When you hear the word “head lice” it’s enough to make you start itching immediately. Obviously, you don’t have them, yet, but you may have just heard that your child does and off you go, scratch scratch scratch. There are some important head lice facts to know, which will ultimately help you to overcome these Tarzan like intruders in the jungle of your hair. The first and most important thing is always to check for lice when the hair is very wet. They stop moving when their breathing holes (spiracles) are smothered and become far easier to comb out.
6 GENERALLY UNKNOWN HEAD LICE FACTS:
- Their bodies are made from the same material as crustaceans (a chitin exoskeleton).
- They use “your own” sebaceous oils to protect themselves.
- They breathe through tiny holes in their bodies called spiracles
- They change color to avoid detection.
- The glue for the eggs is protein based similar to the hair itself.
- Feeling “Lousy” stems from lice infected and sickly humans.
Most parents, or workers who come into contact with head lice as an occupational hazard, have at least one head lice killing product in their arsenal for dealing with them, even if it’s just fine lice or lice & nit comb. There is nothing worse than finding out that head lice have invaded and we have nothing in the medicine cabinet to treat them and worse…the shops are closed or you can’t get to the shops. What people don’t realize is that they probably have already, an effective method of treatment in their cupboards.
It is very important for companies that produce head lice treatments to be legally correct on what is considered a treatment rather than a remedy. A product can legally be called a treatment if it has been tested and proven to remove head lice permanently so, lice comb is a proven treatment. Even Cleopatra had gold lice comb. If product formulation claims to kill head lice then it has undergone testing to prove its claims. legally. Testing and marketing products cost millions and are charged back to the consumer via the cost of the product.
As the use of pesticides such as Lindane and Malathion diminish due to health concerns there are new ways to eradicate head lice. All the head lice unguents, solutions, liquids and foams you see advertised are clinically proven to kill head lice, sometimes their eggs too. How? By dehydrating them, dissolving bits of them or smothering them, but what’s in them? Do they really work for everyone? Are they harmful in any way and do you care in the face of the problem, about these chemicals being absorbed through your child’s skin? It does matter if these products could be irritating our skin, respiratory system and in some cases simply impossible to wash out leaving our children with an embarrassing greasy head of hair.
Here is a list of some key ingredients you will see on packaging deemed safe for humans (not many conclusive reports about effects on the environment as yet) repeatedly found in the big sellers. The war on head lice is a huge industry. The products readily available have differing degrees of success which are also very reliant on the proficiency of the person performing the treatment which, includes combing (proven method) with the aid of these usually slippery potions.
Also, reapplication to deal with the newly hatched and previously protected eggs. You will see that the main aim is to suffocate, dehydrate them, mess with their innards and dissolve their protective waxy coating for which, the lice have cunningly used your own scalp grease as health and safety equipment: Cyclomethicone, Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Octanediol (also know as Activdiol® in solution). For a brief description of what these ingredients do in heavily marketed products please scroll down to the end.
Natural remedies and treatments:
When you have read through the ingredients’ brief descriptions we must ask if any of these “Lice Busting” benefits can be found elsewhere in natural remedies and treatments. They are all derived from natural sources albeit by scientists and so they can claim “natural” on the packaging. Here is a list of truly natural ingredients that are all proven individually to have lethal effects on Head lice and we have put them all into our product called Eradi-Li Combing Aid (and Eradi-Li Concentrate which is the essential oils without the combing carrier oils). The ethos being you get all the key benefits of the ingredients mentioned above, in one place.
Eradi-Li Concentrate – A blend of essential oils known to affect the life cycle of head lice by infusing the scalp (which the lice feed from) and also by their natural pesticide like qualities. Many essential oils can soften egg glue and dehydrate the louse and egg shells and also have known effects on all insects. Plants protect themselves from attack by micro-organisms naturally. This is believed in some quarters, to have been caused by natural selection over millennia, when successful plants armed themselves with an ever-increasing array of chemical weapons to combat insects, viruses, fungi, bacteria and browsing animals. Probably that is why mixed oils are more effective than single oils from one plant species because they combine the chemical warfare product of a range of different plants
Coconut oil (contains 1,4, Octanediol) – Is used extensively throughout the world (on its own) to suffocate lice in a sustained way. It stays on the hair shaft and purportedly carries on blocking the louse’s breathing holes.
