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Study suggests general hair conditioner just as effective to get rid of lice

By Andrew McDougall+

28-Feb-2014
Last updated on 28-Feb-2014 at 13:30 GMT2014-02-28T13:30:03Z

An egg from a head louse cemented to a human hair. (Credit: Entomological Society of America)
An egg from a head louse cemented to a human hair. (Credit: Entomological Society of America)

A new study claims that ordinary hair conditioner is just as effective at getting rid of hair lice as specialist nit-removal.

Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium looked to determine the efficacy of several products to remove eggshells from human hair using an objective measurement procedure.

They found that water and ordinary hair conditioner significantly facilitated the removal of nits in vitro, as well as specialist products.

“We found no difference between ordinary conditioner and products specifically marketed for the purpose of nit removal. Other products such as formic acid solution and almond oil did not have a beneficial effect,” say the researchers.

Testing

Some shampoos and conditioners that contain chemicals or special oils are marketed as nit-removal products; however, the research published in the Journal of Medical Entomology suggests that ordinary hair conditioner is just as effective.

In their test, the scientists gathered 605 hairs from six different children; with each air having a single nit attached to it.

They then tried to remove the eggs and tested the amount of force needed to do so, finding that nits on the hairs that were left completely untreated were the most difficult to remove.

No significant difference

There were also no significant differences between the ordinary conditioners and the special nit-removal products. In all cases, less force was required to remove the nits after the hair had been treated, but the effectiveness of the products was essentially the same.

"There were no significant differences in measured forces between the ordinary conditioner and the commercial nit removal product," the authors write. "The commercial nit removal products tested in the current study do not seem to have an additional effect."

"Treatment with conditioner reduces the coefficient of friction of undamaged and damaged hair. As a consequence, conditioners will facilitate nit removal."

Eggs from head lice, also called nits, are notoriously difficult to remove. Female lice lay eggs directly on to strands of hair, and they cement them in place with a glue-like substance, making them hard to get rid of.

 

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Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/ME13106 .

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