The best nit and head lice treatments for 2022

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

We surveyed 2,010 UK parents with a child aged under 12, who have all had the unpleasant task of ridding their children of head lice, to discover the top brand of head lice treatment.

There’s a wide variety of treatments available, including lotions, creams, sprays, and leave-in mousse products. Many no longer contain pesticides (which lice can build up a resistance to), and instead, work by coating the lice in liquid and drowning or dehydrating them. Read on to find out which ones are most popular with parents for effectiveness, ease of use, smell, and value for money.

Types of treatment 

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

Nit comb method

Just under half of parents (45%) surveyed in 2021 said that the last time their child had nits they used a comb with a conditioner.  The parents in our survey rated Acu-Life the best brand for removing head lice. It’s rated highly for the four key areas (effectiveness, ease of use, smell, and value for money), and it’s a brand known for its distinctive blue plastic-handled nit combs with metal teeth.

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 a conditioner in your home, the latter method can be a cheap way to tackle head lice, but it can be time-consuming.

Medicated treatments

More than half (65%) of parents we surveyed in 2021 said they used a nit comb with solution.

Medicated treatments from Boots, Superdrug, Full Marks, Hedrin, Nitwits 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.  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 to 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

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. However, they fared better in the 2021 survey, with Puressentiel, a popular herbal brand, getting four stars for ease of use, smell, and value for money, and three stars for effectiveness.

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 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 a 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 hair (54%) used it than those 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.