Sometimes we have to discuss the not-so friendly problems curly girls may have to deal with from time to time. Not every curly will have to deal with it but if you do, you want to know what to do. I’m talking about head lice.
“Head lice, called pediculus capitis by scientists, are small parasitic insects. They live only in human hair, grasping the shaft and feeding once a day by sucking tiny amounts of blood from the scalp. The female louse, about the size of a sesame seed, lays approximately ten eggs, called nits, a day and glues them to the hair shaft. They hatch in 10 to 14 days, grow for nine to 12 days, then mate and the cycle begins again. Lice can live for three to four weeks.” -USA Today
In my experience there is a widespread belief held in the black community that we cannot get lice. While lice do prefer fine, straight hair strands over coarse, curly hair so it is indeed less likely, but lice can still affect every person regardless of race or hair type. One reason is the variety of ways for lice to spread from sharing hair brushes and accessories to touching other people’s hair.
Unfortunately most popular methods for removing lice are conducive to dealing with straight hair with tools like nit ridding combs. Those combs have very tight, small teeth that can wreak havoc on a curly so the following methods are a better option.
If you feel you must use a lice shampoo and remove the nits with that special comb, then do so while the hair is wet. Wet hair is much easier to comb through. Keep a water bottle handy in order to re-wet the hair as it may dry during this lengthy process.
Smothering lice with an agent such as olive oil, mayonnaise, or Vaseline is the best method for a curly because it smothers the lice and makes it easier to comb through the curly hair. Olive oil has been lab tested and found to be effective in killing head lice. Allowing the oil to sit in the hair overnight is messy but very effective. Comb through the hair prior to shampooing to get rid of the dead lice and the nits.
A blow dryer using direct heat can get rid of nearly 98% of nits and 55% of lice but you should not combine the shampoo method with this one since many have flammable ingredients. This needs to be performed on clean hair and could be paired with the smothering method. High heat is not necessary but it needs to be warm. A bonnet dryer is less effective so use a hand-held blow dryer.
I suggest saturating your hair with olive oil overnight and combing out the lice and nits before washing your hair. Finish by drying with a blow dryer to best eradicate them.