Apparently, Denorex shampoo kills head lice

We’ve been fighting the head lice battle for a couple of months now. OTC lice treatments didn’t work. Prescription lice treatment didn’t work. Ditto mayonnaise. In desparation, I was researching on the 'net to try and find a solution. I read a couple of testimonials that Denorex shampoo (the kind with coal tar oil, not the kind with salicylic acid) kills head lice. My first glimmer of hope was the fact that, through all of this, hubby has remained critter-free. Guess what kind of shampoo he uses? Yep. So I thought, well, I’ve tried just about everything else short of shaving our heads, why not give it a shot? After all my research, I am way too familiar with the life-cycle of these disgusting little beasts. Between this research, and what I’ve read about the Denorex, I devised a system whereby everyone in the family would wash their hair with Denorex every two days for three weeks. See, the shampoo doesn’t kill the eggs, just the live ones. So you have to wash every couple of days to get the new ones as the hatch. Well, it’s been over a week now since we first started, and it’s worked like a charm! I know it works, because for the first week, I still used the lice/nit comb on us each and every day to make sure. I can’t tell you what peace this brings me; I was so afraid I’d fight the battle (the only success we’ve had in the past was with dilligent combing, nitpicking, heat-treating and vacuuming that took, literally, hours a day) only to have one of the kids bring it back home after school started. Now I’m not afraid of that, because I know an easy, relatively inexpensive way of dealing with it effectively.

The only reason I’m sharing this is because I just know that some of you guys out there might be dealing with it now, or might find yourself dealing with it once school starts back up.

Standard disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, medical researcher or anything like that. But by golly, I know what works for me!

What a pain- to have to deal with head lice for three weeks! I can’t imagine it.

I dread getting notices sent home from school, all three kids are in, and as soon as someone mentions head lice, my scalp starts to itch! I haven’t had it with mine but my nieces have been through it too many times!!

I think you can buy regular coal-tar shampoo in the drugstore. I don’t know what the price is compared to Denorex.

I didn’t find any regular coal tar shampoo in the drug store (but then, this is Cumberland). The only other shampoo I could find that contains coal tar is Neutrogena T-Gel, which has a lower percentage of coal tar, and is more expensive. I paid $8.00 for an 8 oz. bottle of Denorex, which is about half the cost of treating one of us with OTC lice treatment. I thought perhaps I could find some less expensive equivalent online, but didn’t want to take the time for ordering/shipping, during which time the problem would have been getting worse. However, if anyone else is interested in looking for something less expensive, just to keep on hand in case, the Denorex we have is 2.5% coal tar (the T-Gel is 1%).

Several years ago, when I was having dandruff/itchy scalp problems, I tried Denorex. Briefly. And all I can say is, that stuff should be able to kill not only lice, but anything else that lives. Yeesh.

When LilMiss was an infant she had a bad go around with cradle cap. Denorex fixed it right up in a few washings.
As an adult, I get cradle cap every summer, so I keep a bottle around just in case.

That stuff rocks :slight_smile:

Are you referring to the smell, or to the “tingling”? It smells horrible, but then so do all the OTC head lice treatments.

I know that hubby’s tried all other kinds of dandruff shampoos, and the Denorex is what controls his dandruff the best.

Oh, this is good news!! Last year we had the exact same problem. We treated ourselves for three days with various poisons and found LIVE lice every time. I was ready to cry the third day. I found a different solution than you did, using Vasoline to suffocate both eggs and lice. That’s how I treated my daughter, but I ended up shaving my own head. I even wrote a poem (actually a parody of Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock.) about it:

Rape of the Locks
An Abbreviated Parody

What dire solutions from hopeless Causes spring;
what mighty Contests arise from tiny things?
I sing this verse of L__, amuse they do,
at least for others who can safely view
the whole charade from a wider berth,
while tiny eggs hatch forth in birth.
Say, what strange motive, Goddess! could have lead
our Heroine, Grace, to shave her head,
while Jelly spared her little one
a burning scalp from fiery sun?

The bright sun pierced the shimmering day
and opened the Shih Tzu’s eyes, so gray.
His throat let go a gentle bark,
and looked toward light defeating dark.
The clock chimed eight; the lady lay sleeping
until the lap-dog stood at the door weeping.
Only then she opened her eyes, so green;
the world rudely invaded her dreams.
Her ruddy cheeks and flaxen curls belied
a terrible thing that she soon must hide.

Dear reader, for those who may never have seen
such itching and scratching, followed by screams,
a thousand inhabitants on your own head
hatching and biting, rousing you from bed
to fruitlessly try to search in the mirror
for the source of itching and how it gets nearer
around the crown and behind the ears,
and how could you sleep, so filled with fears?
For mothers of school-aged children know
what causes such itching on heads high and low.

