A wooden spoon on a plate with semi-solid coconut oil

Does Coconut Oil Kill Lice?

by Lindsay E. Mack

Few things have the cult appeal of coconut oil, and most people who love the stuff really love it. After all, you can use it for cooking, skin care, and about a million other things. So if your kid comes home from school with a case of head lice, you may be tempted to reach for your favorite tropical cure-all. But does coconut oil kill head lice, too?

First, it's helpful to understand what lice are and how they affect their hosts. According to Kids Health, lice are minute parasitic insects that can live in human hair and feed on blood from the scalp. What's more, they can live on the scalp for weeks or even months before symptoms — namely intense itching on the scalp — appear, as explained in WebMD. (Are you scratching at your head yet?)

These lovely creatures can even lay eggs (AKA nits) in your hair that hatch in roughly one week, according to the Mayo Clinic. So it's possible to have generations of lice colonizing your scalp. Although head lice do not appear to carry or transmit diseases and are not considered a health hazard, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's not uncommon for sores to develop on the scalp from the excessive scratching. Plus, there is the undeniable ick factor of having bugs in your hair.

So can the wonderful coconut oil help kill off these bugs? Well, not entirely. According to Mother Jones, home remedies such as coconut oil seem to have a high failure rate for lice treatment. Even though there are plenty of blogs touting the effectiveness of coconut oil for smothering lice, there does not appear to be much scientific study to back up the practice. In addition, although oiling your hair may make it less attractive to lice, it will likely have no effect on the nits, which will hatch and still need removal, as noted in Bustle. For most infected persons, treatment with over-the-counter or prescription medications designed to kill both lice and nits may be the best practice, as explained by the CDC. Although coconut oil is fantastic for a lot of remedies, it may not be the best course of practice for helping your family get totally free from lice.