Does Shampoo Work in Eliminating Super Lice?


A lice infestation is bad enough, but add super lice to the equation and you have a stubborn problem!

For many parents, head lice mean time away from work and absence from school for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 12 to 24 million school days are lost each year due to lice infestations.

While lice don’t carry diseases and aren’t dangerous, many schools still operate a “no nit” policy, so you’re stuck trying to eliminate lice as quickly as possible to get them back. Unfortunately, super lice represent a super problem.  Let’s dig in further to find out why. 

What are super lice?

 Super lice are just like any other blood-sucking head louse, except they’re resistant to commonly-used insecticide treatments. Over many years of use, the typical pyrethroid shampoo treatments that you buy over-the-counter are being rendered ineffective.

A University of Massachusetts study found that as many as three-quarters of head lice out there today are considered super lice. They’ve been located in at least 48 states, which means you’ve got a high chance of meeting a super lice infestation.

The problem is that super lice are hard to kill. They then spread to other people through close contact, lay more eggs and this vicious cycle continues. If your school has a “no nit” policy, you can find yourself in a frustrating situation trying to get your child back to school. 

Does shampoo work for eliminating super lice?

 We’ve established that super lice are resistant against typical pyrethroid-based shampoos. As a Scientific American article puts it:

“This high prevalence of resistance means that most people are wasting their money when they turn to over-the-counter lice shampoos, which range in price from about $6 to more than $30 a bottle and remain the weapon of choice for those doing battle with lice.”

Use of the shampoo is not only ineffective, but it has safety risks for the infested child. Pyrethroids are known neurotoxins and users can experience a range of horrible side-effects. Another consideration is that using an ineffective shampoo can prolong the misery of the infested child. It may take a week or more to realize that the lice infestation is still present due to their lifecycle and the hatching of eggs.

What about prescription lice shampoos? Do they work on super lice? Prescription shampoos are chemical-based, including ivermectin lotion, lindane and malathion. Lindane is not recommended as a first line of treatment by the CDC and is being phased out through much of the world due to safety concerns. Other chemical prescriptions may have side effects in some users, while all of them are up for debate among scientists. The thinking is that it won’t take long for lice to be resistant to those also.

“For these treatments to work over the long term, health care providers need to rotate them among patients to avoid overexposing lice to any single drug and thus lessen the chances of the lice developing resistance to it. There are no official medical guidelines requiring such a rotation, however. Doctors can prescribe whichever drug they want, and they are usually unaware of the benefits of alternating treatments.” (Scientific American)

There are other non-chemical-based shampoos out there, such as Lice and Egg Shampoo that are formulated to help break down the bonds that help eggs attach to hair. The shampoo itself does not kill the super lice or their eggs but is designed to make combing them out easier.

There are also several other natural shampoos on the market, although most do not have scientific backing to their claims of eliminating lice. Overall, insecticides and ovicidal shampoos (chemicals that kill eggs) are a concern where safety and efficacy are in question, while some of those chemical-free shampoos may be nothing more than an expensive hair coating. 

What works for eliminating super lice?

 When shampoos fail, you’re left with physical removal of super lice. This means sectioning hair and combing out with a fine-toothed lice comb. This is where certain shampoos can help, as previously mentioned.

To boost the effectiveness of combing, an electric lice comb can be a good choice against super lice. Electric combs such as the RobiComb® work by zapping the lice with an electric pulse. The comb kills or stuns the super lice so they are easy to comb out. The electric shock doesn’t hurt the person being treated or the user of the comb as the prongs of the comb are protected with insulating guards.

While electric shock doesn’t kill all of the lice eggs, these can be combed out with the same electric comb. Another positive for electric combs is that super lice can’t develop resistance to the treatment. They simply can’t avoid an electric shock! For concerned parents, this means you can feel better about choosing a non-toxic treatment that is also effective.

Super lice are a stubborn problem and are resistant to typical shampoo treatments. There are safer, chemical-free ways to remove nasty lice though, getting your kids back to school and you back to work faster. For your peace of mind, take a look at shampoos that break the bonds of eggs on the hair shaft, in conjunction with an electric lice comb.


Back to Super Lice

Back to Super Lice Next Post

  • LiceGuard Webmaster