I'm not a normal mom I guess in that I'm never excited about back to school. I miss my kids, and I'm soooo not a fan of packing lunches. Another thing I'm not a fan of with back to school is the little coloured slips of paper that inevitably come home announcing that another child in your child's class has lice, and requesting you to check your child's head before sending them back to school.
Several years ago we dealt with lice for the first time, and it was horrific!!! I had never had that as a child, and as a result, I felt a HUGE stigma with it. It took several treatments with that toxic shampoo and a lot of tears to finally put it behind us. After that I really dug into researching how to better manage things if it were to happen again, and more importantly how to Prevent it from happening again.
So I dove into some research, and if you've done the same, you have probably read about Tea Tree oil. I'll be honest with you. I think this might be a good deterrent to have it in the shampoo, but I have never had luck with tea tree essential oil alone. No matter the brand. And I don't like the smell so much. But I've found something that really DOES WORK, and it doesn't smell like a medicine cabinet! (Hooray!!!!)
First off, a nit and lice comb is an absolute must. Physically removing them is job one. It's tedious and unpleasant, but absolutely 100% necessary.
The next tool in my war against lice toolbox is Diatomaceous Earth, otherwise known as DE. There is a lot of information on this throughout the web. It can be taken internally as a detox agent, is used as an anti-caking agent in grains, and animal feed, and it's cost effective. It kills all insects mechanically. This sounds scary. I know. Microscopically it is very sharp, though to the feel for us, it's a soft, very fine dry powder...that will make your skin dry out if you handle it too much. This is how it kills insects. It scratches the waxy outer later of their 'armour' and they dry out. This is great news if you're battling lice!
So what is DE anyway? It's a very light weight pale grey to whitish powder made of ground up fossilized diatoms; plant organisms from the ocean eons ago.
Wikipedia has this to say about it:
Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled protists (chrysophytes). It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.
It's good stuff...but you MUST be careful not to breath it in. As with any powder, if you breath it in it means trouble.
So, how do you use DE to eliminate lice?
This is how I have used it for more than one kid, and it worked like a charm!!!
I take whatever shampoo you prefer, no need to buy anything special for this. Put about an ounce of it into a separate plastic squeeze bottle. Now you're going to add about an ounce of water to this to thin it out. I also dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom salts in the water I'm adding. I boil the kettle, and pour an ounce of hot water over the tablespoon of Epsom salts and stir to dissolve, then I add about a tablespoon of DE to that water as well before pouring it into the shampoo and shaking it up well. The Epsom salt provides a dose of magnesium to the scalp, which is a nice thing, but we really want it there to help draw the moisture from the nits and lice as they contact the DE.
I then apply this shampoo to the dry hair at the roots and leave it on, covered with a shower cap or plastic bag for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible. Wash out as usual. The DE will do a number on long hair, so if you are dealing with long hair it's a good idea to use a really good conditioner after. Take a comb through it while the conditioner is in, and then finish with a cider vinegar rinse of about 1/4 cup cider vinegar in a pint of warm water.
If you have a really stubborn case, you can actually dust the DE onto the scalp dry, but be sure to protect yourself and your child from breathing it in. I have done this with the little tea balls that are spring loaded. Like this:
You just scoop up a bit of the DE in the tea ball and use that right near the scalp where they hide and lay their eggs on the shaft of the hair near the warm scalp. Work it in with your hands, and then after about 30 minutes or so you can apply the shampoo from above with more DE in it, and leave that on for another 30 minutes or more, and then wash out.
This still has to be followed with the nit comb, unfortunately.
I still have another trick in my toolkit for lice...and it is essential oils, but NOT tea tree.
In my research I found a dog product for fleas that utilized cedarwood and peppermint essential oils. This is a FANTASTIC one two punch for both fleas and lice, as they each work a different way. Peppermint oil smells fantastic and works by causing the lice to close up their spiracles from which they breathe, leaving them to suffocate. The cedarwood, while it's not a favourite scent on its own for many people, smells wonderful with the peppermint oil. It's minty and woodsy, and all kinds of festive wonderful. The cedarwood oil works to break down the waxy layer on 'exoskeleton' of the bugs.
To use the cedarwood and peppermint essential oils, I make a master blend in a 1:1 ratio. I use an empty 5 mL dropper bottle and put 20 drops of each into it. This can be added to both shampoo and conditioner, or just put a drop or two on your brush before brushing the hair.
When using both the essential oils and the DE with the salt, I have never had this not work. In full disclosure though, I've not had a lot of opportunity to try. We've only encountered lice a few times, and I credit this to the DE. I dust all the winter hats and scarves very lightly with the DE after each wash, and I put a few drops of the peppermint and cedarwood blend on a dryer ball in the laundry when we get one of those notices home. That probably doesn't do a lot on its own, but it does smell nice.
If you're struggling with lice, please, give this a try and leave a comment!!! I'd love to know what other's experiences are with it!