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4 Reasons Natural Hair is More Susceptible Than Relaxed Hair to Lice

Avatar • Jun 30, 2013

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There is an accepted misconception in the black community that tightly textured hair doesn’t provide an environment lice can live in. But the truth is that people with all hair types can suffer from head lice. And contrary to popular belief you don’t have to be dirty to get lice. They are parasites of convenience and self preservation.

Here are 4 reasons why naturals are more prone to lice now than ever

1. More women and children are deciding to wear natural hairstyles, which provide an environment free of harsh chemicals for the lice
2. We are using lighter forms of hair moisturizers, including water based moisturizers that don’t leave hair coated with a film of oil. This allows lice to easily attach their nits (lice eggs) and move up and down the hair shaft
3. Many naturals do not use heat frequently, if at all. And heat kills lice
4. We believe that we can’t get lice, so we are more likely to ignore signs of the parasite

Head Lice Facts
Adult lice (singular louse) are approximately the size of a sesame seed and have claws at the end of their 6 legs. They range in color from gray to a reddish brown depending on when they last fed on blood. They survive by feeding on blood from the scalp. Nits are laid on hair strands at a rate of 6 to 10 per day and remain attached with a special glue the mother louse creates to prevent detachment during hair washing and combing. Nits are generally white or clear, and laid a quarter to half inch away from the scalp for warmth. Because nits contrast with darker hair colors they are often confused for dandruff, however dandruff can be blown away or easily removed and nits can not, since they are basically glued to the strand. It takes about one and a half weeks for the nit to hatch and another week and a half for maturation and the ability to reproduce. The life cycle of a louse is about 1 month and they remain in the hair until forced off by the host.

How Lice Spreads
So now that I’ve got you itching, let me explain how it spreads. Lice generally affect children aged 3 to 12. Most kids this age are in the school system and very friendly and curious with one another; rubbing heads together, sharing hats and brushes and having sleep overs. Lice do not fly, jump or hop but can be flung off the hair during brushing. They leave a host when the opportunity presents itself, particularly when space on the scalp becomes too crowded. Lice can live up to 2 days off of the host. Lice are hard to see because they move quickly, they are typically identified by the presence of nits.

How Do You Treat Lice?
There are lice and nit killing shampoos called pediculicides on the market, as well as metal lice and nit combs. Suffocants such as petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, thick conditioners and tea tree oil can also be used. Heat is another option, as long as the temperature is above 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Flat ironing enables more painless use of the lice and nit comb and produces temperatures that can actually kill the critters.

Lice in Weave and Hair Extensions
Did you know that it’s common to find dead nits on hair that has been cut for use in weaves and hair extensions? I have also found dead nits on human hair mannequins used at my cosmetology school.

Do you have any stories to share about lice? Do you know of any people of color who’ve had lice?

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la*belle
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la*belle

my stomach just turned and my head started itching… Hope i never have this problem.

Tremaine Vincent
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Tremaine Vincent

Not sure I agree with no 1. It’s not like people with relaxed hair are using a relaxer every day and surely we are all putting chemicals on our hair everyday as naturals and non naturals within our hair products? I don’t use light moisturisers only, I seal with oil every day so does that mean I will not get lice? Not sure it does. I work with children and there are always scares and alarms about children having lice. I do my best to avoid head to head contact with the children but I am worried about getting lice.

treacle234
Guest
treacle234

Growing up only people with straight hair got lice. Never heard of kinky curly hair being susceptible to lice.

Phoxxie
Guest
Phoxxie

Yea with all the kinks and curls how are they going to find their kids? They will get all caught up and be like eff this, *hops off*

Mango
Guest
Mango

I don’t think natural hair is prone to head lice. This is just scaremongering. Many naturals also take a lot of time styling and maintaining their hair and even notice when a twist is out of shape. I’m sure if someone with natural hair had one head lice they would know about it. From my school yard knowledge we were told by our teachers that ‘black hair’, is less susceptible because it’s so coily, headlice find it hard to move around. They said headlice like smooth strands to cling to and move onto the scalp. All beasts have their optimum… Read more »

K
Guest
K

Agreed!

