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Lice and Coconut Oil – Random Reader Question #1

Do you wonder about head lice and coconut oil?

In the post, “Go on, ask me, I dare ya”, I opened it up so that readers could ask questions about anything they might want to know. This question came from Leah, and I decided to answer her first, because I soooo fear one of my kids coming home with lice, and I wanted to try to help her fast!

UPDATE: See my more recent post on this topic of getting rid of lice naturally, without chemicals!

“Please elaborate about coconut and lice. Thank you.”

photo by Erin Finkle

Hi Leah,

I just did a google search to refresh my memory. Many have had good results using virgin coconut oil – it suffocates the lice, and a few drops of tea tree oil with it may help things along. (I get my tea tree oil at a local health food store.)


Melt the oil and let it cool, meanwhile, get out the nits you can see. Put the coconut oil all over and sleep with a cap or something until showering it out in the morning. It may take a few washes with hot water to get this out! (Note: in the past when I’ve used coconut oil to moisturize and accidentally got it near my hair, I looked like a greaseball, even after washing, and I had to put some baby powder in my hair to get it out. I have no idea if this would affect the lice, though.)

Warning, I haven’t had to do any of this YET, I’m just telling you what I read online – you could google it and read more.

Coconut Milk?

Another person suggested coconut milk, which would shower out easier, but I think it’s the oilyness (is that a word?) that does the suffocating…?

Coconut Shampoo?

One other thing it said in a few of the hits was how plain old Suave coconut shampoo can be helpful. I’m not sure if I totally believe this, but it can’t hurt. I fear lice enough that I only buy coconut shampoo now. I buy the Suave when I’m feeling cheap, or an organic coconut shampoo otherwise. Besides, I love the smell.

Please share YOUR experience!

I’m hoping that any readers out there who have used coconut oil (or other natural remedies) for lice will jump in and share their experience! Thanks everyone!


  1. Something else that treats lice with a few applications is tansy, an herbal insect repellent. sells it and also has a recipe for preparing the vinegar/tansy concoction. Its down side is that you have to steep it for 3 weeks, so once you have the lice it takes too long to prepare. I’ve never needed to try it for lice yet, but I have used dry tansy sachets as an insect repellent, and it works. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on box elder bugs, which we were infested with; just everything else. Lol. But keeping out ticks and spiders is a plus even so.

  2. While I have not had any experience with lice, and hopefully never will, I have heard that mayonnaise may be beneficial. In some quick research on the internet, there seems to be conflicting information about whether or not the mayonnaise kills the lice; however, the mayonnaise does make the hair so slippery that the eggs and lice just slide right off.

    I know in the Rockford School District that if your child comes homes with lice, the school will provide you a product to put on your child’s hair that is natural and NOT chemical laden.

  3. Natalie,
    REALLY?!! That blows me away about our school district, I wonder what that product is, but I pray to God I never have to find out!!!

    I’d heard that about mayo, too, but I think that its oily consistency is the part that works and would have the same affect as the coconut oil, so since coconut oil has many topical health benefits, I think I would at least try this before the mayo…just thinking “out loud”…

  4. Freedom First, good scoop on natural insect repellent! We’ve also used Avon Skin so Soft lotion with good results in the past. Can’t stand that DEET stuff, all those chemicals just scream “cancer causing”…

  5. It’s me again! Thanks for the tips. The next time my daughter gets lice I will try the coconut oil. No one else in the family gets them, just her. I found out through googling that lice only like a certain shape of hair shaft, so she must have the type they like, because she gets it from school quite a bit. And fyi…lice love CLEAN hair! So it has nothing to do with lack of cleanliness. She has perfectly clean hair, clean clothing, bedding, etc. They are very hard to get rid of and are immune to the poisonous lice treatments! (Good thing, or else I would be tempted to use them in the future.)

    • I would like to add that I used a coconut and aloe vera oil as a de-tangler/moisturizer in both of my daughter’s hair. I put this in after they wash their hair (about once a week). It helps get the knots out (both have long, curly hair) and keeps it looking lovely and shiny. Neither of my girls have ever got head lice, even though other kids at the school have . I assume it is because of this oil I use. I put it in my hair now too!

  6. Vinegar! Use a tea tree oil shampoo and rinse with vinegar and water then comb like there’s no tomorrow! (seriously, comb for about an hour for the first 3 days and then every other day for a minimum of 2 weeks) (If the child has a very short haircut it may take less time – I just buzz cut my boy and of course, things were much easier)
    I punched up the potency of our tea tree oil shampoo with a few extra drops of straight tea tree oil mixed in. Using this shampoo/vinegar treatment along with persistent combing (with a lice comb) to remove the eggs will do the trick. My daughter is living proof. twice.

