An expert’s guide to treating head lice

From lotions and potions to methods as old as time, here’s how to get rid of those critters for once and for all

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An expert’s guide to treating head lice

There’s one dreaded enemy that all parents have to face when kids go to school… Head lice.

Head lice have been around for just about ever! Lice combs have been found in the tombs of the pharoahs and on the wreck of the Mary Rose that Henry VIII watched sink in Portsmouth Harbour; they have been depicted in temple paintings in the East and written about in books by the founding fathers of America.

And they're seemingly not going anywhere. But that doesn't mean we have to fear the little critters. Although a bout of lice is completely unavoidable for most households, there are ways to manage them.

Justine Crow, parent, nit aficionado and co-author of The Little Book of Nits, shares her top tips for getting on top of your head lice-combing routine, the tried-and-tested methods, and how to stop head lice from taking over all of your precious family time...

headlice like all hair

“Contrary to old wives' tales, head lice are not fussy about the kind of hair they attach their eggs - known as nits - to. Nobody is exempt, especially not men. So don't believe anyone who says they are. They've just been lucky.”


prevention is better than cure

“Essentially the answer is to be in control of the problem. If you comb the kids once a week regardless of whether you think they have been invaded, then any stray cowboys on the plain can be rounded up. Prevention is always better than cure after all.”

The simplest method is the best

“Many old recipes exist, but like the lotions and potions of today, head lice have found a way around them all. The tried-and-tested method (and believe me, it has been) is also the simplest. Just comb your child's head once a week on hair-washing night with a good lice comb and cheap conditioner, wiping each sweep on a tissue so that you can see your catch. If you have a real head-full to deal with, by all means attack with all-out-combing several nights in a row.

know what they look like

"Individual lice lay up to eight eggs a day, are dark in colour and hatch after seven to 10 days. The most visible white egg is in fact an empty shell. After that, it takes seven days for the insect to grow into an adult and the adult lives for around 30 days."

Keep on top of it

"There is no definitive way to prevent full infestation other than combing.

"This isn't what parents want to hear, I know. Parents and children are busy, with full schedules and there is no time for the dull old chore of lathering up with conditioner. The only way to truly prevent head lice is to stop children's heads coming together - and in this day and age, that is an impossibility. You can do plaits or cornrows, you can try dowsing their heads in tea tree and make them smell like a pine forest. You can pay out a fortune for a professional company to do it or, you can do a basic head check yourself every week..."

Don’t ignore it

“My advice for those who are regularly infested is don't ignore it. Take charge and accept that this a normal part of having a family. It does end eventually, with infestations reducing the older they get and the less they play-fight.

“What’s more, the more you embrace it, the less it seems like a chore to completely dread. A good family movie whilst combing out the offspring makes for an excellent bonding experience."

From lotions and potions to conditioner and combs, find everything you need to arm yourself for head lice season online or pop into your local store.