The presence of head lice can evoke fear, particularly in parents. While treatment options are available, eradicating this parasitic insect is known to be challenging and time consuming. If you prefer to avoid the use of traditional chemical treatments, alternative options -- such as occlusion treatments which suffocate lice -- can be tried. A small study which investigated Cetaphil Skin Cleanser as an occlusion treatment, published in the September 2004 issue of "Pediatrics," demonstrated that 3 weekly treatments resulted in a 96 percent cure rate, with 94 percent of study subjects still free of lice 6 months after treatment. Since additional published research on Cetaphil's role as a lice treatment is lacking, this product has not been established as a first line medication for head lice. However, a clinical report on head lice, published in the April 2015 "American Academy of Pediatrics," recognized Cetaphil treatment as a nontoxic approach that does not require manual egg removal in order to be effective.
Place 8 ounces of Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser in a plastic applicator bottle. Alternatively, an empty 8-ounce condiment dispenser can be used. Drape a towel over the shoulder of the person before starting the treatment.
Apply Cetaphil liberally to dry hair, using most or all of the bottle's contents. Massage well into the scalp. Be sure the Cetaphil is thoroughly and equally covering all areas of the scalp and hair.
Wait 2 minutes, then comb out as much of the excess Cetaphil as possible. This step is completed when you can't see any more of the white cleanser. After you are finished with the comb, clean by soaking in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes, or by putting the comb through the hottest cycle of the dishwasher.
Using a hair dryer, thoroughly dry the hair. For this treatment to be effective, the entire scalp and hair must get completely dry, so the remaining cleanser dries onto the scalp and hair. Expect this process to take double the time it usually takes to dry the hair.
After the hair is dry, use a alcohol or heat-treated comb or brush to style. Do not apply any hair styling products, such as gel or mousse, during this treatment phase.
Leave the treatment on overnight, or for at least 8 hours. You may want to cover the hair with a night cap or a shower cap. In the morning, shampoo and style hair as usual with a cleaned comb or brush.
Repeat the Cetaphil Cleanser treatment in 7 days, then again in 7 days. Following this step is essential to disrupt the life cycle of the lice eggs, or nits, which hatch every 7 to 10 days.
Things You'll Need
Cetaphil Skin Cleanser, at least 24 ounces
8-ounce applicator bottle, designed for use with hair products
Shower cap, optional
Clean your house as you treat the lice. Vacuum upholstery, and before treatment, wash all bedding and towels in hot water and place them in a hot dryer. Temperatures over 130 degrees Fahrenheit will kill lice on bedding. Place all stuffed animals in a plastic bag and keep them outside for two weeks. Also, check everyone in the household for lice and treat anyone else who has an infestation.
While the study published in "Pediatrics" concluded Cetaphil can be effective, not enough research is available for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider Cetaphil a lice treatment. If the Cetaphil treatment does not effectively treat the head lice infestation, talk to a doctor about other available options.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD
- Pharmacy Times: The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for Management of Head Lice: An In-Depth Guide
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Head Lice
- JAMA Network: Head Lice
- Pediatrics: A Simple Treatment for Head Lice: Dry-On, Suffocation-Based Pediculicide
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Clinical Report-Head Lice