Skin lice can be effectively treated with an over-the-counter or prescription-strength topical lotion or creme rinse that is applied to the affected area, according to WebMD. The topical medicine is left on the skin for a period of time before being removed by rinsing.
Over-the-counter topical cremes such as permethrin creme rinse work to kill lice and eggs for approximately two weeks after it has been rinsed off the skin, according to WebMD. Shampoos with piperonyl butoxide and phrethrins can be applied for 10 minutes and then removed. An additional treatment may be needed approximately nine days after the first treatment in order to kill any newly hatched lice.
Prescription-strength lotions and creme rinses with benzyl alcohol can be applied to the head for 10 minutes, whereas malathion lotion is applied and left on the affected area for approximately eight to 12 hours, according to WebMD. Serious skin infections resulting from lice may be treated with antihistamines or antibiotics to relieve pain from itching. A lice infestation that does not respond to topical lotions may be treated with prescribed medications in pill form.
Most treatments for lice are safe when used as directed or prescribed. However, some treatments may cause itching, a burning sensation or inflammation on the skin or scalp, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many over-the-counter and prescription-strength treatments for lice contain pesticides that can be absorbed through the skin, so care should be taken when using these products.