Comb vs. Chemicals: Pros and Cons of Different Lice Treatment Methods

If your kid comes home from school with an itchy head and you spot those little critters crawling around, it’s enough to make any parent’s skin crawl. Head lice—as much as we try to avoid them—are a common part of childhood. But if your little one does come down with a case of head lice, don’t panic. There are a few treatment options to eliminate an infestation and get your child back to school lice-free. 


Head lice can happen to anyone, so try not to blame your child or make them feel embarrassed. Reassure them that the infestation will soon be cleared up and that head lice don’t discriminate based on hygiene or cleanliness. At-home treatments require diligently combing and re-combing, washing, and re-washing, to fully get rid of the infestation. For busy parents, a professional lice treatment service may be worth the investment to have the infestation eliminated in one treatment with no worry of re-infestation or improperly applied lotions. 

Staying calm and patient through the ordeal will make the whole experience easier for both you and your child. With a little time and effort, you’ll have the lice problem solved and your family back to a normal routine before you know it. If head lice have your family down, don’t despair—we’ve got the lowdown on how to knock them out.  

The Common Methods To Deal With The Problem 

When lice attack, you essentially have two options: comb them out or shampoo them dead. Special combs remove lice and eggs naturally but tediously over weeks. Shampoos quickly kill the crawlers within hours yet contain pesticides worrying some parents. Studies show both can eliminate infestations, but which works best for your family? Anyway, to be sure that you chose the best treatment to deal with the problem, it won’t hurt to learn how to calculate how long you have had lice, as this may have a significant impact on determining your lice treatment measures. 

Combing Method  

For many parents, the idea of putting chemicals on their kid’s head sounds scary, so they opt for the more natural combing approach using either a specialized delousing comb or an electric “zapping” comb. These combs are designed to remove lice and eggs from the hair shaft. With combing alone, studies show a success rate of 57% to 92% after two weeks of treatment. The big downside is that combing can be highly tedious and time-consuming, often requiring hours of combing over multiple days to clear an infestation fully. The method demands diligence and patience, as missing even a few eggs may allow newly hatched lice to continue the cycle.  

Combing also poses a higher risk of re-infestation if strict precautions are not followed with household cleaning and the treatment of family members. Still, for parents adverse to using pesticides and insecticides on children,  combing remains a viable option either alone or in combination with natural lice prevention oils and sprays. 

Medicated Shampoos and Lotions  

On the other hand, over-the-counter medicated shampoos and lotions that contain insecticides such as permethrin and lindane are very effective and convenient, killing most lice and eggs within a one-hour treatment.  

However, some parents worry about applying pesticides to their child’s scalp, even though these products have been approved as safe when used properly according to the instructions. Children with sensitive skin may experience irritation, itching, or inflammation, though adding a cortisone cream after treatment may relieve discomfort. It’s essential to carefully follow all usage and safety instructions to avoid misapplication or overuse. 

To work, these pesticides must come into direct contact with live lice or eggs. Permethrin, the most common, kills lice and eggs by disrupting their nervous system. Lindane is a neurotoxin that requires a prescription. Pyrethrin produces similar results, though some populations have developed resistance. Regardless of the pesticide, hair must be fully saturated from roots to ends, and left in place as directed, to have maximum effect.  

Some parents may also wonder “Does hair dye kill lice?” No, hair dye and other cosmetic treatments do not kill live head lice or eggs. In fact, these chemicals may irritate the scalp, forcing lice to retreat further into hair and scalp skin to feed and lay eggs where pesticidal treatments cannot reach them as well, at least temporarily. Dyeing or perming hair before or during lice infestation treatment is not recommended and may require the reapplication of shampoo to fully eliminate the infestation.   

At the end of the day, it comes down to which approach you feel most comfortable using for your situation and family. Both methods can successfully eliminate a head lice infestation—it just depends on whether you prefer an all-natural combing technique or the chemical but more efficient shampoo method.  

Combination Approach 

A combination approach, using both combing and medicated shampoo, provides the most effective solution for most infestations. Combing thoroughly to remove as many lice and eggs as possible before shampooing reduces the overall population, allowing pesticides to work faster and more efficiently to kill any remaining live lice and eggs. Following up with a second combing 1 week after shampoo treatment catches any newly hatched lice before they reach maturity and start laying eggs themselves. 

Additional Steps for Complete Elimination 

For complete elimination, additional steps must be taken beyond scalp treatment alone. Washing all clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water kills any lice, eggs, and larvae present, preventing re-infestation from stray hairs that may contain viable nits. Vacuuming the home carefully with a sealed vacuum and emptying the canister or bag afterward picks up loose hairs and debris that could harbor live lice or eggs.  

Treating all close family members at the same time cures the infestation for the entire household all at once. Even if only one member shows signs of infestation, lice may crawl from head to head at night, especially among young children who share beds, making it difficult to determine exactly who requires treatment. A mass family treatment approach kills any transferred lice before they have a chance to lay eggs and avoids re-infesting others after individual treatments. 

Finally, checking all treated members again 7-10 days after the initial shampoo application catches any newly hatched lice and eggs that may have survived the first treatment before maturing and continuing the cycle. Retreating as needed within 7-10 days of hatching kills juvenile lice before they start reproducing, eliminating the infestation completely.  

While unpleasant, head lice happen. But with combing, pesticides, intensive cleaning, and re-checks, the war can be won, no matter the severity. Identifying and properly addressing infestations based on individual needs paves the way for simplified cures or professional elimination, overcoming even persistent populations in one treatment.      

Staying actively engaged until no signs remain for 7-10 days achieves total triumph and assurance that the battle is over once and for all. Though inconvenient, the solution is in your hands. Detect, assess, determine the best tools, and see the treatment through. It is also okay to ask for help from reliable lice treatment specialists like lice removal Houston TX. With the comprehensive strategy, families everywhere beat these common invaders that disrupt lives.  





Add Your Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.