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Head lice are parasitic crawling insects that live near the scalp and feed on human blood. Lice are spread by direct head-to-head contact. They’re most common among children: Each year in the United States, an estimated 6 to 12 million infestations take place among children 3 to 11 years of age.

Signs and symptoms of lice include a tickling feeling in the hair, itching on the scalp, and trouble sleeping, since head lice are most active in the dark.

To diagnose a lice infestation, a healthcare professional or someone who can reliably identify live head lice should examine a person’s scalp.

Treatment commonly includes lice medication and combing the scalp over multiple days or weeks. Washing the hair with lice shampoo can also be helpful. However, most lice shampoos are recommended as second-line treatment. Shampoo often kills live lice, but not the nits (eggs).

Read on to learn more about lice shampoo, including our top picks and effectiveness.

As we researched products for this article, we read customer ratings and reviews to learn about each option’s effectiveness. We also considered whether the shampoo targets just lice or lice eggs, too.

Additionally, since lice infestations are especially common in children, we made sure to share choices that don’t have any harmful or toxic chemicals.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Best budget buy

Mata Piojos Lice Shampoo

  • Price: $

The Mata Piojos shampoo is a maximum-strength product that treats head, pubic, and body lice. Pyrethrum, the primary active ingredient, kills live bugs. You’ll need to apply a second treatment in 7 to 10 days since the formula does not kill eggs.

With your purchase, you’ll also receive a lice-removal comb, making the process a tad easier.


  • affordable and effective
  • kills active bugs


  • doesn’t kill lice eggs
  • not available on Amazon
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Best for kids

Schooltime Lice and Nit Shampoo

  • Price: $$$

Remove live lice and soften the nit glue holding eggs with the Schooltime Lice and Nit Shampoo. Recommended for both kids and adults, this shampoo does not have pesticides, messy oils, or enzymes. It’s hypoallergenic and endorsed by dermatologists.

The manufacturer recommends using the shampoo twice a week. It comes in a large bottle so your whole family can use it if needed, with the plant-based ingredient list giving you peace of mind that no unsafe chemicals or substances are going on your head.


  • great for both adults and children
  • all-natural formula
  • works well on sensitive skin


  • not technically a shampoo as advertised (instructions state to apply to dry hair and wash out)
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Best kit

RID Super Max 5-in-1

  • Price: $$$

Lice shampoo isn’t the only thing you need to remove lice: This 3-piece kit sets you up for success by providing a lice removal comb and “Super Max” solution in addition to a daily defense shampoo and conditioner.

According to RID (a company that focuses solely on lice removal products), the kit will immediately target both lice and eggs as well as provide extended defense, so lice avoid laying eggs in your hair.

This lice shampoo is clinically tested and does not contain any harmful chemicals, pesticides, alcohol, or silicone. It also kills “super lice,” or lice that have developed a resistance to common pesticide-based treatments.


  • no harsh chemicals
  • good for kids
  • good for daily use


  • not for kids under 2 years of age
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Best same-day relief

ClearLice Head Lice Treatment Shampoo

  • Price: $$$

While you may not be able to completely wipe out a lice infestation in a day, the ClearLice Head Lice Treatment Shampoo does a great job of providing quick relief from symptoms like itchiness and that horrible crawling feeling. The shampoo uses natural ingredients like enzymatic actives and essential oils (no harmful chemicals or pesticides) to attack lice and their eggs.

ClearLice is made in the USA and is safe for all ages.


  • refreshing peppermint scent
  • battles both active lice and their eggs
  • nontoxic


  • higher price point
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Best 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner

Lice Shield Shampoo and Conditioner

  • Price: $$

Opt for a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner with the Lice Shield Shampoo and Conditioner. It gently cleanses and conditions the hair, and the shampoo uses a unique blend of five natural essential oils (citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, and geraniol) to target lice.

All Lice Shield products are safe for the whole family. In fact, they’re specifically formulated to be gentle on a child’s hair and skin. The company recommends using this shampoo after undergoing a stronger treatment by a brand such as RID or Nix.


  • safe for the entire family
  • contains natural essential oils
  • pleasant scent


  • most effective when used after a lice treatment product
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Best for daily use

Licefreee Everyday Shampoo

  • Price: $$

If you’re looking for a safe everyday option for lice shampoo, this pack from Licefreee can’t be beaten. You can use the shampoo daily after treatment to avoid re-infestation or start using it at the first alert of an outbreak at school.

This lice shampoo is nontoxic and free of chemicals and pesticides. It’s safe for both kids and adults. Licefreee also sells other products to kill and remove lice from hair, body, furniture, and bedding.


  • safe for both kids and adults
  • nontoxic and free of chemicals and pesticides


  • most effective when used after a lice treatment product
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Mata Piojos Lice Shampoo$– treats head, public, and body lice
– maximum strength formula
– hard to find in stores
– doesn’t kill lice eggs
Schooltime Lice and Nit Shampoo$$$– scent- and chemical-free
– considered a high-powered shampoo
– more expensive than other effective options
RID Super Max 5-in-1$$$– pesticide-free
– kid friendly
– kills lice and lice eggs
– only for children over the age of two
ClearLice Head Lice Treatment Shampoo$$$– same-day results
– toxin-free
– more expensive than other options
– may only stun lice, not kill them
Lice Shield Shampoo and Conditioner$$– contains a blend of 5 natural essential oils
– great everyday protection
– considered a repellent, not for killing lice
Licefreee Everyday Shampoo$$– moisturizing for most hair types
– good for everyday hair care
– not for killing lice or eggs
– users report an unpleasant scent

If you’re selecting lice shampoo for your child, make sure the shampoo is safe for kids. Purchase a strong lice treatment shampoo if your child has an active infestation. Otherwise, a gentler, everyday preventive shampoo will work.

Make sure your child is not allergic to any of the ingredients in the shampoo. It’s also good to look for a natural shampoo so you won’t be introducing any harmful chemicals.

Lice shampoo contains ingredients that will kill or deter lice. If the shampoo is designed to kill lice instead of simply preventing them, it will likely contain pediculicides, a chemical that paralyzes and kills lice.

Experts generally recommend using a lice treatment shampoo twice, with the second treatment occurring 7 to 10 days after the first one. This is the best way to make sure the infestation is truly gone.

When it comes to how often to use lice shampoo, your best bet is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Some lice shampoos are specifically formulated for everyday use and prevention. Others are meant to be used just once or twice to target an active lice infestation. If you have additional questions or concerns, it’s best to speak with your healthcare professional.

What is the most effective head lice treatment?

The most effective head lice treatment is permethrin lotion. This FDA-approved treatment kills both live lice and their eggs, and can be purchased either over the counter or as a prescription.

Can you get rid of lice in 3 days?

You’ll most likely not be able to get rid of lice completely in just 3 days. With most lice treatments, you’ll need to repeat the treatment a week or so later to prevent re-infestation.

What kills head lice permanently?

Treatments that can get rid of head lice permanently include permethrin, ivermectin, or Spinosad.

How do head lice spread?

Head lice, parasitic crawling insects that live near the scalp, typically spread by direct head-to-head or hair-to-hair contact. While this is less common, head lice can also sometimes be spread via shared clothes or belongings.

Head lice are a major headache to deal with. But if you have the right products on hand, you’ll be well-equipped to fight them off and make sure they don’t come back. Lice shampoo can be a handy tool in enforcing the removal of lice or preventing future infestations.