How to remove head lice from someone else.

If you are dealing with head lice on your own head, and you do not have someone to help you, click here.

So, you've checked and you are certain you have found head lice in someone. Don't worry. You can beat this. People have been fighting head lice effectively for years without any special tools.  If you have nothing but your hands, just get the person with lice in some good light and start picking out the bugs and eggs.  You can pick lice and nits out faster than they can reproduce and so you can always get ahead of their cycle if you just put in the time.   However there are some tools that can be of help in the fight:
- A proper metal lice comb (A high quality lice comb is a great investment. It saves you time, can be used with multiple people and can be used for years. If you can't get one of these combs, still use the comb you have.  Even a plastic comb with teeth close together can remove adult bugs during a wet combing.)

- A head lamp (Not essential but helpful. I got mine at Dollarama for $2. It gives you a good, hands-free light source for wherever you choose to pick.)

- A hair dryer (Not essential but helpful. Click here to read how this can help eradicate head lice.)

- Hair conditioner (A really helpful tool. This really makes the combing go much more smoothly, keeps the hair detangled, and keeps the head damp which is great because lice slow down or stop moving when wet. Water and conditioner also make nits easier to remove.)

Other things that can sometimes be of assistance:

 - Hair clips (to section off the hair you have already combed), a water spray bottle (to have on hand if the hair starts drying out), a towel (to put over the shoulders to keep the person from getting soaked), toilet paper (to wipe your lice comb), and a garbage bag (to throw the used toilet paper in).

Grab what you can or what you want, read through all the following steps, and then get started.

Be prepared. Combing may take a while so if you have to go to the bathroom, do it now. It might be helpful to put on a movie or a video game for the person being “picked” to help them pass the time. Eat before you start and have a drink on hand because once you get started, you want to keep going for a while without interruptions.  Still, remember that you don't need to do a marathon combing.  Do what you can now and if you need to stop or take a break, just get back to it at some point.) 

Find a comfortable place for you both to sit. If you don't have a head lamp, sit in a place that has good light.  Don't think that you have to do lice combing in the bathroom.  I usually do combing in the living room where the TV is.  If you are doing lice combing with your own small children, you might find it helpful to do the combing in the bathtub.  The water is calming, you don't have to worry so much about the mess of water and conditioner, and bath toys can keep your little ones occupied. 

If you have a fine toothed comb or a proper metal lice comb…

Wet the hair, saturate it with hair conditioner, and detangle the hair. The hair conditioner does not have to be expensive - generic hair conditioner will do.  Detangle the conditioned hair with a brush.  Leave the conditioner in.

• Comb through the still conditioned hair again with a fine tooth comb or a good metal lice comb. Comb each section numerous times, from scalp to tip in once continuous motion, all the while, keeping watch for bugs or eggs. Combing wet hair with a regular fine tooth comb can remove most adult bugs. Combing with a proper metal lice comb can remove adult bugs, most smaller bugs, and many eggs.

• Clean the comb throughout the process. Look at the comb after each stroke and if you see a louse or an egg, remove it by wiping the comb on some toilet paper or paper towel. Have a garbage bag close by for you to throw the toilet paper in after wiping. Regularly check the comb  – if the wiping doesn’t remove the bugs or eggs from the comb, use dental floss to clean between the “teeth” of the comb. (Never separate the teeth of the comb with your fingers.)

• Continue this process until you have gone through every section of hair and have been able to comb the whole head at least 100 times without finding an egg or a louse. If you find another egg or louse, start counting strokes again at one. This can take a while the first time but will get quicker and quicker each day.

If you do not have a comb

Go through each section of hair, a few of hairs at a time, looking at each hair from different angles.

If you find a nit, pinch the hair between your index finger and your thumbnail and scrape the egg all the way to the tip of the hair, pull it off the hair and dispose of it.

If you find a bug, just pick it off the scalp and dispose of it. Remember, baby bugs can be as small as a speck of pepper. If you are not sure if what you have found is a nit or bug or just a piece of sand or dandruff, just pick it out anyway.

