It’s important to remove adult lice and eggs that haven’t hatched before they can produce an even bigger infestation.

It’s possible to prevent lice eggs from hatching if you treat or remove them at the right time.

Here we cover the head lice life cycle, how to prevent lice eggs from hatching, and how to effectively remove head lice and their eggs from your hair.

An adult head louse lays up to six eggs, called nits, every day they’re in your hair for up to 30 days.

Lice eggs usually hatch in about 9–10 days and produce nymphs that grow into adult lice in about 2 weeks. Removing eggs that are yellow means that you’ve prevented the eggs from hatching.

Here’s the typical lice life cycle so that you can know how long you’ve had lice and their eggs:

  1. An adult female louse lays up to six eggs a day: They attach eggs to hair near your scalp with a glue-like secretion. These yellow eggs may be hard to see without a magnifying glass. They can easily be mistaken for dandruff or dead skin.
  2. Each egg hatches in about 9–10 days: After hatching, the shells of the eggs turn white or clear and stay stuck to your hair.
  3. Nymphs are about the size of the tip of a needle: They resemble much smaller adult lice. They have six legs, are a tan or gray color, and move around freely in your hair.
  4. Nymphs shed their skin three times before adulthood: This takes about 1 week. The nymph gets a little bigger each time.
  5. Nymphs become full-sized adults after 1–2 weeks: They’re usually tan or gray but may look darker if your hair’s dark.
  6. After reaching adulthood, lice can live in your hair up to 1 month: As long as they can feed on blood from your scalp, lice will survive and lay more eggs for up to 30 days. If they fall off, they’ll die after about 2 days.

It’s possible to keep lice eggs from hatching if you treat them properly between the time they’re laid and the week or so until they hatch.

Some treatments kill lice and their eggs as well as any eggs that hatch after treatment. These treatments are often more effective when you also comb your hair to remove lice and their eggs.

Lice eggs may be laid at different times by different adult lice. Treating everyone in your household or environment who’s been around a person with a lice infestation can help stop lice from spreading and laying more eggs.

Specialized lice treatments called pediculicides are an effective way to kill lice eggs before they hatch. You can buy these treatments over the counter or get a prescription-strength pediculicide from a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Use a strongly ovicidal pediculicide. This means that it’s designed to kill eggs as well as lice.

You can also use malathion lotion to kill lice eggs. But this may not be safe for children younger than 6 years old and may not be as effective as ovicidal pediculicides.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to remove lice eggs from your hair:

  1. Get your hair wet: This makes it easier to see lice and their eggs.
  2. Comb or brush your hair: Get out any tangles that might make it harder to wet-comb for lice.
  3. Use bright lights and a magnifying glass: This lets you see tiny lice and eggs more easily.
  4. Use a lice comb: Comb out small, 1-inch sections of your hair from your scalp outward.
  5. Rinse or wipe off the comb: Do this every time you finish a section of your hair to remove lice or eggs from the comb.
  6. Comb each 1-inch section two times: Do this until you’ve covered your entire head.
  7. Rinse your hair with warm water: Along with rinsing, use any ovicidal pediculicides you have.
  8. Soak your lice comb: Soak it in water hotter than 130°F for 10–15 minutes or in pediculicide for up to 1 hour.

Here are some frequently asked questions about lice eggs.

How long can you have lice eggs before they hatch?

Lice eggs hatch about 8–10 days after they’re laid. You can remove them any time during this period to prevent them from hatching in your hair.

Will lice eggs hatch after treatment?

A thorough combing and treatment with pediculicide will usually kill the lice eggs and keep them from hatching.

But some eggs can survive if you don’t comb thoroughly enough or if the pediculicide isn’t applied properly.

Eggs that fall off your hair or your comb aren’t likely to survive. But they can spread to someone in your environment and hatch in their hair. This can cause a new infestation.

You can prevent lice eggs from hatching if you remove them from your hair at the right time or properly treat them with a strong, ovicidal pediculicide.

This can help prevent lice infestations from getting worse or from a new infestation happening.