Jojoba Oil – is actually a wax and as sebaceous secretions are also waxy it softens and dissolves the very protective coating on the lice in a gentle way. Great on most cradle cap too.
Olive Oil – has been used extensively in the USA and indeed across the world as a combing aid that helps block the breathing holes. Note: blocking the breathing holes renders a louse inactive so it can be combed out more easily.
So Eradi-Li Combing Aid aims to mete out suffocation, dehydration, mess with their innards and dissolve their protective waxy coatings (your own sebaceous wax yuck) in the same ways, without the hype. Couple this with a fantastic comb and you can be lice and nit free in a very short time dependant on your technique and timing.
Next time you have head lice come to visit, don’t panic if there’s nothing to treat them within your cupboard other than lice & nit comb. Essential oils and other natural/unadulterated oils (all found in our Combing Aid) and a good lice comb have been proven over thousands of years to be the least marketed and most proven weapon against head lice. No clinical trials required.
Types of lice and nit combs are as follows:
Microgrooved long toothed. There are so many of these on the market, with which we do not wish to compete, and the better quality ones can and do remove eggs (nits) also. Highly recommended.
Stainless steel & handled (we supply one) which is for easy daily use (maintenance) and for detection, it will remove nymph size lice and upward. Other stainless steel toothed combs with finer grades available for finer hair, good for nymph size and upward. Same as above but no handle.
Rectangular plastic traditional comb, difficult for use in dry hair, teeth tend to get damaged but if in light-colored plastic it is easy to see lice on them.
Cleaning your combs by hot soapy water alone may not be enough to prevent cross-contamination unless you are 100% through. After washing you can wrap fully metal combs in tin foil and bake on a high heat for 15 minutes. For combs made of plastic or partly plastic simply pop it in a bag in the freezer overnight along with any other brushes, detangling combs, and hair accessories.
List of typical ingredients found in head lice treatments today:
Cyclomethicone is a volatile cyclic polydimethylsiloxane polymer. It is used in many cosmetic products where eventual complete evaporation of the fluid is required. It aids in combing due to its smoothness. Silicone-based products can have a vanishingly small surface tension which enables them to diffuse over a louse’s waxy surface, enter the spiracles and either block oxygen uptake or block them up so that the louse bursts because its excretory outlets don’t work anymore. That’s what I call going out with a bang!
It is a synthetic oil used as an emollient, thickening agent or lubricant in many beauty products. It is an ester made by combining Isopropyl Alcohol and Myristic Acid. It dissolves the wax covering the exoskeleton of the lice, leading to their death, how rapidly is not known. The wax coating on head lice is actually your own sebum and some people produce more than others. Jojoba oil is also known to dissolve sebum as it is a wax, not an oil. (Cradle Cap can benefit from Jojoba Oil).
Isopropyl alcohol is a colorless, combustible liquid. Along with ethanol, isopropyl is one of the types of alcohol commonly used as the primary ingredient of rubbing alcohol. Any alcohol is known to dissolve the glue that holds the eggs to the hair shaft, remove any greasy substances including wax and dehydrates. Sounds wonderful as a treatment for head lice but IT’S A HIGHLY FLAMMABLE ALCOHOL and it will dehydrate the scalp and hair too, plus remove its protective shiny coat.
It is a silicone based product. Dimethicone is thought to kill lice by the same mechanism as Cyclomethicone, blocking the tubes (spiracles) used by the lice to breathe and by blocking the way the lice pass out water. However, it is not thought to kill unhatched eggs. Natural pharmaceutical grade vegetable oils have been proven to do the same such as simple olive oil. A lice takes at least 4 hours to suffocate in any spiracle clogging exercise.
Octanediol (also known as Activdiol® in solution):
Diols are alcohols that have two alcohol groups and are commonly used as spreading agents used in cosmetics. 1,2-octanediol is derived from the Coconut. Coconut oil blocks their breathing holes and has a lasting preventive effect whilst on the hair and scalp.
Most liquids said to kill lice have little or no effect on the eggs so at least two treatments are necessary spaced out in time by about a week in order to give the eggs time to hatch.