How to Choose the Best Head Lice Treatment

Lice outbreaks at school or summer camp are never good news, but they are also no reason to panic or to take drastic actions like shaving your child’s head. There are plenty of things you can do to help prevent lice, treat head lice, and safeguard your home and your family if someone brings home lice. Choosing the best lice prevention or treatment plan can be a daunting task, but there’s help for that too.  Just answer a few questions in our Treatment Plan Generator, and this handy tool will suggest a plan and help you find the product that fits best for you and your family.

First, What to Know About Head Lice

In order to choose the right lice treatment, it is important to first understand lice.

Lice and superlice

Lice are tiny insects that live on humans close to the scalp. Although lice can’t jump or fly, they can spread very easily from person to person through head-to-head contact or through sharing clothing or personal items (hats, towels, or hairbrushes). Over time, head lice have genetically mutated to become resistant to the active ingredients in most traditional lice treatment products and therefore have been given the name “superlice.”

Superlice do not look any different from regular lice. They can only be identified by their resistance to traditional lice treatments, meaning you’ve treated them as instructed and they survive anyway. Because superlice are the dominant species of lice in the U.S., it is recommended to buy lice products that kill both lice and superlice.

The life cycle of lice

Lice can multiply pretty quickly, so it’s important to be vigilant anytime a child has lice or there is an outbreak in your community. Lice can live on your head for about 30 days. Female adult lice can lay 4 to 8 eggs per day, so you can see how that can add up quickly over their month-long lifespan. The eggs (nits) take about 8 to 9 days to hatch and become adults capable of reproducing in their first 9 to 12 days of life, allowing a population of lice to quickly appear on someone’s head.

This is why it’s crucial to do regular head checks and treat lice quickly when you find them.

Understanding the Types of Lice Treatment Products Available

When you’re choosing a lice treatment, whether it’s to prevent lice or to get rid of lice, you’ll want to understand the differences between various products.

Products to prevent lice infestation

Currently, there are shampoos, conditioners, all-in-one shampoos & conditioners, and lice prevention sprays that all claim to help prevent and repel lice. Some use essential oils and other ingredients to protect the hair and scalp so your choice comes down to preference.

Our Nix® Lice Prevention Daily Leave-In Spray defends and repels superlice using a blend of essential oils. Its convenient “spray and go” application makes it easy to use, plus it lasts 8 hours for a full school day. You can also use it on family members when one person in your house has lice to help limit the lice infestation in your home to one person.

Lice treatment products

If someone in your family has lice, there are various treatments you can choose, such as over-the-counter products like Nix, prescription medications, or natural remedies. Each option has its own pros and cons, so it is important to do your own research or consult your doctor or pharmacist with any questions.

Over-the counter treatments come in shampoos, creme rinses, lotions, and other hair solutions. The ingredients can vary, so here is a list of the most common lice-fighting ingredients:

  • Permethrin (treatment of regular lice and nits) – A man-made insecticide that acts like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower to kill lice and other bugs.
  • Pesticide-Free (treatment of regular and superlice)– Instead of using insecticides to kill, these agents are used to suffocate lice and superlice (the dominant lice species) that cannot be poisoned because they have become resistant to certain pesticides found in some treatments. Here are two popular pesticide-free solutions found in lice treatment products:
    • Dimethicone  -A type of silicone that coats lice and superlice and interferes with their ability to manage water and kills them by suffocation.
    • Mineral oil - An effective non-chemical method that works by coating the lice and superlice which blocks their ability to breathe, essentially suffocating and killing them.

Effectiveness on lice or superlice 

It’s important to understand superlice and how they are now the dominant strain of head lice. They have mutated over time to become resistant to traditional over-the-counter treatments that contain permethrin or pyrethrins. It’s impossible to tell based on looking at lice if they are superlice or regular head lice. Therefore, we recommend using a product like Nix Ultra All-in-One Shampoo or Nix Ultra Hair Solution that are safe and effective to kill both head lice and superlice and their eggs. Both of these lice treatments are pesticide-free and easy to use.

The essential lice tool—the comb

No matter what type of treatment you choose, you will also need a lice removal comb. This essential tool makes it much easier to do a thorough head check anytime there are reports of lice in your child’s school, camp or sports team, or anytime you suspect your child might have lice.

Combing is also an important step in removing lice, helping to find and remove both mature lice and nits (lice eggs). A lice removal comb is included with all Nix treatment products. You can also purchase the Electronic Lice Comb separately, so you always have one on hand.

Choosing the Best Head Lice Treatment

Now that you know what types of products are available over the counter at your local stores or online, there are also some other factors to consider when choosing a treatment.


Common forms of over-the-counter lice treatment products include shampoos, gels, lotions or sprays. Some of these different forms require different amounts of treatment time and number of applications so it is important to follow the product instructions carefully. If treatment time and ease of use is important to you, you’ll also want to determine which product will be the easiest to apply and use. Nix Ultra All-in-One Shampoo has a one-step easy application that gently treats and cleanses hair, eliminating the need for an extra shampoo step after treating the lice.

Lice treatment kits also offer convenience since you typically need a few products when someone brings lice home. Our Nix Ultra® Lice Treatment & Prevention Kit comes with our all-in-one shampoo (which kills superlice), a Nix® Ultra Comb, and our leave-in prevention spray to help prevent recurrence after treatment and help protect the lice from spreading to other family members who don’t have lice

Our Nix® Ultra Lice Removal Kit comes with Nix Ultra® Lice Treatment Hair Solution (that kills superlice and their eggs), a Nix® Ultra Comb, and the Nix® Lice-Killing eliminate lice on furniture, mattresses and other items too large to wash and dry in a machine.

Allergies or sensitivities

Most chemical head lice products are not recommended for newborns or infants. In fact, some are not suitable for any children under the age of 2. Some teenagers and adults with certain allergies or sensitive skin may also not be able to tolerate pesticide-based products. Our dimethicone products, like our Nix Ultra® Lice Treatment Hair Solution, are safe for kids age 2 and up. Lice or superlice infestations in children age 1 and above can be treated with our mineral-oil-based all-in-one lice shampoo. As always, check with your baby’s doctor if your child has any health conditions or allergies.

Be Prepared

The best lice treatment is the one that works best for you and your child. During prime lice seasons (like back to school, summer camp and sports camps), it’s wise to be prepared and keep some lice prevention and lice treatment products on hand so you can start treating immediately if you are exposed or find  evidence of lice.