    PS. I love coconut oil – use it all the time – but it seemed to messy (not to mention pricey) to use on their hair.

  7. I live in Florida and we always have those little buggers in schools. The best thing to prevent them is to apply a spritz of hairspray. Lice like clean hair, and hate dirty or filmy hair.

  8. Leah, let us know if it works, but I hope you don’t have to find out either!

    Amy, I know, I do wonder how difficult this would be to ever get back out of your hair. That vinegar is powerful stuff – that’s how I cured my ringworm, too!

    Rosy, you can bet my kids will be getting squirts of hairspray every day now! :)

  9. I was a foster parent for years. I have had great success with olive oil. I really think it is the oil that works, so any type of oil will probably get rid of them. Put it on dry hair and really soak it. Cover the hair with a shower cap and leave in over night. I have been able to get it out using dawn dish liquid. Not the best for hair washing, but you do have to wash it with something that removes grease.

    I also add a few drops of tea tree oil to our coconut shampoo, style girls hair in tight pony tails with braids if I can and spritz with hairspray to keep them away. I am not sure if it really helps, but I am willing to try anything to prevent the little buggers from coming into my house. The real key is removing all of the nits. Everyone of them has to be removed, or all of the oil and nit picking is a waste.

    After all the live bugs and nits are gone you have to clean, wash and vaccum every soft surface in your home. You also need to wash in hot water all blankets, pillows, bedding, clothing, book bags and coats and don’t forget the car seats. Bag all dolls with hair and stuffed toys in garbage bags and store for at least 3 weeks or run them through the dryer on a high heat setting if possible. Washing them in hot water and drying would be even better.

    I know it sounds like a lot of work. It really is! However, it is better safe than sorry. If you spend all of the time and money to get rid of them, you don’t want them coming back any time soon.

  10. I have to second the tea tree oil. I just finished reading a book called Killed On Contact and it was all about tea tree oil. It talked about how tea tree oil is a natural insecticide. And it had a section on tea tree oil being used to treat lice. Add tea tree oil to your tea tree oil shampoo.

    As for the vinegar, have you looked into going “no poo”??
    I started making an herbal vinegar rinse with apple cider vinegar and herbs for my hair color (yes, it actually helps cover the grey naturally, takes longer, but I can see a BIG difference after 2 months of use). I always hated my hair. I never felt pretty. Since going no poo, using the baking soda for the “shampoo” and the apple cider vinegar rinse as the “conditioner” has made my hair SO nice and I feel that I have beautiful hair now. Just something to look into and think about. :) I actually add tea tree oil drops to the rinse. :)

  11. Hi Paula, that “no-poo” thing has my interest. I loooove my new organic coconut shampoo I found, but I don’t love that it’s $7 per bottle!!! I know that’s not bad compared to some, but I’m an ex-Suave-$1/bottle girl!

  12. I have been following your website (and love it!) for a few months now and when I googled natural remedies for removing lice your website came up. I thought I would offer my two cents since we have just gone through this. It’s my first time battling these little ugly bugs, but doing a little research online about these critters before I dumped insecticide on her head was huge in figuring out how to remove them. I used extra virgin coconut oil… her hair was almost dripping oil I put so much on, but I will tell you it did not kill them. What it did do was make them less mobile and very sluggish. I left the oil on overnight (12 hours) so they had plenty of time to die. I think the biggest thing is taking the time to pick them out. I spent 5 hours on her head. We broke it up…that was a long time for both of us, but it is the only way to get them out. I used those special combs which were helpful but they didn’t get the little eggs and I wasn’t about to wait around for them to grow. Three days later I did another thorough head check and found only a few more. I figured I will take the money I would have spent on chemicals and go buy new hair accessories that were ruined during their boil bath. I didn’t have too much trouble with washing out the coconut oil out of our hair, it did take 2-4 hair washings to get it out, but we were home anyways, it just looked like we had wet hair the whole time. I have just switched to using a homemade shampoo (apple cider vinegar, dr. bronner’s soap, tea tree oil). Maybe I should add a little more tea tree oil for added protection?!

  13. Kaye, thanks for the great scoop! Sorry you had to go through all that, dang, what a pain.

    Your homemade shampoo has my interest – the vinegar and tea tree oil together is probably a great preventative right there! Tell me, though, is the vinegar still a strong smell once it’s all mixed? Some in my family hate that smell, but I’d love to make my own shampoo. Can you give me the amounts?


