Picking Nits with Hair Conditioner

Removing eggs from hair after treating for head lice may not require special products

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Getting the eggs from head lice (nits) out of a child’s hair will likely never be fun, but one new study has found a method that may make the process easier.

The researchers found that normal hair conditioner worked as well as specialized nit removal products in a controlled lab study.

This study showed that leaving the product in the hair during the removal process also made the job easier.

"Speak with your pharmacist about the best product to treat head lice."

This study was led by Hilde Lapeere of the Department of Dermatology at Ghent University Hospital.

The research team collected a total of 605 hairs from six children between the ages of 7 and 11. Each hair was cropped as closely to the scalp as possible and contained a single lice egg, called a nit.

The researchers divided the hair into five batches and tested the amount of force needed to remove the nits using different methods for each.

The authors of this study noted that each treatment was performed per the manufacturer’s directions when applicable.

The researchers compared deionized water, commercial nit removal products, normal hair conditioner and untreated hair to see which was most effective at removing nits.

The data showed that soaking the hair for 10 minutes in deionized water, a form of purified water, greatly reduced the force needed to remove nits compared to untreated hair.

The study also showed that commercial nit removal products and normal hair conditioner resulted in similar results to deionized water when rinsed out before nit removal.

Leaving either the commercial nit removal products or normal conditioner in the hair while removing nits was much more effective than rinsing.

The researchers concluded that normal hair conditioner worked equally as well as commercial nit removal products in this study, and that leaving the product in the hair during the removal process worked best.

Lapeere and team acknowledged that their study may have been limited by the use of multiple persons to get enough hair to perform the study. This might have introduced some unexpected variable.

This study was published on February 25 in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

This research was supported with a grant from the Ghent University.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
February 27, 2014
Last Updated:
March 1, 2014