And perhaps this article’s title should be edited to:

If You Have Hair — Beware … of Nits+Lice”

Kudos to BGLH for demythifying that old wives tale about ‘Black hair’ not being able to get lice, but the “More” in the title suggests we’re more susceptible than other hair types instead of more (increase) than in the past, as argued in the article. Also, references for the information in the article would be helpful.

Black Girl With Long Hair
Guest

We should have made it more clear that naturals are more susceptible to lice than women with relaxers.

Mai
Guest
Mai

…well I’m never buying weave or a wig…

Serious question though, I was lurking through some forum (I don’t remember if I saw it here, on LHCF, the natural hair facebook group, or some other natural hair forum), but someone said that lice is common in African countries because the genus of lice in Africa is significantly more adapt at infesting black hair compared to lice in the US. I don’t want to write this off as fact since I was never able to find another source confirming this.

deb
Guest
deb

in this case, can sources be provided for the four reasons given in the article?

ohsnap
Guest

Where are your sources for these claims?

Kayla
Guest

I always understood that lice liked clean hair. When I was little my hair was only washed every two weeks. Now that I’m natural my hair is much cleaner because I wash it more often. The risk of lice makes sense.

MsKat
Guest
MsKat

I remember the nits on the mannequins when I was in cosmetology school, in fact they were left there to teach us what they look and feel like. Yuck. I was always taught that while it is not impossible for a black hair texture to support headlice, it was not as likely as a straight texture becoming infested. The reason I was given back then was that since the cuticle layer on naturally textured coily hair lays a different way than that on straight smooth hair, the lice have more difficulty gripping the shaft and getting a good angle to… Read more »

CurlyQ
Guest
CurlyQ

MsKat, I recall reading something very similar, only it said since our hair shaft shapes are typically flatter the kinkier the hair is, lice have not adapted to it. They allegedly can’t hang onto a flat or oval hair shaft, thus we are less likely to get them. But as we know, our hair ranges in texture, so it doesn’t mean we are all completely safe from them.

TheRYL1
Guest
TheRYL1

A nurse once told me that we do “too much” to our hair to have lice. What could really live with the almost daily heat sessions…blow drying, pressing, flat ironing, as well as the heavy products? Not too much. As naturals, we may be more susceptible because we aren’t using as much heat. Heat is the deterrent.

I still think we (most of us) manipulate and apply product at such a rate that lice would still have a very difficult time surviving on our heads. But, you never know…STAY VIGILANT! 😉

carlyfanjaxfan
Guest

Great, now I’m itching all over. =/

Ugonna Wosu
Guest
Ugonna Wosu

I think anyone can get lice. Shame on this forum for saying that we’re “more” susceptible. The title should be “why natural hair is just as susceptible to lice”.

Black Girl With Long Hair
Guest

Our objective was to show that naturals are more likely than women with relaxers to get lice, because we use less heat, lighter products and tend to have cleaner/clearer scalps. Sorry that this did not come out in the article.

Stace
Guest
Stace

My aunt is part indian but has very thick, dense, kinky/curly hair, and she had lice as a pre-teen.

Justin timberlake's sidechick
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Justin timberlake's sidechick

Gosh, is this website slowly being shut down? First it was more hair mo problems, then lice will invade you…read between the lines..

Marissa
Guest
Marissa

Rotfl. You make a valid point and your user name’s a riot too!

Pat
Guest

Like the post stated, lice can’t live with grease/oil. I remember growing up with natural hair that my grandmother always used a little grease on my hair and scalp, never had lice problems but the kids with the straight hair did. The old folks knew what was up!! I still use a little grease to this day, it keeps my natural just fine.

Bev
Guest
Bev

I had lice at 9 yrs old in Nigeria.I had very short,maybeone inch of natural hair ‑4c.I was growing out a fade. The only thing that got rid of them was getting a relaxer.If relaxers are good for one thing,this is it.

Bev
Guest
Bev

Good grief!I give up.

Lila
Guest
Lila

I don’t really know about this. I once read that the lice we have in America originate from Europe and are more prone to navigating through straight silky hair. Only the lice that are from Africa would be able to infest our hair type.

Cia
Guest

Makes a lot of sense . And of course we can get lice too , we have hair . I realized that tea oil is a must to be used because I definitely do not want to ever come across any lice problem I can not stand bugs in general .

