If you’re dealing with a case of head lice in the house, you’re in the market for a lice comb. For such a seemingly simple product, however, there are dozens of lice combs—and some non-conventional options as well.
You want the very best one (the first time), but you don’t have extra hours to read through eight or more different product descriptions and reviews. You may even be standing in your local drugstore right now, reading this on a smartphone, as you look for some quick guidance on which one is best!
We hear this question from customers a lot, and we get it. Here’s our list of the best three basic electric lice combs, plus two more non-traditional options you might come across.
First, are lice combs really necessary?
Combing every louse and nit out of hair isn’t technically necessary for head lice treatment. An effective over-the-counter or prescription treatment will kill lice after the recommended treatments, and the dead bugs will fall free of the hair with regular washing, brush, and hair growth.
However, many people still opt to use an electric lice comb, in addition to killing the lice, for one of two reasons:
- Removing lice and nits with a lice comb can help get rid of lice as fast as possible. Most medications don’t kill nits, so a second treatment is required to kill them after they hatch. Removing as many nits as possible with a comb can make the second generation much more manageable.
- Most people just feel better about lice removal when they know that the insects (dead or alive) have been combed out of their, or their child’s hair. It can also avoid some embarrassment if dead lice fall out at an inconvenient time.
All-natural, vaporizing lice treatments, for example, effectively kill lice and super lice, but many parents still (understandably) want to be rid of the pests completely.
So here is our quick list of the best lice combs. If you’re shopping in-person, and not sure what to look for, skip down to “How to Shop for Lice Combs.”
1. Nit Free (“Fairy Tales”) Terminator Lice Comb
The Nit Free Terminator lice comb is one of the most commonly available options. It’s a simple, standard lice comb design with improved comb teeth.
The Terminator lice comb is made of stainless steel, so it’s easy to sterilize in boiling water and won’t rust or corrode. The ends of the comb teeth are rounded to prevent poking or scratching the scalp, and the teeth are very close together.
What sets the Nit Free comb apart from some other lice combs, is the spiral, micro-grooved teeth. This texturing gives the comb a much finer grip, so it is able to separate and comb every hair follicle.
This comb has been around for several years, and you may see it in a variety of packaging. It is sometimes marketed as the “Fairy Tales Terminator,” but the comb itself is the same.
2. Lice Care Solutions Lice Comb
The Lice Care Solutions comb is comparable to the Nit Free comb.
Image courtesy of Lice Care Solutions
This lice comb is also made of high-quality stainless steel for easy cleaning and durability. The tips of the comb teeth are rounded for a gentle application, and the teeth are very close together.
The Lice Care Solutions comb also features spiral, micro-grooved teeth to catch and comb each hair regardless of hair types—even for patients with fine hair or thick hair.
The only real differences between this comb and the Nit Free comb are that this comb (1) is usually a few dollars cheaper and (2) comes with a money-back guarantee.
3. Licemeister Lice and Nit Removal Comb
The Licemeister comb is manufactured by the National Pediculosis Association.
The Licemeister comb has stainless steel teeth with a plastic handle. The handle features a raised lip around the entire perimeter, for a different grip option. It can still be easily cleaned in boiling water.
The metal teeth are very close and “precision spaced” for a close comb. The difference with the Licemeister comb is that the teeth are smooth, rather than micro-grooved.
4. Nix Two-Sided Lice Comb
Traditional lice combs feature the rounded handle with tight comb teeth, but there are other options. One is the two-sided lice comb, like this option from Nix.
Prior to using a special lice comb, hair needs to be detangled with a regular comb. Parents often avoid using favorite combs or brushes, as they might become infected with lice, so it is sometimes nice to have a double-duty option like this. The wide tooth side can be used for detangling and the fine tooth comb side for lice removal. Then, the whole comb can be boiled and sanitized—and kept separate from other hair accessories for future lice treatments.
The large handle also presents a different hold option. Adults with larger hands sometimes find a standard handle like this more comfortable than the flat, round handle on traditional lice combs. The long handle on this two-sided lice comb also keeps fingers away from the lice for anyone who may be squeamish about insects.
The fine-toothed side of this comb features rounded teeth tips, but no micro-grooves. As a result, the comb works very well.
5. V-Comb Electronic Lice Vacuum Comb
The V-Comb is an electronic comb that uses gentle suction to help remove and capture insects and nits.