And thus Grace saw her child start to itch;
her fingers scratched, her ears did twitch.
Grace searched in the sunlight ‘tween each shaft of hair;
her daughter sat, sullen, unable to bear
the tedious search , the shameful knowing,
to school, which she loved, there’d be no going.
At last Grace found what she was looking for,
a dastardly louse perched over a pore.
O, heaven knows, though early, the day was over
for her and the child and the lap-dog Rover.

For armies of lice had slowly advanced
and lurked on two heads in warrior stance,
waiting, at last, for the battle to start
‘tween chemical treatment and Evolution’s art.
The race had been waiting at least twenty years
for a chance to evolve past such fleeting fears;
to conquer mankind’s scientific advances;
to survive the assault and thwart man’s chances
to live without lousy pestilence,
to live parasite-free in ignorance.

And so Grace tried to oust the heathens,
to relieve the itching, among other reasons.
In the kitchen, laid out, and neatly arranged,
her weapons of combat: water on the range;
a small-toothed comb to remove the nits,
and a bottle of poison that came in a kit.
The water was boiling for hair-bands and combs,
accoutrements of beauty which every girl owns.
And so the child sat with saturated head,
while her mother await the lice to be dead.

Grace saw, combing out the nits that night,
what she could not believe, and gave her a fright.
For there, in a part of her daughter’s head,
wiggled a live louse that should’ve been dead!
She’d heard of this thing, the resistant louse
but now it was happening, and in her own house!
What could she do, her money she’d spent
on the damned useless poison, now she was bent
out of shape. Frustrated, her face contorted,
her mouth opened wide, tears fell, and she snorted.

For what is a poor young mother to do,
when faced with this thing? Well, I’ll tell you.
In the blink of an eye, she went to the ‘Net,
searched for a solution, which she did get.
She went to the bathroom, her clippers retrieved,
but the child hid her head and begged for reprieve.
“These are not for you,” our Grace, she said,
“I’m using these to shave my own head.”
“But what of me?” Cried the child, “What to do?”
“Oh,” said her mommy, “I have plans for you.”

Grace stood with eyes twinkling, a jar in her hand,
of Petroleum Jelly, asked her child to stand
as still as she could while into her hair
Grace slowly worked Vaseline into a glare,
a glorious, nasty, suffocating coat.
“It takes three hours,” Grace did quote,
“so put on this bonnet, and sit still, please.”
She was sure it would work but felt weak in the knees.
For now it was her turn to work on her hair,
and another solution would have to work there.

She remembered her clippers and their merging fate
and moved to the bedroom, before it was too late.
It did not take her long to decide against
using Vaseline, but her muscles tensed
to think of her curls, admired by all,
lying shorn on the floor after their fall.
“The battle!” She cried, “It costs too much!
I’ll have no use for these ribbons and such!”
But she was stoic, she was finally brave;
her hands took the clippers and started to shave.

When it was all over she laid down and wept,
plucked a curl from the pile, which she wanted kept
in a little glass frame, to remind her forever
of the rape of her curls by lice that were clever.
The battle she won, the vermin died out,
never to return, she had little doubt.
Her baldness protected her scalp from lice
and, surprisingly, made her face look nice,
or so they said, her generous friends,
who she knew she couldn’t believe, in the end.
(If anyone wants specific instructions on using Vasoline to kill lice, let me know. I’ll post it here. It’s a one-day treatment and I have methods to remove the Vasoline from heads the same day.)

presidbebt, believe me when I say I feel your pain! Do you mind if I ask why you didn’t just do the Vaseline treatment on yourself? This is not any kind of criticism, I’m just really curious. I hope that if this problem returns to your home (as it seems to do so easily), you will have the kinds of positive experiences we have had with the Denorex.
ivylass, I did search some online drug stores for coal tar shampoo, and found some other than Denorex. The thing is, they were either more expensive, or only marginally cheaper, the difference in price to be eaten up by shipping costs. I think if we ever have this problem again, I’ll just head straight for the blue bottle!

Oh, sure, no problem. It’s as simple as we had anough Vasoline to cover her hair in Vasoline, but not mine. We both have thick, curly hair. I was really out of money after having spent about $120 on various recommended treatment. The Desonex will be a good solution for us if it happens in summer. During the school, neither she nor or I can afford that many days off school. We’re both back in the world the day after using Vasoline. And the nits, though already dead, just slide right out after using Vasoline, which is crucial to getting the kiddo back to school. Clancy, my daughter, appreciated it because combing out the nits when they are still attached by lice glue was painful.

I’ll go ahead and give the details of this particular treatment, in case it helps others:

Saturate head and scalp with Vasoline.

Wait at least three hours (I waited four).

