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Baby & child.

8 September 2021

Best nit and head lice treatments for 2021

Do cheap nit and head lice treatments work? Are nit combs or lotions most effective? Discover the best head lice treatments as rated by parents
Martha Roberts
Head lice close up 438915

We surveyed thousands of parents to find out how they rated nit and head lice treatments for aspects including effectiveness, ease of use, smell and value for money.

Discover whether you should go for medicated lotions, such as Hedrin, Lyclear or Full Marks, or nit combs or herbal treatments.

Our research also found out what brands of head lice treatment are the most frequently bought - although this doesn't always mean that parents think they're the best.

In June 2021, we surveyed 2,010 UK parents of children aged under 12 who had treated head lice, asking them to rate the products they'd used.

Which? members can log in now to reveal the results.

If you're not a member, try Which? to unlock all the results of our research, plus a step-by-step guide to treating head lice.

Best head lice and nit treatments

Product
Effectiveness
Ease of use
Smell
Value for money

Table notes: Survey of 2,010 UK parents in June 2021 with a child aged up to 12 years.

Types of treatment

Below are the most common treatment methods that parents use for ridding their child of those pesky head lice.

Nit comb method

A nit comb costs only a few pounds, and you can often use it in conjunction with another product such as a medicated or herbal treatment, or conditioner. If you already have conditioner in your home, the latter method can be a cheap way to tackle head lice, but it can be time-consuming.

Check out our video on how to use the nit comb and conditioner method effectively.

Does your child have very curly or Afro hair? Follow our tips on how to treat head lice in mixed-race and Afro hair.

Medicated treatments

Medicated treatments from Boots, Full Marks, Hedrin and Lyclear all made it into the list. One of the benefits of these treatments is that they're often much quicker to use than the combing method – some take only 10 minutes.

There are various treatment options, ranging from creams and lotions that you use like a shampoo, to easy-application sprays, or a product that can be used as a leave-in mousse.

Why repeat treatment is so important

The key to making a medicated treatment work is to apply a follow-up treatment. Just under two thirds (59%) of the parents we surveyed in 2020 said they did this.

Even with treatments that are claimed to kill head lice in one application, there is a possibility that some eggs (nits) could survive if the product isn't properly applied to cover all nits and lice. If they do survive, the cycle starts all over again, and you have another infestation to deal with. Current advice when using 'once-only' treatment is to check your child's head a week later to ensure you have got rid of any lice or eggs that you might have missed, but we reckon checking and applying an additional treatment a week later is the safest way to know you've killed all the head lice.

Herbal/natural treatments

Although, in our 2020 survey, parents weren't that impressed with herbal or natural treatments, such as tea tree oil, and were less likely to use them, they fared better in the 2021 survey.

Herbal treatments may work better when used in combination with a nit comb. However, many parents prefer to use herbal treatments as a preventative measure, rather than to actually get rid of lice, as it's thought that products such as tea tree oil repel lice.

There is limited evidence of the efficacy of herbal products, and not much information on any side effects. If you prefer not to use a medicated product, we recommend using conditioner and a nit comb.

Treatment by hair type

Our 2021 survey found some significant differences when looking at head lice treatment by the child's hair type.

Nearly half of those with straight hair (49%) used a nit comb with conditioner, and around the same amount (48%) of those with coiled/Afro hair used this method, whereas only 38% of those with curly hair used a comb and conditioner.

When it came to a nit comb with head lice solution, fewer people with coiled/Afro-style hair (54%) used it than with other hair types - for example, 69% of those treating wavy hair used a nit comb with head lice solution.

Our research also found that almost one in 10 (9%) of those with coiled/Afro hair used neither a nit comb with conditioner nor a nit comb with head lice solution.

On the whole, a nit comb with head lice solution was more popular (65%) than a nit comb with conditioner (45%) for all hair types.

Hair type
Nit comb with conditioner
Nit comb with head lice solution
Neither
Straight
49%
62%
5%
Wavy
43%
69%
5%
Curly
38%
68%
7%
Coily/Afro-style
48%
54%
9%
Total
45%
65%
6%