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?