Olive Oil For Head Lice: Is it An Effective Treatment?

Understand how this oil may help you remove head lice at home effectively.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan, MBBS Dr. Shruti Chavan Dr. Shruti ChavanMBBS linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc Annie Jangam MSc linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
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Head lice infestation, common in children, is a benign condition but an irritating and embarrassing one. However, anecdotal evidence supports using olive oil for head lice. So, how does it work against this contagious but harmless condition? Does this natural ingredient kill these tiny parasites or only help in removing them? Can olive oil be an effective alternative to OTC (over-the-counter) lice treatments that have several side effects? Well, this article answers all these queries and explores the best ways to use olive oil to eliminate head lice. Keep reading to find them out.

Does Olive Oil Kill Lice?

Woman using olive oil and plastic wrap to kill head lice
Image: Shutterstock

No, olive oil does not kill head lice. But it lubricates the hair and facilitates the easy removal of lice and nits (lice eggs) from the hair and scalp (1). The oil is widely believed to act as a suffocating agent that can drown the lice. Further research is warranted to test this theory (2).

The exact mechanism of how olive oil can help eliminate head lice is yet to be studied. But several testimonials approve the use of olive oil for this purpose. Keep reading to learn the various ways you can use olive oil treat lice infestation.

Jami, a home and lifestyle blogger, claims to be an expert at head lice removal, helping friends, school staff, and more. She insists on olive oil being the best remedy for a lice infestation and must be applied to every household member’s hair. Their hair should then be covered in a shower cap and left for at least 18 hours to ensure the lice are suffocated or at least befuddled. She writes, “Some people like to use mayonnaise. It works, but mayo goes rancid much faster than oil, so I stick with oil (i).”

Keep reading to learn the various ways you can use olive oil to treat lice infestation.

How to Use Olive Oil For Head Lice Removal?

1. Olive Oil And Shampoo

Olive oil and shampoo for head lice
Image: Shutterstock

What You Need

What To Do

  1. Wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any product residue from your hair. This step is critical as the residue may otherwise reduce the effectiveness of olive oil.
  2. Liberally apply olive oil to your hair and scalp. Dividing your hair into several sections can ease this process.
  3. Tie your hair into a bun and put on your shower cap. Ensure the elastic of the shower cap is tight enough to let it sit securely on your head (to keep the lice from escaping).
  4. Leave the shower cap on for 4 to 6 hours.
  5. Remove the shower cap and comb the lice out with a nit removal comb. Clean the comb with paper towels at regular intervals. Dispose the paper towels once you are done.
  6. Wash and shampoo your hair twice after you are done.
  7. Divide your hair into sections and blow-dry close to the scalp on medium heat. This will kill the nits.
  8. Follow this routine 2 to 3 times a week until your hair is free from head lice.

protip_icon Quick Tip
It is generally recommended to leave the oil on for 8 hours for the best results. So, you can leave this remedy on overnight and then comb it out the next day.

A study conducted with a total of 11,223 cases of head lice infestation suggested that the use of physical treatments and carrier oils like olive oil and bitter almond oil with the application of 1% permethrin shampoo can increase the treatment success of head lice infestation. The infested participants used 1% permethrin shampoo twice at a 1-week interval and other recommended therapies like using wooden fine-toothed combs impregnated with a mixture of water and white vinegar on hair for 30 mins. and secondly, carrier oils like olive and bitter almond oils on infested hair over a therapeutic period. The results showed 82% success among cases of permethrin shampoo and combing treatment and 87.31% success among those who applied permethrin shampoo and carrier oil. To conclude, 94.33% of the participants who received all the above-mentioned therapeutic categories earned complete recovery.

2. Olive Oil And Eucalyptus Oil

Olive oil and eucalyptus oil for head lice
Image: Shutterstock

Eucalyptus essential oil works as an antiseptic (3). Along with olive oil, it may help eliminate head lice.

What You Need

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 15 to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • Shower cap
  • Nit removal comb

What To Do

  1. Mix the olive and eucalyptus oils in a bowl.
  2. Apply the mixture to your hair and scalp.
  3. Tie your hair and put on the shower cap. Leave it on for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Remove the shower cap and comb out all the lice and nits.
  5. Wash and shampoo your hair.
  6. Follow this routine thrice a week.

3. Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, And White Vinegar

Olive oil and coconut oil suffocate the lice and restrict their movement. Anecdotal evidence suggests that white vinegar may dissolve the glue that helps the nits stick to your hair shaft.

What You Need

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • White vinegar
  • Shower cap
  • Nit removal comb
  • Anti-lice shampoo

What To Do

  1. Mix the olive and coconut oils in a bowl.
  2. Apply the mixture to your hair and scalp.
  3. Put on a shower cap and leave it on for an hour.
  4. Remove the shower cap and comb out all the lice and eggs.
  5. Wash and shampoo your hair.
  6. Apply the white vinegar all over your hair and scalp and leave it on for an hour.
  7. Comb out all the nits and wash your hair with theanti-lice shampoo.
  8. Follow this routine twice a week.

