Everyone can agree that head lice are an absolute nightmare. Of all the pleasures of parenting, combing through your child's hair for tiny insects is not one on the list.
Head lice are very common among toddlers and children - and even though they are entirely harmless, they are quite frankly, pretty disgusting. Even if your head is starting to itch thinking about them, there is a way to banish them before treating them become quite the task, especially if you have more than one child.
It is completely normal for children to get head lice or nits, so luckily, there are many ways you can eradicate them quickly and efficiently. We have put together a list of the best-rated head lice treatments, shampoos and combs so you can get rid of your little one's head lice pronto.
What are head lice, and what is the difference between nits?
Head lice are tiny grey-brown insects that live in human hair. They are human parasites and need human blood to survive. On the other hand, Nits are the empty egg white eggshells from which the head lice hatch will hatch.
If you see nits in your child's hair, you will likely need to treat them for headlice. Nits are usually found behind the ears and at the back of the neck.
You may have heard that head louse like dirty hair; however, this is a total myth. 'In fact, a head lice infestation can affect all types of hair irrespective of its condition and length,' says Dr Lida Kourita, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Are head lice contagious?
The female head louse lays eggs on the scalp, which hatch after seven to ten days and are roughly the size of a pinhead. Then the lice grow to the size of a sesame seed over the next six to ten days, feeding on blood from biting the scalp.
Unfortunately, lice are very contagious; they spread really easily, so if your little one's infected, then it's best to keep them away from other people until they've been treated. 'They spread by head-to-head human contact, climbing from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else,' Dr Kourita explains.
How can you treat head lice?
Head lice shampoo: Normal shampoo will not remove head lice – in fact, when in water, head lice will stop moving and lock themselves onto the hair. A shampoo specifically made for treating head lice will help to treat the nits infestation.
Head lice comb: This is a very time consuming but effective method to get rid of nits. Start by separating your little one's hair into sections and use a specially designed fine-toothed comb to remove all head lice and nits. You'll need to wash the hair first, comb through it when it is still wet, repeat the action through the same strand several times, and clean the comb after each stroke.
Head lice treatments: There are plenty of head lice treatments on the market that will eradicate your child's head lice. They come in sprays or mousse form and are highly effective.
Head lice home remedies: According to the NHS, herbal remedies and the use of tree and plant oils such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and lavender oil aren't recommended to treat head lice and nits as they aren't thought to be effective. There are some natural remedies on the market that you can buy that have been reviewed and are effective.
Vamousse Treatment Mousse Head Lice, 160 ml
The best overall head lice treatment for children
Killing lice and eggs this non-toxic mousse is pesticide free. With a comb inside the box, use both for optimum results. Apply mousse to your child's hair and work the formula into the scalp. Then comb the hair to remove the dead lice and nits.
Review: "I have used this twice in the last three weeks, not because it didn't work the first time, just because nits have been going around the class. My daughter has really long hair - one works with my son's short hair and her long hair."
"Very easy to comb through after applying, even with a Nitty Gritty comb which I prefer to use rather than the comb that's included as really catches everything. It washes out really well, too, doesn't leave hair greasy like some other brands. Cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else too."
NitWits All-in-One Lice Treatment Spray
The best head lice spray treatment for children
NitWits All-In-One Spray claims to effectively kill both lice and eggs in one easy to use spray. The formula contains an active ingredient called dimethicone, which has shown great results in quickly killing head lice and eggs. To use just spray the solution onto your child's head, ensuring the whole head is covered and leave it to rest for 20 minutes, then rinse the hair, and your child should be lice free.
Review: "The smell is actually quite pleasant. I have an autistic child who can't even stand to be around air freshener, but he didn't even flinch when I treated his hair. Within seconds I could see the nits were dead. I honestly have never seen anything like it. They've woken up today, and their hair isn't greasy at all! Usually, it's a dead giveaway when a child has been treated, but you honestly wouldn't know."
Hedrin All-in-One Shampoo, Head Lice Treatment with Nit Comb Included
The best overall head lice shampoo for children
We loved the gel so much that we had to include the shampoo too... The shampoo has been clinically tested and allergy certified. It is also a fuss-free option - just apply it as regular shampoo, and it should eradicate the lice in five minutes and leave your child's hair clean and fresh!
Review: "This product worked for our family of three in one go and we still have some spare in case the little one brings home head lice in the future."
