Why Pharmacy Head Lice Treatment Products Do Not Work

Until a few years ago, a lice outbreak was not something that people commonly had to deal with, and it was an embarrassment to be told that you or your family had contracted lice. Off you would go to the pharmacy, hoping to not bump into any neighbors or acquaintances, and in a quiet voice you would ask the pharmacist for a product to remove these pesky little bugs. 

But times have changed, and lice are now on more heads than ever before. Not only have infestations become more common, but the recent mutant strain known as “super lice” has made the lice removal treatment process more complex. Super lice are resistant to over the counter pharmacy lice treatment products, and as a result, are spreading throughout North America at a rapid rate.

“At The Lice Crew, we recognized that there was a problem needing a solution. Along with not only being ineffective, it worried us that these pharmacy treatment products contained harmful pesticides and chemicals that were being left on children’s scalps for significant periods of time, and often the process had to be repeated. In fact, one of the leading three brands recommends leaving their product on your hair for at least 8 hours, and all of the products we investigated recommended a second application once the eggs have hatched.” Says Stacey Silverstein, Co-Founder and Vice President of The Lice Crew.


Majority (98%) of all head lice cases found today are the mutant strain of lice, termed ‘super lice,’ which are resistant to pharmacy treatment products.

Scientists have analysed the effectiveness of pharmacy head lice treatment products over the past 30 years, and the results are dismal.  In fact, two of the most used type of pharmacy lice treatment products, permethrin and synergized pyrethrins, have seen a 75% drop in effectiveness since 1985. 

Think of it this way, just as bacteria over time builds resistance through genetic changes, so do head lice. Testing has shown that gene changes referred to as, knockdown resistance mutations, can reduce sensitivity in the central nervous system of lice, which helps keep them alive after these toxin products are applied.

“Our findings indicate that pharmacy treatments for head lice infestations are no longer likely to be effective,” said one of the researchers, Terri Meinking in documented research findings published by Pediatric Dermatology.


Along with being ineffective, pharmacy lice treatment products contain harmful pesticides and chemicals, including permethrin and synergized pyrethrins. Many may be shocked to learn that in a 2009 memo, the EPA classified permethrin as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” in some condition. Environmental health experts have also stated that “Permethrin, especially when combined with other problematic chemicals, can cause seizures and, down the road, behavioral problems.”

Overuse is also common as many parents over apply the product and it is left on children’s scalps for significant periods of time, and many times the process has to be repeated. Four out of four brands we investigated required a second application seven to days after the first use.

In addition, one of the leading brands cautions: “The use of this product may temporarily worsen the itching of the scalp. Other reactions that are less frequent include stinging/burning, tingling, numbness or discomfort, redness, and swelling or rash of the scalp. All of these reactions are mild and temporary. This is not a complete list of side effects. For any unexpected effects while using this product, contact your doctor or pharmacist.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pyrethroids, while unsafe, are still only designed to kill live adult head lice, which means that the eggs (unhatched nits) are not being treated and removed effectively. Nits are attached to the hair with a strong, glue-like substance, which adds another layer of complexity.  If not properly treated and removed, these nits can hatch and cause a quick re-infestation, commonly within one week of the original lice removal treatment.

Since over the counter pharmacy lice treatment products cannot kill the eggs/nits, parents are required to repeat this process again, and fairly frequently, until all of the eggs have hatched and have been eliminated. 

One of the top three leading brands states: “While lice treatment products effectively kill lice, they do not kill all of the eggs. This is why it is important to treat a second time when the eggs have hatched. If the infestation recurs or persists after the second application, consult your doctor.”

To truly be effective, you need to combine a professional combing technique into your lice removal treatment process.  When paired with natural lice removal products, you will have a safe and successful approach to treating you and your family.

In summary, here are a few things to consider before running to your nearest pharmacy.  The over the counter lice treatment products do not work, they contain harmful chemicals and pesticides, and they do not kill the eggs.

Fortunately, there are alternative head lice removal solutions for families, that include trusting the head lice experts, The Lice Crew, who are the award winners for Best Lice Removal. If you have tried over the counter pharmacy lice removal treatment products, and they have not worked for you, or if you are seeking an all natural and effective alternative solution, give us a call or book online to secure a same day appointment, with 100% lice-free, 30 day guaranteed results.

We promise that you will be pleasantly surprised at how affordable and easy a professional lice removal treatment service can be, and you can rest in knowing that you are handling lice in an effective, healthy way, without wasting your hard earned money and time on questionable pharmacy products.

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