy to Apply on Long or Thick Hair
Shampoo Head Lice Treatment
Proven to Be 100% Effective After One Use
All-In-One Head Lice Treatment Spray ｜Pack of 2
Great for Quick, Efficient Use on Multiple Family Members
Combining the Power of Nature and Science
Once Liquid Gel
A Targeted Gel Suitable for Babies as Young as 6 Months
Eco Anti Head Lice Serum
A Strong Formula That's Simple and Safe
The Chemical-Free Choice
Natural Head Lice Treatment
A Natural Solution for Stamping Out Nits
Now you can get rid of head lice by simply adding this treatment to your bedtime routine. With its quick application, fast-acting formula and incredibly efficient metal-toothed comb, you'll be able to get rid of head lice in the time it takes to have a bath.
Having lathering agents included means that once you've expunged every last nit egg with a comb, you can soak hair with water and build this treatment up into a soothing and cleansing foam. There for you at every stage of head lice removal and with a formula to tackle four heads, this treatment makes the often slow process far less arduous!
Short on time and looking for speedy results? Well, this is one for you. This treatment wastes no time in getting to work, promising to eradicate nits within 5 minutes. This means you can get the process over and done with as quickly as possible.
The bottle might be small, but the solution inside is very potent. There's even a comb included, making this set very reasonably priced. This Full Marks product definitely gets full marks from us!
Instead of a standard liquid formula, this head lice treatment solution comes as a mousse. This light and fluffy texture makes it easier to get good hair coverage even on longer lengths.
The lack of oil in the formula also makes it easier to wash out the product after it's been in for the required 15 mins – great for thick hair types too. We love that a highly effective steel comb has been included to ensure you catch every last nit, all for a very reasonable price.
All sorts of extracts and ingredients are blended together in this shampoo to make it a true match for the thorough removal of head lice. As a shampoo, you'll save time by rolling nit clearing and hair washing into one task.
The product comes with comb, so you don't need to worry about sourcing your own. But best of all, if used correctly, this treatment has been proven to be 100% effective on above-average infestations.
Covering hair with solution can be tricky, particularly when the viscosity of head lice treatment makes them hard to spread. To make the application process easier, this treatment solution comes in a bottle with a spray cap.
This is a quick option if you're in a rush. Not only will the spray application cut down on time, but you also don't need to comb the hair when it's in either. This being said, a comb is always a good idea to make sure you've caught everything.
With this head lice treatment, you don't have to choose between natural extracts and scientifically-proven chemicals. Both are included to great effect, offering a treatment that is powerful and soothing. It works quickly and doesn't even require a comb, saving you even more time!
Unfortunately, this product should only be used on kids over the age of 3, so is not an option for young toddlers. It is also fairly expensive for a very small bottle that you'll get through pretty quickly.
Unlike many others which only cater to children older than 2, this head lice treatment can be used on babies over the age of 6 months. In addition to its main anti-lice ingredients, it also includes Penetrol which specifically targets eggs, those pesky little things that can often stick around.
You do need to leave this treatment in for an hour before you can wash it off. Also note that a comb, which is suggested for use, does not come as part of the package.
Loved by parents and nannies, this product exterminates head lice while being gentle on scalps. It only includes one head lice-fighting ingredient called dimethicone, cutting down on potentially harmful ingredients.
This product is effective, but it comes at quite a steep price. It also takes an hour for it to work, and doesn't come with a comb even though it recommends one, adding to the overall cost.
This comb provides a quick and chemical-free way of getting rid of head lice. It can be used as a detection comb as well as a comb to remove nits after you find them. Kinder to delicate scalps, this market-leading comb is perfect for babies and toddlers.
Just note that this product is most effective when used alongside other treatments. As you have to wet and condition hair to make it soft enough for the comb to handle, an anti-lice shampoo would be the perfect accompaniment.
Offering a more natural approach, this shampoo relies on the use of various essential oils to stop nits in their tracks and repel them in the future. Because it doesn't contain any harsh chemicals, you can use this one more frequently than other head lice treatments.
You may see some results with this natural alternative, particularly if you use it in conjunction with a head lice comb. However, it's unlikely to be as effective at eradicating an infestation as other solutions on this list.
Head lice, also known as nits, are tiny little parasitic bugs that are around 3 mm long and dwell in and amongst human hair. They can be difficult to spot, but the telltale sign that you, or your child, has them is the sensation of an itchy head.
Once you suspect that the itch could be lice, it's time to check if they're actually there. You can do this by scraping a fine-tooth comb through the hair and watching to see if you find any live lice. They will be small, but visible.
If you find them, get hold of a treatment and check the rest of your household. Even after doing a treatment, eggs can be missed, so it's worth checking a week to 10 days later to see if any have hatched – if there are new ones, you'll have to repeat the treatment.
A nit infestation mostly affects children and results simply from close head-to-head contact. They cannot fly, jump or swim and are not found on animals or pets. Having head lice is nothing to do with being unclean; it is not a sign of dirty hair, a dirty living environment or bad personal hygiene.
As human parasites, head lice require human blood to survive. This means that they cannot live on pillows and sheets and are very unlikely to be spread by them. The only possibility would be if a nit crawled from one person's hair to another while sharing a bed.
Many lice medicines recommend a second treatment in 7-9 days. This will kill any new nymphs that have hatched since the first treatment. If the application interval is correct and daily combing is performed, it's not necessary to put the treatment a third time. However, the medication is usually well-tolerated and can be applied multiple times if needed, always respecting the 7-9 day interval.
Written and researched by Emma Cramp
No. 1: Hedrin｜All-in-One Shampoo With Nit Comb
No. 2: Full Marks｜5-Minute Treatment Solution
No. 3: Vamousse｜Head Lice Treatment Mousse
No. 4: Lyclear｜Shampoo Head Lice Treatment
No. 5: NitWits｜All-In-One Head Lice Treatment Spray ｜Pack of 2
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