4. Olive Oil And Tea Tree Oil

Bottles of olive oil and tea tree oil for head lice
Image: Shutterstock

A mixture of olive and tea tree oils helps eliminate head lice. Tea tree oil has insecticidal and insect-repellent properties (4).

What You Need

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil
  • 2 tablespoons of herbal shampoo (to dilute the otherwise harsh tea tree oil that may cause skin irritation)
  • Shower cap
  • Nit removal comb

What To Do

  1. Mix the olive oil, tea tree oil, and shampoo in a bowl.
  2. Apply the mixture to your hair and scalp and put on a shower cap.
  3. Leave it on for 30 minutes.
  4. Wash your hair with hot water and the herbal shampoo.
  5. Comb out all the dead lice and nits while your hair is still wet.
  6. Follow this routine twice a week.

5. Olive Oil And Sesame Seed Oil

Olive oil and sesame seed oil for head lice
Image: Shutterstock

Sesame seed oil has antibacterial and insecticidal properties (5). It may work in conjunction with olive oil to get rid of head lice and their eggs.

What You Need

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seed oil
  • Shower cap
  • Nit removal comb

What To Do

  1. Mix the olive and sesame seed oils and apply the mixture to your hair and scalp.
  2. Put on a shower cap and leave it on overnight.
  3. Comb out all the dead lice the following morning.
  4. Wash and shampoo your hair.
  5. Follow this routine every day.
protip_icon Quick Tip
To prevent them from coming back, seal used clothes and bedding in a plastic bag for 24-48 hours. Lice cannot survive longer than that without blood.

If you are looking for more natural remedy options, find them in the following section.

Alternative Natural Treatment For Head Lice

You may try topical application of these alternative natural remedies for head lice that are believed to work similarly to olive oil (6) –

  • Anise oil
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Mayonnaise
  • Neem seed extract

Additionally, you may want to execute some preventive measures around the house to stop the lice from spreading. Wash everything that might have come in contact with the lice, like bedsheets, pillow covers, clothes, curtains, carpets, etc. in hot water. Dry them in hot temperatures or wrap them in air-tight storage to suffocate and eventually kill any possible lice.

If the lice infestation problem persists or worsens, seek medical assistance for effective treatment.

Infographic: 3 Ways To Use Olive Oil To Manage Head Lice

Lice infestations can be a menace and lead to critical hair and scalp health issues if not treated timely. Commonly affecting young children, it is highly contagious and spreads rapidly through head-to-head contact. There are many home remedies to eliminate head lice naturally.

Learn how to get rid of head lice and itchy scalp using olive oil effectively from the infographic below.

3 ways to use olive oil to manage head lice (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

In summary, olive oil can be used to manage, but not kill, head lice. Olive oil has a thick texture that coats the hair strands and makes it difficult for the lice to grasp them. This makes it easier to remove the lice from your head with a fine comb. Additionally, this oil suffocates the head lice and promotes hair care. While more scientific research is needed to back the use of olive oil for head lice, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence on the internet and other platforms. Scroll up to learn how to properly use olive oil to manage a head lice infestation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you put olive oil on wet or dry hair for lice?

Apply olive oil on dry hair thoroughly. After rinsing your hair, comb out the lice and nits while your hair is still wet.

How long does it take for olive oil to kill lice?

Olive oil doesn’t kill the lice but rather acts as a suffocating agent that can help drown them. It may take up to 2 to 3 weeks to get rid of lice and nits completely.

Can I use extra virgin olive oil for head lice?

Yes, extra virgin olive oil can be used with coconut oil for easy removal of lice and nits.

Key Takeaways

  • Olive oil is said to lubricate your locks and suffocate and drown lice.
  • While applying olive oil, make sure your hair is free from the residues of any other product.
  • You can combine this oil with any other oil, ingredient, or product for better results.
Olive Oil for Head Lice_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Prevention and Treatment of Head Lice in Children
  2. Home Remedies to Control Head Lice: Assessment of Home Remedies to Control the Human Head Louse, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae)
  3. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases
  4. Insecticidal and repellent effects of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil against Lucilia cuprina
  5. Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability
  6. Interventions for treating head lice
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Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee member of CDSI (Cosmetic dermatologist Society of India). She is highly skilled in non-surgical facial skin rejuvenation and face lift by the use of injection treatments and lasers.

Read full bio of Dr. Shruti Chavan
Annie Jangam
Annie JangamBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Annie Jangam is a researcher-turned-content writer with 11 years of experience. She enjoys dissecting complex clinical studies and shuffling through the scientific jargon to make science interesting and easy to understand.

Read full bio of Annie Jangam
Ramona is an editor at StyleCraze with 11 years of experience in writing and editing. She has authored over 200 articles on skin and hair care. She graduated from the University of Calcutta, West Bengal, and did her post-graduation from the University of Kalyani, West Bengal.

Read full bio of Ramona Sinha
Swathi E
Swathi ESenior Beauty & Lifestyle Writer
Swathi has a postgraduate degree in English literature from The English And Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, and over three years of experience in writing on beauty, health, and lifestyle. She also has a diploma in English journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Kottayam, and is a certified skincare coach.

Read full bio of Swathi E