Hedrin Once Liquid Gel 15 Minute Treatment 100ml - Head Lice Treatment
The best quick head lice treatment for children
Not suitable for children under six months, this gel should be spread thoroughly throughout the hair from root to tip in order to kill head lice, nits and unhatched eggs. The gel needs to be left on the hair for at least one hour, then washed out. This will need to be repeated seven days later to ensure no extra eggs have hatched.
Review: "I have three kids, three darn lice attraction units that seem to get them whenever they are near another child. I don't even know if the other child has lice; my kids can attract them anyway. This stuff works. Your kids will walk around like grease bombs for a few days, but the lice will die, and so will the eggs. Forget the other lotions; Hedrin is the one that works."
Nitty Gritty 150ml Aromatherapy Head Lice Kit
The best natural head lice treatment for children
Nitty Gritty Aromatherapy Head Lice Kit does the trick to get rid of lice as quickly as possible without using any harmful pesticides or nasties. If you are conscious of the ingredients used in lice treatment, this would be the best solution for you.
Mum review: "After reading all the reviews and a recommendation from a friend, I bought the Nitty Gritty solution and comb. The comb is quite honestly genius. Using the solution and the comb cleared all headlice and eggs the first time around. I’m not sure how people are still having headlice left after using this with the comb. However, I would say you do need to be meticulous with combing. This isn’t a pesticide, so it won’t automatically kill all the eggs and headlice. It’s a natural remedy to help clear them."
Vamousse Protective Shampoo
The best budget head lice treatment for children
The Vamousse Head Lice Protection shampoo works like regular shampoo but helps protect against head lice, breaking the cycle of infestation, so your little one won't go too long with an itchy head. Use it in place of your regular shampoo in your bathtime routine, and it will keep your family lice free.
Mum review: "Love this stuff, works well - seems really oily but actually isn’t."
Full Marks Solution, 4 Treatments, 200 ml
The best budget head lice treatment for children
Containing both a treatment and the nit comb, this five minute treatment is a best seller when it comes to killing head lice. With four treatments in the box, this should (hopefully) last you a while.
Review: "This worked where two other big-name treatments had failed to kill any lice. One good trick our GP gave me was that once you find a treatment that kills the lice to repeat the treatment three times three days apart so that you break the hatching cycle and stop any more eggs being laid ...he told us no solution on the market really kills 100% of the eggs."
Acu-Life Short Pin Comb for Head Lice Treatment
The best budget nit comb for children
Working on all hair types, this comb works on wet hair to remove all head lice, nits and unhatched eggs from your child’s hair.
Review: "Does what it says, no complaints so far."
Nitty Gritty Nit Comb
The best overall nit comb for children
This bestseller has micro-spiral grooves to remove any head lice and eggs on your child’s scalp. This can be used alongside your child’s normal shampoo and conditioner, so it's a good option if you’re worried about harsh chemicals on your baby’s scalp.
Review: "Have to say I don't normally write reviews, but this has really impressed me! My little girl's hair is very fine and dark, so it was impossible to see the live eggs, only the empty dead white ones, when they eventually grow out. However, the comb pulled out the very small darker eggs even with just one stroke!"
Tangle Teezer The Scalp Exfoliator u0026 Massager
The best scalp massager for post-treatment care
This is not quite a nit comb, but the Tangle Teezer and scalp exfoliator and massager works as its multi-tasking magic by detoxing the scalp, which will help clear the product build-up from all the nit treatments in your child's hair.
Nits can be traumatic for children and parents, so this Tangle Teezer will give your child some massage TLC and calm them down. Plus, when you have sterilised it you can use it as a massager on your own head.
Review: "This doesn’t scratch or hurt the scalp at all (which in turn makes it ideal for use on the kids, as well). The way this is shaped makes it easy to grip and hold throughout. This is an absolute joy to use regularly. I can’t recommend this enough."
Can you prevent head lice?
Unfortunately, head lice are something that cannot be avoided. You can use preventative head lice shampoos to try to keep head lice away but that isn't always effective or keep your child's hair tied up or plaited as lice usually stick themselves to loose hair.
Be sure to wash all the pillows in the family regularly and clean the headrests and head towels frequently to avoid lice spreading - especially if you suspect a lice infestation.
You can be on guard for head lice by regularly combing every family member’s hair with a detection comb – this way you’ll be able to treat an infestation fast before it becomes quite the task.