Naturesbaby
Guest
Naturesbaby

I definitely have Black friends whose children have gotten lice from classmates so it’s definitely possible. The school nurse told one friend the drier the hair the easier it is for lice to hang on to the hair shaft. Bottom line: keep your hair moisturized and check your little people’s hair and scalp often.

Stace
Guest
Stace

I don’t think it had to to do with the grease or the type of hair, but with the styling of the hair. Most times as kids our natural hair or even relaxed hair was combed into several sections or cornrowed in styles that were kept in for at least a week. The hair was never left out in such a manner to really allow lice to attach cause the there were no open single strands

kri
Guest
kri

Oiling my hair, stat!!!

Fel
Guest
Fel

Loads. Of. Rubbish.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

I, like other commenters, would like to see the sources for the information in this article. Sorry BGLH but it seems like an opinion piece trying to be passed off as a fact-based piece. As others have mentioned, the major reason that kinky-curly haired folks in the United States rarely get lice is that the lice species in the U.S. are adapted to latching on to straighter hair. If you consider this, it might actually make it MORE difficult to catch lice as natural. I’ve read more than one scientific article citing this fact. One is below: Safety and efficacy… Read more »

Domineque Michelle
Guest
Domineque Michelle

Greetings readers! I receive email updates on the articles that I write and I feel the need to clarify a few misundunderstandings about the intent of this article about head lice. Leila works with myself as well as other content creators to update you all with current, interesting and of most important factual information. We all take misinformation and sensationalistic content very seriously, so I’d like to address some of your concerns. I wrote the article and Leila titled the article and we’ve discussed the need to change the title so that it does not allude to the idea that… Read more »

ohsnap
Guest

Thanks for your response. I’ve been natural for 11 years (locs) and am going to cut them and some point so I’ve been lurking on a ton of natural hair blogs. BGLH is one of my favorites. I am just now getting back into the online natural hair community to find an explosion of natural hair blogs. As someone who comes from the newspaper world (photojournalist) not getting a clear sense of where information is coming from immediately sends all of my alarms and flags off. It’s been quite a task for me to sift through a lot of the… Read more »

honeybrown1976
Guest
honeybrown1976

Bull. Bull. Bull. I had natural hair as a child and never once did I, nor any of my little girlfriends, have lice. Peddle that b.s. somewhere else.

Nicole B
Guest
Nicole B

sigh. She (Domineque) responded yesterday. Read her response then understand what she further broke down in explaination.

Tessa
Guest
Tessa

Her response was as much BS as ths article. Every dermatologist & trichologist will tell you that the species of lice predominantly found in America is not adapted to African hair (hair with an oval straight that kinks instead of curling or laying straight), so those with type of hair are not susceptible to them. On the other hand, the lice in Africa are adapted to survive on African hair. So the most feasible way for someone with African-type hair to get lice is to get it in Africa (which is what happened to my ex-boyfriend) or to get it… Read more »

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

Thank you. In all my 48 years of living I’ve never seen a case of lice with a so called African American. Such ridiculousness that’s being taunted as advice to discourage “Black” women from accepting and wearing their hair naatural.

Isa
Guest

Why would a Natural hair website and a natural hair vlogger (both of whom earn their living catering to natural women’s issues, problems and triumphs) be trying to stop Black people from going natural? That doesn’t even make sense. P.S. Just because you’ve never seen something doesnt mean it doesn’t exist. Lots of Black people have had lice. We aren’t immune to them. We are just LESS susceptible.

Asha
Guest
Asha

They carefully crafted combs and tools available for hair grooming in their homeland were no where to be found in the new world. American slaves wore matted and tangled locks, instead of the well maintained, long, thick and healthy tresses worn by their brethren left in Africa. To resolve this, slaves began using sheep fleece carding tools to detangle their hair which resulted in widespread scalp diseases such as lice and dandruff. Slaves invented remedies for disinfecting and cleansing their scalp such as applying kerosine or cornmeal directly on the scalp with a cloth as they carefully parted through the… Read more »

Asha
Guest
Asha

This came from wikipedia
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-textured_hair

Read it all and you will see

w8n2xhl
Guest
w8n2xhl

WIKIPEDIA?!!!

