Coconut oil has been gaining attention as a possible treatment for head lice. Head lice are tiny, blood-sucking insects that live and lay eggs on your scalp. They cause itching and irritation, and an infestation can cause mild complications if left untreated. Lice are also extremely contagious.
The lauric acid in coconut oil may help kill lice. This treatment is not as effective as other over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for lice, but it’s less toxic for your body. Coconut oil might be a viable option for people who can’t tolerate the stronger treatments. Keep reading to find out more about treating lice with coconut oil.
If you’d like to try to treat lice with coconut oil, you’ll need a plastic shower cap, enough coconut oil to thoroughly cover your hair, and a fine-toothed comb. You may need to repeat this treatment more than once.
Start by rinsing your hair with hot water and letting it air dry. The coconut oil should be at or slightly above room temperature so that it’s in a liquid form and easy to spread throughout your hair.
Massage the coconut oil generously throughout your hair, and apply the plastic shower cap right away. Leave the cap on for eight hours (or more) to suffocate the lice.
Use the fine-toothed comb to carefully look through your hair and comb out the dead head lice and any nits (eggs) that you can find. It’s critical that you take your time and are diligent with this step. Leaving eggs in your hair could lead to a subsequent infestation.
If you continue to notice lice after three or four applications of this treatment, consider using an over-the-counter or prescription remedy to treat the lice.
There is some promising research into how coconut oil can treat lice. This is especially good news because some head lice are becoming resistant to more traditional Western treatments, such as permethrin. One study done in Brazil found coconut oil to be more effective than some harsher chemical treatments. And another study in England found that a spray containing coconut oil and aniseed oil was an effective treatment for lice. A product that contains both aniseed oil and coconut oil was even called “extremely effective” with little to no observed side effects in one 2002 study.
But even with these studies, there’s a lot we don’t know about using coconut oil to treat lice. If you’ve been trying to get rid of lice using natural remedies over the course of three or four treatments and it’s still not working, it’s time to call your doctor and discuss other options.
One of the big reasons people use coconut oil to treat lice is the relatively low chance of side effects. As long as you don’t have an allergy to coconut oil, there’s little to no risk associated with topical coconut oil. It’s likely safe when applied to your skin, even in larger amounts. Try spot testing a small part of your skin with a thick application of coconut oil just to see if it triggers an allergic reaction before you try to treat lice this way.
Although coconut oil may kill lice, it can’t completely kill the nits that lice lay in your hair. You may want to consider rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar before applying a coconut oil lice treatment.
Some essential oils have been tested for treatment of lice. Aniseed, cinnamon leaf, and tea tree oil have shown promising results. Mixing a few drops of any of these essential oils in coconut oil could help kill the lice and neutralize their eggs.
Using coconut oil to treat lice is not a proven home remedy. There’s a good chance that with the addition of apple cider vinegar, some essential oils, and a little bit of patience, this remedy will work if you’re willing to repeat it several times. But if, after repeated applications, the lice aren’t going away, don’t keep trying it. It’s possible that for some people, this remedy won’t work at all. Speak to your doctor about the least toxic, most effective ways to treat head lice.