Using a lice comb in wet hair can be a great way to remove lice nits. But it’s possible to eliminate them with smothering agents, essential oils, and powerful treatments called pediculicides.

It’s important to remove nits (lice eggs) from your hair so that they don’t hatch into nymphs and produce a new generation of lice within less than 2 weeks.

Read on for some tips to clear out lice nits from your hair, even if you don’t have a lice comb.

Wet-combing is usually a great method for head lice and nit removal. But you can remove them without combing them out of your hair.

Here’s the theory: Adult lice lay nits that can stick to your hair with a glue-like substance that covers the entire outer shell of the nits. Anything that weakens this substance or damages the nit can help remove the nit from your hair.

Weakening the glue-like substance results in cutting off oxygen to the nits, reducing the stickiness of the outer shell coating, or damaging the nit shell and killing the louse inside.

Here are several methods you can try to remove lice nits without wet-combing your hair.

Smothering agents

Smothering agents suffocate lice by damaging their breathing organs and stopping them from releasing excess water from their bodies as they feed on blood. This can stop them from laying eggs and eventually kill them.

Here are some examples of common smothering agents:

  • dimethicone
  • isopropyl myristate
  • carthamus tinctorius (safflower oil)

You can purchase many smothering agents at drugstores or grocery stores. Some treatments labeled as lice sprays often contain these ingredients and natural insecticides like permethrin.

You’ll need to apply most smothering agents regularly for a few days or weeks for them to be effective.


Read the ingredients and warning labels on smothering agents closely — many smothering agents contain harsh chemicals that can be unsafe for young children.

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Essential oils

Lice are insects. And some essential oils kill lice and other insects naturally.

A 2017 study compared Australian eucalyptus oil and lemon tea tree oil — a mixture called an EO/LP solution — to a solution comprising pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (P/PB). Participants had the oils put on their hair once every 7 days for 3 weeks and the P/PB once every 7 days for 2 weeks.

The researchers found that the EO/PL solution was twice as effective as the P/PB solution, killing 100% of the lice and their nits.

A small study from 2017 found that a couple of essential oils were effective against lice, helping stop the reproductive cycle that leads to more nits. Clove oil killed more than 90% of lice when directly applied to hair for 30 minutes. Yunnan verbena oil diluted with coconut oil was also effective.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications and shampoos

Aside from wet-combing, prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) pediculicides can be the most effective treatment for removing lice and nits.

Use a pediculicide labeled as ovicidal. This means that it kills lice and their eggs.

Malathion lotion is a common ovicidal pediculicide you can only put on children 6 years or older. Other pediculicides like benzyl alcohol and ivermectin lotion can kill lice but don’t directly kill nits.


Speak with a medical professional before you use a pediculicide. Many of them contain harsh chemicals that can be unsafe for young children or people with allergies.

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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about lice nit removal.

What is the easiest way to get nits out of hair?

Wet-combing with a lice comb can be the easiest and most effective way to get lice and their nits out of your hair.

Washing and then combing out all the nits from your hair can feel like a big task. But you can usually do it in one sitting rather than applying smothering agents to your hair multiple times daily over a long time.

Wet-combing can also help keep your hair clean. Many smothering agents can produce strong odors or damage your hair due to strong chemicals.

Does anything dissolve nits in hair?

Permethrin may be effective at dissolving nits in your hair.

Researchers in a small 2019 study tested several treatments and found that compounds like isononyl isononanoate in a watery gel application were effective at dissolving nits, too. But it’s worth noting that some of the study authors were shareholders of a company called EctoMedica Limited, which funded the study.

Using smothering agents, essential oils, and pediculicides, you can remove lice nits from your hair without a lice comb. These methods can take much longer and make catching all the nits harder. Consider using a lice comb with the wet-combing method for great results.