Image courtesy of V-Comb
The lice vacuum comb is battery-operated and traps insects and nits in a small filter. The manufacturer suggests that the vacuum requires less precision in combing, but many parents still aim to be as precise as possible.
This comb cannot be boiled, of course, but it comes with a small brush to clean the stainless steel comb teeth. The disposable filter is easily removed, which keeps insects contained and away from fingers.
The comb teeth are rounded for comfort, but are not micro-grooved.
What’s the best comb for lice?
Our favorite comb for removing head lice and nits is any fine-toothed, stainless steel lice comb with micro-grooved teeth—like the Nit Free and Lice Care Solutions. Nits are cemented to hair shafts, and are the hardest part of a head lice infestation to remove. Micro-grooved comb teeth do the best job of combing each individual hair, which is the only guaranteed way to remove nits.
The only exception may be for self-treatments. If you need to comb your own hair for lice, a lice vacuum comb may be a good alternative. Even with a good mirror and the best nit comb, you won’t be able to get a close view of every part of your scalp, so a vacuum comb can provide some extra assurance that you’ve caught most of the lice.
How to Shop for Lice Combs
If you find yourself at the drugstore, trying to decide between a few brands of generic or unfamiliar lice combs, look for three key features:
- Stainless steel — Stainless steel comb teeth are the best option, for a number of reasons. Stainless steel is more durable, easy to clean, and higher quality.
- Good comb teeth — In addition to being stainless steel, look for comb teeth that are very close together. If you can find a comb with micro-grooved teeth, that will be the one that provides the most thorough comb.
- Comfortable grip — This will depend mostly on personal preference, but look for a comb handle that seems comfortable and easy to hold. Look for no-slip stripes or features. Remember you are probably going to be holding this comb for more than an hour.
Is a lice comb an effective treatment on its own?
Many lice combs are marketed as complete, chemical-free lice treatments in their own right, but are they really effective on their own at treating head lice?
Technically yes, a lice comb can be a complete lice treatment on its own, but it depends entirely on the person using it. If hair is treated with a good electric head lice comb and perfect precision, every louse and nit could be combed out and the lice effectively treated.
Without another treatment option in tandem, however, you’re attempting to comb out live insects, and live insects move. If even a few lice escape detection, they will continue to spread. Head lice live on a host for up to 30 days, and a single female can lay up to eight nits every day.
Additionally, nits are extremely small and hard to see. They hatch after about one week, so if they are not all combed out, and a second vapor or other lice treatment is not scheduled, a new generation of lice will hatch and thrive until they are detected again. After only one week, the new lice are fully grown and the females will start laying lice eggs.
Lice combs need to be used with absolute exactness in order to be a complete head lice treatment on their own.
A better, more assured treatment is to pair combing with a treatment that effectively kills live lice. This ensures that:
- You’re combing out dead insects.
- A second treatment is scheduled for the right time to kill the second generation of nymphs, if any nits survive and hatch.
How does combing compare to a dry, vapor lice treatment?
Lice combing and a dry, vapor treatment are the best combination for quick, complete head lice treatment. Both are natural, non-toxic solutions, and both are effective against strains of super lice that are now very common in the U.S.
A dry, vapor lice treatment like Novokid is all-natural, scientifically proven, and available without a prescription. The treatment only takes ten minutes, and is completed on dry hair—no shampoos or showers necessary.
Again, combing is not necessary. The Novokid treatments will effectively kill lice, but combing the hair can make the second generation of head lice more manageable and provide some peace of mind.
Rather than compare or contrast lice combing and vapor treatments, we recommend both! A standard, micro-grooved lice comb is usually available for about US$10, and is a worthy investment for the extra assurance it offers.
Head Lice Combs
Whichever head lice comb you choose, settle in for detailed work. You may want to get a movie or a favorite book for your child, to help them hold still. If your child has longer hair, some clips are helpful to hold portions of hair aside as you work through one small section at a time.
Combing out head lice and their nits is an arduous process, but the right comb can make it very effective. In the end, it’s worth the time investment to know that you’ve done everything you can to get each last nit and louse off of your child’s head.
Jennifer Andreoli is a New York Times bestselling author. She was born and raised in the Bronx and was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing and copywriting. She’s worked at a literary development company and a creative writing website for teens and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. She loves long walks on the beach and traveling to exotic locales and lives in Los Angeles. When she isn’t reading or writing great stories, she’s probably singing or watching racy shows on Netflix.