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Author Topic: Head Lice Prefer Clean Hair?
Spikey
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I remember on the few occasions I got head lice as a child, people would try to comfort me with the fact that it was ok, because "head lice prefer clean hair". So, although I had nits, at least my hair was clean.

I was chatting about it with my sister the other day, and she told me that this 'fact' didn't actually have any truth to it.

I've been looking it up online, but I can't find any decisive evidence one way or the other.

The NHS website states that they prefer clean hair, while
Wikipedia says they're not fussed one way or the other.

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Eddylizard
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Without knowing for sure, what I've heard is that head lice 'glue' for want of a better word their eggs to the hair shaft.

If the hair shaft is greasy as in dirty hair, it makes it harder for the eggs to adhere.

This is why it is recommended to apply conditioner to the hair if choosing the manual combing method of control.

I'm sure lice can live in dirty hair, but they will not be able to reproduce so effectively.

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jessboo
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I kept getting them when I did work experience in a school, so for the last couple of weeks I didn't wash my hair. Still got nits.

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Brad from Georgia
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Hey, would you want to live in a dump?

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BringTheNoise
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I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 about nits a few months ago where they said that "Nits prefer clean heads" was a myth created by health professionals in the 50s to comfort middle class parents whose children gots nits at school.

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Monza305
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Having dealt with lice last year, I also heard that lice don't like African-American hair because the texture is too rough. Any truth to that?

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vfwchick
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I really can't confirm or deny either, but I was taught in cosmetology school that they do prefer clean for the reasons Eddylizard said. They prefer the warmer spots, which is why you usually find them in the nape area. They also don't like color treated hair and you can get rid of them with hair color too. It smothers them along with the chemical reaction. You still have to keep combing them out. Mineral oil will smother them too, but it takes some doing to get the oil washed out. Lice can survive a perm. If anyone needs more info on lice control, just let me know.

(don't ask for a site, this is all personal experience)

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Buzzkiller
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quote:
Having dealt with lice last year, I also heard that lice don't like African-American hair because the texture is too rough. Any truth to that?
Oh, boy, I could write a book on headlice. In the community where we lived when my children were small, lice were extremely prevalent. There was no shame associated with it, because nearly everyone got them at some point--rich kids, homeschooled kids, everyone.

In the US, headlice prefer hair with a round hair shaft ("white" hair). In Africa, headlice are adapted to the "black" hair type. I've read this many different places over the years; here's but one cite.

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die daagliks phosdex
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quote:
Originally posted by Spikey:
I remember on the few occasions I got head lice as a child, people would try to comfort me with the fact that it was ok, because "head lice prefer clean hair". So, although I had nits, at least my hair was clean.

I was chatting about it with my sister the other day, and she told me that this 'fact' didn't actually have any truth to it....

An episode of As Told by Ginger entitled "Of Lice and Friends" makes note of this legend, with regards to one Courtney Gripling having been found to have head lice in spite of daily hair washing.

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by Monza305:
Having dealt with lice last year, I also heard that lice don't like African-American hair because the texture is too rough. Any truth to that?

I can't cite this at the moment, but I've researched this in the past: There are European lice, who have evolved to cling to "white" hair, and African lice, who have evolved to cling to "black" hair. The lice in North America are European, so people in North America who have "black" hair don't get lice, and vice versa people with "white" hair who live in Africa.

The reason I researched it, BTW, is that a teacher friend explained to me that her school nurse, who had been working in the schools for many years, did lice checks only on the white kids. We figured the nurse knew what she was doing, but we didn't understand why, so I looked it up.

I'll do some Googling and come back with cites (whether I'm correct or not).

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Buzzkiller
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Lainie, you may be looking for a more extensive or authoritative citation, but the link I posted above does touch on the distinction between European and African lice.

quote:
Head lice found in the United States prefer hair that is round in cross section. Hair that is ovoid in cross section, such as the extremely curly hair of African Americans, is not as attractive to lice that are adapted to round hair shafts. While head lice infestations are common in Africa, as in all continents, African head lice have claws especially adapted for grasping oval hair shafts. The African variety of head lice is not common in North America and consequently African Americans are much less susceptible to infestations, but they can get head lice.
As for the original "clean heads" question: this is purely anecdotal, but we're all daily hair-washers in my family, and various members of the household were infested with headlice more times than I could count back when we lived in a region where lice were common. Over the years we tried every over-the-counter lice killer on the market, a prescription lice killing shampoo (which was actually cheaper because it was covered by our medical insurance), and several old wives' remedies (e.g., coat the hair with Vaseline and sleep in a shower cap!), and I can say with reasonable authority that the only surefire way to get rid of lice is to kill the lice AND meticulously remove every single nit from the hair. There are some over-the-counter products that help loosen the "glue" that adheres the eggs to the hair shafts, but nit removal is still a sickeningly time-consuming process. Personally, I had no use for those combs--I found it more efficient in the long run to pick the nits one by one with the thumb and forefinger. Besides, the combs cause too much damage to hair that has already been abused by the application of chemical-laden lice shampoo.

Ahem. I told you I could write a book!

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Lainie
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Buzzkiller, I don't know how I missed your post and cite. Maybe we cross-posted.

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How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black

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