  14. I found this recipe over at

    1 cup Dr. Bronner’s Castile Liquid Soap
    2 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
    3/4 Tbl Tea Tree oil (and or Vit E oil)
    1/4 cup water
    Mix together and put in spray bottle

    And yes, it does smell like vinegar… but I’ve gotten used to it (a bit).
    I first began washing my hair with only Dr. Bronner’s soap…but found that my hair still was oily and heavy. I did find when I added the apple cider vinegar that it lightened my hair and was not so heavy. But I do not like the apple cider smell either…I get the “eww” from my hubby.
    So I have been searching for an essential oil to add, but when I tried one it smelled like apple cider lavendar. Not a smell I liked. Now I just spritz on rosewater, lilac water, or gardenia water …a natural scent I found at the health food store. My daughters choose their fragrance they want after we wash hair. It may be on the expensive side, but we don’t wash hair everyday and it makes it fun to add the scent after we wash with the vinegar smell. Maybe you could lessen the vinegar to 1 Tbl? I find after my hair has dried that I don’t really smell the vinegar anymore.

    I find, like all of these new things I am trying, it takes some getting used to, but then it’s not so bad :) I try to give it a fair shot before throwing in the towel. But then again I am sometimes surprised …I was very afraid to try homemade toothsoap but I actually like it and am working on tweaking it to perfection (for me).

    Hope that helps,

  15. Thanks, Kaye!
    If anyone out there has a good homemade shampoo recipe w/o vinegar, please share! I haven’t had a chance to google it.


  16. Ok, I am African American and my children are bi-racial. One of my children brought lice home and I seem to be the only one feeling the crawling sensation. I have tried everything, mayo, neem oil/tea tree oil mixture, olive oil, lice chemical treatments, hair dye, vinegar, blow dryers, hot flat iron, nit combing, everything. I have wased everything with hot water and put in the dryer until the stuff was fried. I just got coconut oil frm my m-i-l and I am going to try that also. To think that in all my life I have never had lice, probably because live dont really care for the hair of African American’s, but now that I have them I dont think I can get rid of them. I really want to stick my head in a hot oven or shave it all off. Please some one HELP!!!!

  17. Mom of Five,
    Oh no! My heart goes out to you, as you’re living one of my fears!! All I can suggest is to go through all the comments here one by one, and then Google like crazy until you find what works! Yikes!!

    Please let us know what finally does it for you!

  18. I have had to treat lice twice with my kids. The first time, I tried the lice treatments because I didn’t know any better. They came right back! So, I took all of their stuffed animals or toys with any material, put them into plastic garbage bags, sucked out all of the air, tied them and left them for a minimum of 2 weeks. I took a hot iron and ran them over our mattresses, and wiped down the headboards with peroxide. For their hair I wet their whole head with vinegar and have them put a shower cap on. I put in a movie and had them sit like that for about an hour. After the hour or so was up, I rinsed their hair out and washed with tea tree shampoo. then I nit picked everyones head until they were clean. I never had to re-treat after doing it this way.

  19. I got lice for the first time about 4 years ago (and the only time). I got it while teaching VBS one summer! Thankfully my kids didn’t get it… but what a nightmare! I was pregnant at the time so I REALLY didn’t want to use chemicals. My husband was out of the country, and I had 3 little ones in addition to the one in the making. Thankfully my father was visiting. He helped so much in washing everything and bagging all the non-washables up. What I did for me (and all my kids…just in case). I put shaving cream on and covered up my head with a shower cap. I found this idea online. Same principal… suffocation. The websites said 30 minutes… so being paranoid… I did my head for several hours! My lice was DEAD. Yea! My Daddy did a lot of combing… but no more lice. Unfortunately, this also STRIPPED my hair of natural oils! (maybe the 30 minutes wouldn’t have!!) So, I used mayo to piggy back the shaving cream thinking it would moisturize my hair and get any critters that might be hiding. Well, it did help the moisture some, and I never had any more critters… but it did take forever for me to stop feeling like every twinge wasn’t a BUG in my hair! ICK!! In the end, I had my hair cut… several inches to get rid of the VERY dry ends. Now my head is itching just thinking about it again! Anyway… hope this helps. I hope to NEVER EVER deal with this again! BTW, every year at VBS now… the kids wear their hair back and so do I!!

    • duh… too late to be typing

      same PRINCIPLE!! (not principal)

      AND Dawn is essential in washing out the mayo!

  20. We tried Rid, Nix, Olive oil, mayo, everything… nothing worked. Then I came up with this concoction of my own that worked:
    water (4 ounces)
    salt (1 Tablespoon)
    Dr Bronner’s 18-in-1 Peppermint Castile LIQUID soap (4 ounces)
    Paul Mitchell’s tea tree Shampoo (4 Tablespoons)
    Vinegar (1 Tablespoon)
    Dish soap (like Dawn) – (1 Tablespoon)
    Oregano Oil (16 drops)

    *** Mix 4 ounces of warm water with 1 tablespoon salt until salt is totally dissoved. This is very important step as otherwise salt will not dissolve properly in shampoo, and it is needed to dehydrate lice and nits.

