Ordinary Conditioner Removes Lice Eggs

Back when your kids were in school, you may well have had to do battle with head lice and chances are that you bought special products such as prescription-only Kwell or over-the-counter RID. Now, though, if the grandchildren end up with eggs from head lice, also called nits, you may find that ordinary conditioner works just as well. That’s the conclusion of new research published in February 2015 in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

A release from the Entomological Society of America reports that scientists from Belgium gathered 605 hairs from six different children. Each hair had a single nit attached to it. Approximately 14% of the eggshells contained a dead egg, whereas the rest were empty. The team then tried to remove the eggs and tested the amount of force needed to do so. They found that nits on the hairs that were left completely untreated were the most difficult to remove. Eggs on hairs that had been soaked in deionized water were much easier to remove, as were the eggs on hairs that had been treated with ordinary hair conditioner and with pediculicides, the term for products specifically marketed for the purpose of nit removal.

However, the researchers found no significant differences between the ordinary conditioners and the special nit-removal products. In all cases, less force was required to remove the nits after the hair had been treated, but the effectiveness of the products was essentially the same.

The authors wrote: "There were no significant differences in measured forces between the ordinary conditioner and the commercial nit removal product. The commercial nit removal products tested in the current study do not seem to have an additional effect . . . Treatment with conditioner reduces the coefficient of friction of undamaged and damaged hair. As a consequence, conditioners will facilitate nit removal."

The authors hypothesize that the deionized water was effective because it acts as a lubricant, so less friction is needed to remove the nits from the hairs. The same goes for the conditioners.

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