Felicia
Guest
Felicia

My daughter has 4b hair and very dense. She got lice on 2 occasions from school. So yes blacks can get lice. The shampoos are very damaging to her hair. The second time I covered her scalp with tea tree oil and let her hair sit under a plastic shower cap for a while. That killed the live ones. And for the nits, I ended up having to flat iron each section and go through each hair and cut the strands with the eggs off completely. The lice combs are useless. I did that for about 2 weeks. It drove… Read more »

Wynn's
Guest

I’ve had head lice a few times and I am as black as they come. With the hair to prove it. Lol If you’re lucky enough not to have gotten them, that’s fantastic. But that most certainly doesn’t prove that black folks don’t get head lice. ????

Yvonne Mitchell
Guest
Yvonne Mitchell

I am amazed at some of you womens responses, there’s a lot to be said for knowledge and the power to listen,read, and learn Lice are parasites any and everyone on the planet are subject to every germ, disease, and parasite; the fact that one group or class don’t get something as often as another group or class simply say’s that for reasons A,B,C this group is LESS likely but still capable!!! how hard is that to understand??? African Americans statistically have a higher rate for HBP (high blood pressure) is that to say other groups don’t get HBP NO… Read more »

G.S.
Guest
G.S.

Hello, ladies! Have I overlooked any suggestions for PREVENTING head lice? Any tips would be most appreciated!

Kat
Guest
Kat

Hi Ladies — Let me tell you African Americans can get lice! I was in my 20’s with a sew in weave and used heavy oils in my hair. This was a terrible experience. I was under the same assumption until the day before my sisters wedding at an upscale hair salon. I had symptoms for a week just thought I needed a good wash. I was never allowed at that salon again.

Jsi
Guest
Jsi

Thank you for the information! I work around children and had lice while relaxed but could easily use the comb, now that I’m natural I thought u would have to chop all my hair off if I got it again.

Shawna
Guest
Shawna

I am a relaxed-head and I have caught lice (from an ex-boyfriend). Everyone thought I was the first black person to catch lice because of the conception that since black people use oils and grease it will repel the lice. I always used oils (peppermint, tea tree, and jojoba) and I still got lice! There is no product on this earth that can save anyone from lice. But I can say that the methods of getting rid of the eggs ruined my hair. My hair has never been the same since I caught lice. So, ladies please be careful!

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[…] Source via http://bglh-marketplace.com/2013/06/4‑reasons-natural-hair-is-more-susceptible-to-lice/ […]

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[…] article from the natural hair blog bglh-marketplace.com http://bglh-marketplace.com/2013/06/4‑reasons-natural-hair-is-more-susceptible-to-lice/  was extremely helpful and confirmed the information I found from the Centers for Disease Control […]

visual merchandising
Guest

There’s certainly a lot to learn about this subject. I really like all of the points you have made.

Sam
Guest
Sam

so what should you do if you do get head lice how should i treat it

natural treatment natural remedy for lice and nits
Guest

There are hair treatments that can be purchased over-the-counter, prescription treatments and home remedies.
The Bottom Line in Head Lice Treatment: Focus
on Natural Products to Clear an Infestation. The parents often have no idea initially and before it is discovered, others have already been
infected.

tagalog movies 2013
Guest

She was even fired from her job as a television
reporter for the simple reason that she was “unfit for TV. Philip finished the mixing of the music in the same location. People have become fascinated with the idea of the zombie apocalpyse.

Marshayla
Guest
Marshayla

I discovered lice on my daughter’s natural hair today I was shocked and dismayed. We are black, american, and clean people. I freaked out and relaxed her hair. That killed them. Theni used rid andcovered her hair in vaseline. My next step is to wash and fine comb it. Dont be fooled like me. WE CAN GET LICE!

Keetah Travels Hudson
Guest
Keetah Travels Hudson

Thank You So Much For This Information.

Eve
Guest
Eve

This article is fearmongering. Of course black people CAN get lice however they are far less likely to then white people. In fact they are so much more less likely to contract them that scientists are having a field day trying to figure why, they have actually done studies on the matter.

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