    *** Then mix in 4 ounces of Dr Bronner’s 18-in-1 Peppermint castile LIQUID soap. Mix well. (This dissolves lice exoskeletons)

    *** Add 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar. Mix. (This loosens glue of nits)

    *** Add 1 Tablespoon Dish soap. Mix

    *** Add 4 Tablespoons Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo. Mix. (Stuns and immobilizes lice and helps kill them)

    *** Add 16 drops of pure Oregano Oil. Mix. (This kills them too)

    **** Mix this very well and pour into an empty shampoo bottle. Wash hair with this shampoo, lathering really well and keeping on head for 5 – 10 minutes. Rinse well. Shampoo a second time the same way. Rinse again. Distribute Conditioner of any kind into hair, leave on and go through hair with a nit comb. Rinse well……… Do this everyday for 2 weeks. You should not see anymore nits or live lice at this point (actually you shouldn’t see any after week 1, but going 2 weeks on the nit combing is just being safe as per their life cycle). After this it’s VERY important that you continue to use this shampoo in place of your regular shampoo (lathering and leaving on head for 5 minutes, rinse and do a second time) every day for the next 4 weeks. No need to nit pick anymore as they’re all pretty much gone after 2 weeks, and any stray nis that remains and hatches will be killed quickly in babyhood by this DAILY shampoo. After these final 4 weeks (6 weeks total -> 2 nit combing weeks + 4 prevention/continued treatment weeks) you can return to your regular shampoo, but I prefer to use Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Shampoo for prevention (lice hate the scent of tea tree and will avoid your head). Lice have been gone and stayed gone, finally!

  21. I don’t think this is “natural” so take it or leave it. But I have gone through this several times at our urban inner city church.
    One word — Listerine! The minty blue stuff. It’s not natural but it does kill the lice COMPLETELY the first time. I put it on my head, shower cap. Let it set an hour or so. Shampoo out.
    Ok, so we are not ingesting it, only putting it on the head. That’s my theory? And it is not a nasty insecticide either .
    Vinegar is also good to soak the head in because it loosens the glue that holds the nits in.
    Oh and don’t use the flimsy plastic combs. Go get a new, clean metal flea comb from the pet department.
    HEY!!! IT WORKS ! lol

  22. I meant to say above, that the Listerine treatment (as most) has to be repeated in 5 days to get the newly hatched critters before THEY reproduce !
    I chose this method for my family because we had actually tried the NASTY chemical ones and they DID NOT WORK. We have very thick, curly, and coarse hair. I didn’t even find ONE dead thing!
    I think though, that if I have anymore problems with lice, I am just going to buy a Robi comb. We have one at the school where I teach and it gets used quite a bit. Everyone raves about it. It uses NO chemicals or compounds or any kind. It is sorta based on the same science as a “bug zapper” except it ZAPS the little critters. It seems safe and non evasive. You can google and buy at stores like Walmart.
    Just another idea there for ya !

  23. i know exactly what it feels like to be in a losing battle with headlice…its seems like every time you think they r gone you get that dreaded call from school letting you know there has been an outbreak and you have to go get you child!!! i am finding that vinegar is really good at helping you get the eggs out. i have tea tree oil that i keep in my shampoo and now i am going to go get coconut oil to add to it…hopefully this school year will go better..and good luck to all of you as well…just basically wanted to say thank you for all the great advice…us moms have to stick

  24. Funny you posted this, as we found them just this week! The Robi-comb has been working for us. It uses electricity to zap them.

  25. I have 3 girls with long curly hair, and this is a constant fear of mine…thankfully we have not had to deal with them yet. I am very thankful for all the recipes and I am bookmarking this page for safe keeping. I have had friends that dealt with it, and they told me tea tree oil, and Head and Shoulder shampoo…don’t know what it does, but she said it does the trick every time and it is not a chemical. Hope that helps some people out! Good luck in the fight against these critters!!!

  26. My daughter picked up lice from school this past school year and we have been battling it off and on ever since! The after-school/summer care that she goes to is super-picky about it (which isn’t a bad thing), so they’ll send kids home even if they just have dead eggs. So I’ve tried everything except shaving her bald (though I will admit it has been tempting!).

