Black people often think of lice as a problem that only affects other races; however, the truth is, it can happen to anyone. Lice are highly contagious parasites that can easily spread from person to person through close contact. 

black hair
Lola Omotosho

Misconceptions about Lice and Black Hair

Licensed cosmetologist and CEO of Elite Glam Studio Lola Omotosho said that one of the most common myths about lice is that Black people cannot get it because their hair is too oily. Some people also believe that you get it because you have poor hygiene, which is also untrue.

The most common way to get lice is through head-to-head contact with someone who already has them. This can happen to anyone through hugging or sharing hair accessories, such as combs, brushes or hats. It also can spread through indirect contact with objects, such as bedding, towels or furniture.

As a professional stylist, Omotosho suggests that people avoid sharing hair accessories, such as scrunchies, bonnets and head wraps, because lice tend to hide there. 

Signs And Symptoms

Sometimes lice can be mistaken for product build-up, dirt, scabs or dandruff. Some of the common signs of it may be a tingling, burning sensation or itching. If you suspect that you have lice, you can use a magnifying glass and search for lice or egg casings. It is important to note that lice can camouflage themselves to mimic their host.

One of the reasons lice can be challenging for Black women is because of their hair texture. Black woman’s hair is often thicker and curlier, making it more difficult to spot tiny little bugs. Lice eggs, called nits, can be mistaken for dandruff or other hair debris.

Treatment Options

Lice treatment involves using medicated shampoos or lotions that contain insecticides to kill them and their eggs. Over-the-counter treatments are available, but a doctor also can prescribe stronger medication. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions for the medication and use it exactly as directed. Misusing the medication can be harmful.

In addition to medication, thoroughly comb hair with a special comb to remove any remaining eggs or dead lice. From Omotosho’s experience, it may be harder to comb through using the nit remover comb for Black women because of their hair texture. To make the process a little easier, it is recommended to apply conditioner to textured hair after treatment. That allows for an easier comb-through.

Omotosho also suggests applying coconut oil before the comb-through to eliminate eggs and nits. Another thing that she recommends is washing all clothing, bedding and towels that may have come into contact with lice. This will help to prevent re-infestation.

There are several natural oils that are effective in preventing and killing lice, if you do not want to use over-the-counter methods.

“Tea tree oil has a 100 perfect efficiency rate, when it comes to killing head lice ” Omotosho said.

You also can try coconut oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and lemon grass oils for treatment. It is important to educate yourself with the facts about lice infestations and how they are contracted. While dealing with them can cause embarrassment, sadness and anxiety, it is important to know that you are not alone if you get infected. Be sure to take the proper steps for treatment and reduce your stress levels.