If you have a hair dryer...
Once the hair is dry, separate the hair into at least 20 sections (or work with only one small section at a time). Blow dry each section of dry hair for at least 30 seconds on each side. The fast air should be directed at the scalp. The hair dryer should be on the fastest setting but NOT on the hottest setting - warm air only. This method has been shown to be somewhat effective on the bugs and very effective on the eggs.  The hair dryer is a useful tool, but blowing the hair is not as important as combing the hair.  Combing gets things off the head which is what we want most.

Do a thorough check for new lice activity every 2-4 days until you have had 2 weeks of no nit/lice sightings. If you see more eggs or bugs, do not panic. You have the situation under control. Just remove any eggs or bugs that you find. You can always pick the eggs off faster than they can lay them if you just stay on top of the situation.

•  If 2 weeks have gone by with no sightings of eggs or bugs, just do routine combings once in a while. My kids get a quick lice combing once a week. Always do a more extensive check if the person complains of having an itchy scalp. Regular wet combing with a fine tooth comb or a proper lice comb should prevent lice from ever becoming a big problem in the future.

Alternative Treatments

• Traditional lice “shampoos” are costly, and though they once were effective, many of them are no longer effective. Our lice in industrialized nations have adapted to their pesticides. I don't recommend the use of any "shampoos" or "treatments".

• Products that may claim to prevent head lice, such as those with tea-tree oil or tar, have no proven effectiveness and I have been to many homes where head lice have flourished even though these products were used faithfully.

• Home remedies, such as olive oil, mayonnaise, or vinegar have not been clinically proven to be effective. And they are very messy. 
• The use of any alternative treatments (or traditional treatments) still requires the removal of any bugs or eggs from the scalp. In other words, there is no “magic” treatment or process that will prevent you from having to pick out the eggs and bugs, and that is why I find these treatments unnecessary.

What about house cleaning or vacuuming or bagging toys or doing laundry?  These are time wasters that don't do anything. Click here for more info.

Don't waste your money on supposed quick fixes.  Don't waste your time on any activities that are away from the head.  Don't sacrifice your schedule or your sanity to the head louse.  Bit by bit, nit by nit, you will beat this over time. 

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

How effective do you find the Robi electric comb to be? Also, I did my daughters hair- bow drying and then wet combing with the purple walmart comb. I found that the comb would not pick up many eggs- I had to use tweezers. Which was fine, except when I did my own hair, I had no idea if I was getting many eggs with the comb or not. I'm sure I have them on my hair as I found about 6 lice...

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

I have been to many homes where the Robi Electric Lice Comb has been purchased by the family. At these homes, I have tried it for a couple of strokes just for fun, but I can't say I have ever tested it for effectiveness. I can tell you what these families told me - it didn't work; after purchasing the Robi comb, they still felt they needed to call me in. The main complaints were that it "buzzed" on everything in the hair (like dandruff or lint). It would seem like the comb was doing a great job, but after combing small live bugs and eggs would still be found. I personally don't recommend the Robi Comb because I think it gives people a false sense of security and it is a distraction from more effective methods.
By the way, I find tweezers to a cumbersome tool for egg removal. I would just scrape the egg off the hair shaft with your thumbnail pressed against your index finger.
I would recommend that you purchase a better metal lice comb with tighter, more rigid teeth, such as the Licemeister or the Nit Free Terminator.

Carolina Girl said...