This is gonna sound wierd, but use baby oil to remove the Vasoline. What I did was put her in the tub, saturated her hair with baby oil, waited five minutes.

Shampoo with Clarifying shampoo.

I had to rinse her hair twice using the baby oil, which somehow magically dissolves petroleum jelly. I washed her hair three times with Clarifying shampoo–once after the first baby oil treatment and twice after the second. No more Vasoline. :slight_smile:

Well, I wouldn’t imagine she’d have to miss more than one day if you changed the regimen to washing with the Denorex every day. That way, you’d catch all the nasty little suckers as they hatch. You might still prefer to use the vaseline treatment, though, as the Denorex is very drying to the hair. My plan is to make everyone use the Denorex a couple of times a month throughout the school year, and also to comb everyone out once a month, so that if they come back, we’ll know right away.

The problem is, her school has a “no nit” policy. The child is not allowed to return until all the nits are removed, even if you can guarantee new lice are killed daily. However, using Denorex a few times a month throughout the school year is a GREAT idea! Thanks for that. :slight_smile:

Well, leave it to beuracracies like schools to implement ridiculous policy. Everything I’ve read (like, from the medical profession and everything) says that a “no nit” policy is not only practically unenforceable, but pretty much useless, too. IOW, the incidence of head lice in schools with “no nit” policies is no lower than the incidence in schools that don’t have this policy. I can’t imagine how I would have dealt with this problem last year if I worked outside the home. For a couple of weeks it was like having a full-time job!

Be sure, if you’re using the Denorex several times a month, to warn your daughter about the tingle! I don’t know how old she is, but it could be rather surprising and alarming to a young child. Before treating my 4-year-old the first time, I told her that I was gonna put some “tingly shampoo” in her hair, and her head would feel like her foot does when it goes to sleep. I can’t talk to her (my little one, I mean) about head lice, because she loves bugs, and the one time I mentioned anything about bugs, she wanted to get one of my Tupperware containers and keep them as pets :eek: ! So I told her the shampoo is so her head won’t be itchy. That seemed to satisfy her. Oh, and FWIW, even though we’ve been doing the regimen for less than two weeks, I combed out myself and all my daughters yesterday (I’m still doing this because I’m paranoid now), and didn’t find a single living thing. Seems like under two weeks should be enough to break the life cycle, but I’ll continue until the end of three weeks (I marked my calendar), just to be on the safe side.

Oh thank you all for the excellent advice. Tis Lice-o-Rama time at casa mia. The otc shampoo I picked up earlier only seemed to help but the freaking nits…gah. My kiddo’s school has a no nit policy so I know I’ll be giving the vasoline/baby oil/clarifying a shot then find something with the coal-tar for maintenence. I do enjoy those mother-daughter activities, but this is a bit much. Hubby shaves his head, oh how I want to shave mine. Damn I need a flea collar.

Insecticidal shampoos are regulated to the point of ineffectiveness here in the UK, at least they are now that the lice are developing resistance; I bought a RobiComb and found that this was effective at removing any adult lice my kids may have picked up that day; coupled with a daily regime of washing, copious conditioning and combing out, we have been able to eradicate them completely.

We just got the dreaded notice the other day that it’s LICE SEASON and there has been a case or two at my son’s school. I’m gonna bookmark this thread, thank you so much!

Dreaded notice, indeed! For those of you considering one of the popular ways to smother lice (Vaseline, olive oil, mayonaise), mayonaise might be the preferable one because it has vinegar in it, which helps loosen the glue that glues the nits to the hair shaft, therefore making nit-combing easier for those of you whose schools have “no nit” policies.

And Ginger, I’d think you’d have to be particularly careful about the OTC lice-killing shampoos, because of your pregnancy. It may not be a valid concern, but I know I worried about everything when I was pregnant. I didn’t even get my hair dyed, because I wasn’t completely convinced it was safe!

You might be able to find different coal tar shampoos by asking the pharmacist. There are a lot of OTC coal tar shampoos out there, but they keep them behind the counter for some reason. It can’t hurt to ask at a couple of places, if only to compare prices.

What we found that worked when the Ivy kidlets were younger was the lice shampoo, then pouring white vinegar over their heads.

Then, we popped in a Disney video, plopped them down in front of the tv, and combed combed combed with a nit comb. The shampoo kills the adults but not the eggs, so you have to get the eggs out. Periodically dip the nit comb in a glass full of vinegar so it can also coat the strands of hair.

BTW, the wives’ tales about washing all the bedding and bagging up the stuffed animals…don’t waste your time. Lice live on human blood, and cannot survive off the human scalp.

I never did ask at the pharmacy, but I did do some price comparison on websites like and, and didn’t find anything cheaper than the Denorex. Still, you’re right: it couldn’t hurt to check.