The best lice kit
Despite taking every hygienic precaution possible, some children are still going to bring home a case of head lice from a public school or day care center. Contact with one affected playmate can lead to an infestation of both adult lice and eggs (nits). Treating head lice often requires diligent applications of a special shampoo and frequent combings with a fine-tooth comb. The child's clothing may also have to be treated to reduce any chance of a reinfestation.
There are professional lice-removal services available in many places, but these treatments can be expensive, and there's no guarantee against future exposure. Parents can purchase lice treatment kits over the counter, and the kits generally offer the same shampoo and comb process as professional treatments. The key is to find a kit that offers both an effective lice- and nit-killing shampoo and a strong comb for immediate removal.
If you are in need of a lice treatment kit, read our helpful buying guide. At the top of our list is the Head Hunters Naturals Pro Lice Treatment Kit, a salon-quality kit that kills a wide array of lice species without the use of harsh chemical insecticides.
Considerations when choosing lice kits
There are essentially two paths when it comes to the treatment and removal of lice. Some lice kits use all-natural ingredients such as peppermint, eucalyptus or tea tree oils. The basic mechanism of an all-natural lice treatment is to suffocate the adult lice and lubricate the hair to make nit removal much easier. While an all-natural lice kit has fewer side effects, it can also be more expensive and in some ways less effective than an insecticide-based kit.
An insecticide-based lice kit uses powerful chemicals such as piperonyl butoxide, permethrin, and pyrethrin to poison and kill adult lice. Nits are often killed off along with the adults. This approach generally works faster and more decisively than an all-natural formula, but some children can develop rashes or other skin irritations during and after treatment. Many insecticide-based lice kits are less expensive than all-natural versions, but are not quite as user-friendly in terms of fragrance or texture.
Both all-natural and insecticide-based lice kits can accomplish their main goal of removing adult lice and nits from an infected person's scalp and hair. Just the act of applying a thick leave-in serum and combing it out with a fine-tooth comb will help reduce the lice population. However, some lice kits are better than others at preventing a recurrence or resisting a later exposure. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of how thoroughly the initial treatment eradicated the adult lice and nits. If even a small percentage remains viable, the infestation could return. When comparing products, it pays to choose the one with the most positive customer reviews on effectiveness.
Ease of use
Most lice kits behave like other leave-in hair treatments, which means they can be easy or challenging to apply depending on their formulations. Some lice treatment serums are very sticky and can be difficult to handle. Others go on the scalp and hair like a liquid shampoo, but can be challenging to rinse out. All-natural lice kits tend to be stickier than insecticide-based kits because they rely on oils to smother the lice and loosen the nits. Insecticide-based lice serums can have a strong chemical smell and irritate the skin.
While the first part of a lice treatment is the application of a leave-in serum, the second part of the process involves brushing out eggs with a special comb. All lice kits should include a nit comb, not to be confused with a styling comb. A nit comb has much tighter spacing between the teeth than a standard comb, and the teeth should be especially inflexible. As this comb passes through the child's hair, the teeth should trap any eggs and pull them away from hair shafts.
Room and bedding spray
Some midrange or higher-end lice kits will include a special chemical spray that kills adult lice and nits on sheets, pillow cases, blankets and other contaminated areas. A suitable insecticide formulated for lice eradication can be purchased separately but having the treatment on hand is always a good idea.
As with many other leave-in hair treatments, the serum used in a lice treatment can evaporate or leach out over time, so some lice kits contain a latex or plastic cap for the child's scalp. This cap will allow the serum to remain in place longer, which improves its overall effectiveness. Basic lice kits may not have this feature, but a protective cap can be purchased separately at a beauty-supply store
A basic lice kit containing a pesticide-based serum and a plastic nit comb can be found for around $10. A more advanced kit with a protective cap and room/bedding spray can cost between $15 and $25, while high-end, all-natural, professional-grade kits will run as much as $50.
Q. I wash my child's hair regularly, and she's always been good about her personal hygiene. How did she get head lice?
A. Head lice infestations are not caused by poor personal hygiene. Your child most likely came into contact with another child with head lice, and some of the nits or adult lice were transferred. A number of children are unaware of a head lice infestation until an adult performs an examination.
Q. What is the difference between a lice comb and the comb I use every day to style my own hair?
A. The teeth of a styling comb are spaced wide enough to allow strands of hair to pass between them. A styling comb won't remove adult lice or nits. A lice comb has closely spaced teeth that can trap eggs and lice and strip them away from the hair and scalp. These combs can be purchased separately, but at least a basic model should be included in a typical lice kit.
Lice kits we recommend
Best of the best: Head Hunters Naturals' Pro Lice Treatment Kit
Our take: This chemical-free product comes with a generous supply of serum and an effective comb.
What we like: Formula does not use chemical pesticides. Simple two-step eradication process. Includes a leave-in serum and a lice comb. Effective on multiple lice strains.
What we dislike: Expensive price point. Some users may not achieve complete eradication.
Our take: This lice kit is nearly as effective as higher-end brands, and the cap keeps the serum concentrated on the affected hair.
What we like: Kit includes protective scalp cap. Natural formula uses tea tree oil and other herbal ingredients. Affordable and effective alternative to expensive treatments.
What we dislike: The quality and durability of the nit comb is questionable.
Choice 3: Lice Treatment Kit by Lice Clinics
Our take: While it might not be as effective on adult lice as other brands, this all-natural lice treatment does make hair much easier to comb and condition.
What we like: Pleasant pear blossom fragrance. Ingredients are all-natural, no chemical pesticides. Applicator is easy to use, and nit comb is very durable.
What we dislike: Comb is more effective at removing eggs than serum is at killing lice. Hair becomes very slick during treatment.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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