You read about and look at photos of it during beauty school. You study all about what to do when you see it and what procedures to follow to properly disinfect and clean your tools and salon after being exposed to it. But, ohmygoshyouguys…. when I noticed lice on the head of a client I was working on about a month ago, I almost had a heart attack. Luckily, I’m poised enough to not portray to my guest how much I was freaking out (mostly so that she wouldn’t freak out), but in my mind and heart, I was panicking with a capital “P”.
I calmly excused myself and Google-d “lice” in the back room just to be sure I didn’t wrongfully accuse someone of having it. Ahh, the wonders of having Google at our fingertips. Yep, sure enough. Cue shutting down the salon, bleaching everything in the salon, and calling in a consultant to make sure we covered all of our tracks in cleaning.
But the worst part, you guys? Girlfriend was heading to her senior homecoming that night. Not only did I have to tell her she had lice and needed to immediately treat it, clean out her car, wash and bleach everything in her house, and tell any friends who had recently been in her car and home… but I had to tell her that she couldn’t go to homecoming for fear that she’d pass it to anyone who brushed against her. Ugh, worst thing I think I’ve ever had to do as a hairdresser. I seriously almost cried telling her and thinking that I had to be the one that ruined her senior homecoming. She’ll always look back and remember the day she went into the salon to get her hair curled, anticipating her big date night at homecoming and starting her senior year off right… and being told she had lice and couldn’t go.
But, I used it as a learning opportunity with the team. One of the girls said, “I’m glad that was your guest because I wouldn’t have handled it as gracefully!” So, I had everyone help out in cleaning and told everyone how I spoke to my guest and explained how to treat it. Just another lesson learned for the whole team and a great experience for our novice and veteran stylists in how to handle tough situations.
And also, it was a great excuse to spend Sunday coloring my hair a soft caramel color just in case I had been exposed to the lice as well. I’ve been wanting to go lighter anyways..
Just in case anyone comes to a point where they have to deal with this (with kids or coworkers or guests), I’m also listing a few resources and steps to treat and kill these nasty little bugs below:
1. It’s important to note that the first thing you’ll see when finding lice is actually the “nits” or eggs, which is how I first noticed my guest’s lice. They are just tiny white balls that don’t really move within the hair. And it’s also important to note that even if no bugs are present (which could be the case after first being exposed to the eggs), the nits still have to be treated and killed. So first, identify what you’re working with. If you’re really brave, Google photos to verify you are seeing the correct thing. Also, lice bites are incredibly itchy, so make note of that. My guest had really long, thick hair and had been complaining about an itchy scalp for about a week. Listen to your body and check in when your child is complaining about that.
2. In terms of treatment, you’ll want to head to the nearest pharmacy and get an OTC medicated shampoo. Every grocery store has one, though I’m not familiar with exactly what brands are out these days. Once you have the shampoo, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use. Typically, this will include letting a treatment sit on the hair for a certain amount of time, combing through the hair to brush out leftover eggs, and rinsing the hair very thoroughly to get all of the treatment out. You’ll want to head to the doctor if the treatment hasn’t been strong enough (they have more medicated options). And additionally, you’ll need to continue combing the hair out and treating until the last nit is completely gone since they take about 1-2 weeks to hatch and you don’t want to be left with another outbreak after not completely cleaning out the hair.
3. If you’ve been hugging on friends, been at a sleepover, shared hats, or could have potentially exposed anyone to head lice, you’ll need to tell them and have them get checked. This is just simply an integrity issue… you want them to have the opportunity to catch anything before it gets out of hand. And lastly, you’ll want to completely clean your house. Wash all the sheets, bleach out the shower and bathtub, vacuum the carpets, soak all of your combs, clips and brushes in the medicated shampoo you’ve bought, and suffocate anything else that can’t be washed in a plastic bag for at least two weeks.
**And if you want to hear Jennifer Aniston explain the steps, just watch this clip!