    Killing the bugs and nits wasn’t a huge problem with her…it was getting them out of her hair (since daycare wouldn’t let her stay if they found anything…dead or alive). Her hair is so fine, I have to sit down with her every night and morning, picking the eggs out with my fingernails. None of the lice combs will get them out.

    The best thing I found for killing them was my last resort: the Robicomb. It’s a battery-powered lice comb that acts like a tiny bug zapper. You turn it on and it buzzes as you run it through the hair. If it kills a bug, the buzzing stops. It essentially uses a tiny electric charge (you can barely feel it if you put your fingers on the tines) to kill the bugs and the eggs. It is about $40, but since I had already used everything else, from all-natural (though I didn’t know about the coconut oil) to prescription shampoo from the doctor, I didn’t mind paying the price.

    Another good natural product is LiceFreee!, It’s a thick, gel-like shampoo that you put on the hair, then cover it with a shower cap and leave on for an hour. After that you wash it out. Like the coconut oil and mayonaise, it suffocates the lice.

    I’m really hoping that we’re finally done with this, but I’m not holding my breath because her school does not check for lice, nor do they send kids home that have them. So there’s a good chance she’ll just pick them up again. Argh!

  27. We homeschool, but we did foster care for awhile last year. And a sibling group had lice and would bring it back home each time they had a visit with their mom. I used all the basic stuff…..but what really worked. Mixing coconut oil with tea tree oil. I rubbed their heads down with that and the lice would just fall out and they were dead.

  28. One word for you…FLATIRON! My daughter is a lice magnet. All she has to do is look at someone who might have lice and she’s got a raging infestation! I’ve tried coconut oil, tea tree oil, rubbing alcohol, over the counter shampoos…you name it. And forget combing. She’s mixed, not only does the lice comb NOT got through her hair, the nits go right through it. Today I flat ironed her hair out of desperation…they literally fell out of her hair and turned and interesting shade of red when on white surfaces. Fried lice egg anyone? There is a process to this, you can’t just run the iron through the hair willy nilly. First use oil and combs for old fashioned delousing. Next using wet or dry hair, take a scant amount of hair, about the amount you’d use for micro braids and slowly run the flat iron through, about 10 to 20 seconds per pass. You want to do 3 or 4 passes per tiny section. The problem with hair dryers is they don’t get hot enough and there’s no direct contact. This way you are literally frying the nits on contact without electrocuting your child with robi combs etc. If you feel a nit is too close to the scalp for safety use your finger nails to move it up a bit then fry the sucker.

        • That depends on your flat iron. I have one that is DESIGNED to be used in wet hair. Yes, I would recommend that you spritz in some oils or finishing spray, but it causes no more damage than a hair dryer. But by all means be careful and read the directions. Many of the NICER flatirons are meant to be used on wet hair.

  29. So my daughter came home from school with lice after the new year started and she has had it 2 more times since!! I have spent probably close to $200 now on it and it really is time and money consuming. I am going to call the school and pretty much demand that they do lice checks because this is getting to a point where I can’t keep soending this much money on it and my daughter said the nurse has not come around and done lice checks at all this year! Schools nowadays are the root to all problems in my eyes! Everything that needs to be done in schools no longer is yet they waste our money on stuff not needed…and I am a firm believer that the problem with kids nowadays arrises from how much things have changed over the years!!!

  30. I have fought lice on and off for 3 years with my kids because the school system they were in did not believe in actually fighting and solving the problems kids stayed in clas all day with nits and bugs then sent home with a note! so now that we have moved out of the mountains and someplace that they care alittle more i have used whats called blue magic coconut oil hair conditioner that is sold in th ethic hair supplies example found mine at dollar store for 2 dollars and left in their hair overnight and bugs r dead and nits r just flicking off with no problem their hair is still oily but that can be washed out with dawn and multiple washing as long as the bugs are finally gone I dont care!

  31. I’m 16. Female. I read your recent lice article as well. I know now for sure that I have lice (for the 3rd time since kindergarten) but the tea tree oil and all of that stuff sounds expensive. The past 2 times I’ve had lice, the chemical stuff seemed to work but that was between 5-8 years ago. I am afraid of admitting this to my mom because a month or so ago she noticed the crawling things in my hair and said it looked like lice. I was too much of a hard head to admit it but now I need to get rid of the pests. It’s ruining my sleep and making more insecure than I already am!

    • Hi Mikayla,

      I know it is a bummer, but you need to tell your Mom so she can help you, she would *want* to help you, even though she won’t be thrilled that you have lice. But the sooner you do it, the easier it will be for you both to get rid of it. You can do it!

      Good luck!!


  32. Excellent web site. A lot of useful info here. I’m sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious.
    And of course, thanks in your sweat!

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