How to Treat Head Lice With Cetaphil

Often parents are reluctant to apply chemical shampoo to a child's head to treat lice. Lice are becoming resistant to the chemical shampoos, and sometimes you still have lice after a chemical treatment. Smothering the lice has been a long-standing non-chemical treatment. Cetaphil is one smothering method that pediatricians may recommend to kill head lice, and it's not as difficult to remove from the hair as mayonnaise or olive oil.

Applying the Cetaphil

Purchase a 12 oz. bottle of Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser at a major retailer or drugstore. You also need an 8 oz. clear application bottle with a tip which can be found at a beauty supply store (or see online Resources below). Fill the application bottle with Cetaphil.

Drape a towel around the child's shoulders to catch any extra cleanser that drips off the hair. The hair should be dry for this treatment.

Begin at the nape of the neck on the left side and apply the cleanser directly to the scalp moving back and forth from the nape of the neck to the front hairline until you reach the right side. This should use 1/4 of the cleanser.

Change the direction of the zigzag pattern to criss-cross the first pattern. Now the application bottle should be half empty.

Massage the cleanser into the scalp.

Repeat Step 3 and 4. Now the application bottle should be empty. Massage the cleanser into the scalp again.

Refill the bottle half full if you child has long hair. Squirt the cleanser on the hair strands and massage it in.

Completing the Treatment

Wait just 2 minutes and then comb out the cleanser. Wipe the excess cleanser onto another towel. The goal is to remove as much cleanser as possible so it will take less time to blow dry the hair.

Remove nits with a lice comb. Place the lice comb at the scalp and slowly comb through. Swish the comb in a bowl of water to see if anything comes out. A white bowl works best to spot the nits. Flush the water down the toilet when done.

Blow dry the hair so that the scalp, roots and strands are completely dry. This is very important so the cleanser adheres to the lice and cannot be rubbed off on a pillow. Expect blow drying to take three times longer than it normally does. Do not apply hair products.

Leave the dried cleanser on the hair overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Shampoo with your normal shampoo. You can rinse hair with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and warm water and then comb again with the lice comb before shampooing. The vinegar helps to loosen the nits.

Check daily for live lice and nits. Remove nits immediately. Retreat with Cetaphil if you see live lice or contact your pediatrician for advice.

Repeat this treatment after seven days and again seven days after that to kill any newly hatched lice before they become adults and lay eggs. This is a crucial step to break the lice life cycle.


Sterilize the combs in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes. Wash the towels in hot water and place in the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any lice on the towels.


Don't skimp on the amount of Cetaphil used. The head should be saturated and cleanser should be dripping off the hair. It is very important that the application tip is touching the scalp at all times and the Cetaphil is applied in a criss-cross pattern to achieve uniform coverage. Don't dump the Cetaphil on the hair and just try to massage it in.