I just wanted to thank you for saving my sanity! This is our second case of lice in a year, and this time I have it, too. Last time, I spent all day almost every day washing and re-washing, vacuuming and re-vacuuming, etc etc. I used the nasty shampoo and combed and combed. Come to find out, the only thing I did right was comb for 2 weeks! So now I'll do that, and leave it at that and have peace of mind - and sanity. :) Thanks again for your wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

I teach in the public school system. Your advice has given me the tools to check my own hair and stop two infestations from students cold in their tracks (I found a single louse each time). I've purchased several Nit Free Terminator combs and sold or given some of them to friends and colleagues who sought more effective treatments than the junk sold in drugstores. I'm also trying to spread the word about the ineffectiveness of shampoos and the importance of combing. I'm hoping to change the policies in my province ( that still emphasize shampoo with no mention of combing). I'm also tired of administrators treating lice like some dirty secret. I discuss lice openly with my students and their parents. Keep up the good work and thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough. Your advise is spot on. Like everyone else I tried the OYC treatments to no avail. Turns out using lots of cheap conditioner has made my hair softer and shiner than it has been in a while. My child is happier with these treatments too! You are a life saver.

Anonymous said...

Cathy, my mother is a 30 year teacher and was a nit detector when she worked in the elementary school. I never had lice despite being in a school that had several outbreaks. My mom swears that fastening hair tightly on a braid and ponytail or bun and spraying hravily with hairspray (specifically rave mega hold) will prevent an infestation. Is this true or was I just incredibly fortunate?

nanhead said...

Hi there. Quick question that may seem silly but when combing through my (3!!!) daughter's hair, should the hair be sectioned off? Or am I running the comb through top to bottom like a regular hair brushing? Thanks so much!

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

To section or not to section. Sectioning can be helpful in some cases, but it is not always necessary. Some people prefer to section because it helps them keep track of where they have already combed. This can be helpful when you are dealing with someone with long, thick hair, or with someone who has a lot of lice. I would have to say that for myself, I don't section hair more than I do section hair. Weather you section or don’t, just make sure that you have combed all the hair from the top of the head to hairline, from the front to the back, and from the root to the tip.

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Regarding putting your hair in a bun and spraying with hair spray, I have no evidence to say one way or another whether this will help. One might think this helps because it keeps the hair from flying around and touching someone else’s head. That could be true. One the other hand, lice move to another head not because there is loose hair but because it is warm. So, I think that transmission is still possible. I’ve met a number of people who use a lot of hairspray on a daily basis who still got head lice. So, maybe your mom’s technique worked, maybe you were just lucky, or maybe the knowledge that your mom shared with you about how head lice are spread made you hug your friends less and more self conscious about letting your head get near them. I’m not sure, but whenever someone proposes a technique that doesn’t cause harm and doesn’t cost a significant amount of money, energy, or time, I say feel free to try it.

:) said...

How can I get ahold of nice lice lady??

zoya said...

i am using this Anti lice machine its best ever product

Michelle webb said...

I have been using NIX and I still have baby nymphs, but no adults. I have hundreds and hundreds of nits and idk how to get them out. The hand picking and the nix comb is not working at all. My hair is too fine for the nix comb. Please help. I am getting so depressed over this fight. I am tired of seeing these alive.

Unknown said...

I suggest getting the terminator lice comb. I purchased it after reading this blog and it is able to get nits out of even my 4yo daughters thin hair. It has very tight teeth and spirals that help grab the nits.

FenixSEO said...
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ginae said...

This is by far the best advice I have seen anywhere. It is stress free and it works. Thank you so much. What made the biggest difference for us was the better quality lice comb and the repeated brushing through the hair nightly. Thank you so much for putting this info out there and keeping it there.

Me said...

Thank you so much for removing the lice drama that has taken over the past 3 weeks of my life! With 8 kids, our first lice experience was running me into the ground! I couldn't keep up with the laundry and vacuuming and nit picking and get the sleep i needed. This is so freeing!! Thank you for saving my sanity!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. My daughter is handicapped and we have been fighting this for two weeks. My sheets are getting thread bare from all the washing. Im going to do the combing daily to get everything out. Ty again

Amanda George said...

I enjoyed reading the blog. I love to use natural products.
I have never heard of natural lice spray before, and I must say that it sounds like a fantastic idea.
It does seem crazy to use chemical pest lice on hair, and natural lice control spray can be a
game-changer to tackle my children’s lice problems.