Hair Conditioner - fights more than split ends!

If you have ever had head lice, and I am assuming that you are acquainted with it since your reading this blog, then you know that nits are a pain to remove.  Lice eggs and egg shells are cemented to the hair so well that they can be stuck on the hair long after the lice are gone.  This is one reason why I dislike no-nit policies - they don't take this into account. I am sure that many a child has been sent home from school because a nit was seen when no actual lice were present.  The only way to be sure you have head lice is to actually find one on the head.  I have gone into homes where parents found some nits but no lice - and I didn't find any lice either.  The nits were usually a few inches away from the hair shaft, indicating that they had been laid long ago,  and I then had the good fortune to tell the parents the child had lice at one point but for some reason doesn't any more.

This problem of cemented nits has spawned an small industry of products claiming to dissolve the substance that glues the nits to the hair shaft.  Sprays, rinses, creams - you can find many that claim to loosen or remove nits.  Probably the most common home remedy that I have seen people use for nit removal is vinegar.  Have you ever had vinegar in your eyes?  The kids whose parents gave them a vinegar rinse are not usually appreciative of this technique. 

As you may know, I feel the best way to remove lice, eggs, and shells is manually.  I recommend using a good metal lice comb (with very rigid teeth, such as the Licemeister or the Nit Free Terminator).  But I also recommend wetting the hair and slathering it in cheap hair conditioner.  This process of wet combing is proven to greatly increase your chances of lice detection and it is a non-pesticidal and effective way to remove lice and nits.  The conditioner helps the hair remain wet (slowing down the lice), makes it easier for the hair to stay detangled, and allows the comb to glide through the hair more smoothly.  I always recommend the cheapest conditioner because you may need a lot of conditioner and beating head lice should never break your budget.

Interestingly, hair conditioner was part of a head lice study that came out this past spring.  The study was called "Efficacy of Products to Remove Eggs of Pediculus humanus capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae) from the Human Hair". You can read the study's abstract here. In other words, it compared different products that made claims that they removed lice eggs from the hair shaft. The conclusion? Egg removal was significantly helped with just water and hair conditioner.  Specialty products were no more effective than these simple tools and some substances had no effect at all. 

So, join me in buying that vat of generic conditioner from your local dollar store. This is just one more example of how effective does not have to mean expensive.


Anonymous said...

Im 48 years old and grew up with 2 other sisters. We went through all of our years of school without getting lice. I do remember a few outbreak letters coming home when I was little but none of us ever brought thme home. Thank God! We have been dealing with lice for a year now and according to what I get from reading everything and comments on your blog, we're going to have to check and comb FOREVER! I am SO stressed from doing laundry, changing towels, sheets etc. I know u say not to do this, but I have to. WHY does this have to happen to us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog. You helped me stay sane when my four kids and I got lice a few years ago. We did get rid of it, but with a hiccup when my child with the thickest hair had a relapse (I did not follow up like I should--my fault). But, we did finally get completely rid of all the lice and I recommend your blog to anybody I know dealing with it.

One comment about cheap conditioner--it might be good to recommend people NOT buy volumizing conditioner. I completely fried my hair using extra body/volumizing conditioner to comb with. These products work by plumping (actually damaging) hair. My fine straight color-treated hair did not weather the repeated onslaught well. We didn't go out and buy this specifically--it was just what we had around the house. But, a basic non-volumizing conditioner would have been better for our hair health.

And, a note about combs--I got the LiceMeister and the Terminator. The LiceMeister was noticeably better at getting the teency tiny stuff out of straight fine hair. I got to where I did a first comb through with the Terminator to make combing with the tighter LiceMeister easier.

Thank you again for your blog. You were a lifesaver in those stressful days.