Efficacy of chemical and botanical over-the-counter pediculicides available in Brazil, and off-label treatments, against head lice ex vivo

Int J Dermatol. 2010 Mar;49(3):324-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04335.x.


Background: There is a lack of reliable data on the efficacy of over-the-counter (OTC) pediculicides in Brazil.

Methods: We performed ex vivo assays of eight marketed pediculicides: 1% permethrin (Kwell, Clean Hair, Keltrina, Nedax), 0.02% deltamethrin (Deltacid, Pediderm), and two "natural" products (Piolho e Lêndea, Pilogenio). We also tested 5% permethrin (Keltrina Plus), traditional home remedies and an ivermectin-based product used in veterinary medicine. Head lice (49-52 per group) were immersed in the compound for 3 min and washed after 20 min to simulate the typical in vivo treatment protocol. Lice were examined for activity up to 24 h using stringent criteria for survival.

Results: Of the permethrin containing products, highest mortality was observed with Kwell and Clean Hair (97.9 and 90.2% after 4 h). Keltrina, Nedax, Keltrina Plus, and the two deltamethrin-based products showed only a low efficacy of <60% after 4 h. With exception of pure coconut oil (80% mortality after 4 h), home remedies showed a very low efficacy, and both marketed products killed few lice. The ivermectin-based product caused a mortality of 100% after 4 h.

Conclusions: Most Brazilian OTC products did not show a satisfactory efficacy against head lice. Resistance may be present. Ivermectin and coconut oil are promising compounds for topical treatment. Laboratory-based tests should be used to assess resistance patterns and to identify formulations of the active ingredient that increase the efficacy. Standardized testing should be performed before a product is licensed for head lice treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brazil
  • Insecticide Resistance*
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Nonprescription Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Pediculus / drug effects*
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*


  • Insecticides
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Plant Preparations