Do Lice Like Clean Hair or Dirty Hair?
There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths about head lice, but the rumors around clean vs. dirty hair might be the most interesting—because the myths go both ways!
Many people have heard that head lice prefer dirty hair. A case of insects living on the scalp is often (mistakenly) determined to be a personal hygiene issue. This association leads to the idea that head lice prefer dirty hair.
On the other hand, some people have heard that head lice prefer clean hair, because the fragrance of shampoos and/or conditioners is attractive to head lice.
The truth is that neither of these assumptions is true. Head lice have never conclusively demonstrated a preference to clean or dirty hair, and infect both clean and dirty heads equally.
Real Head Lice Risk Factors
The only real risk factor for head lice is being in very close proximity to someone who has head lice. Head lice do not jump or fly, so they are most commonly spread by head-to-head or hair-to-hair contact. Sharing personal items can also spread head lice, though it is much less common.
That means that practical “risk factors” include:
- Being a child. Children are much more frequently in very close proximity with their peers. They will crowd together around a toy, book, or screen. Even teenagers frequently huddle close together for group pictures, etc. Children are also much more likely to share personal items and spaces—like hats, hair accessories, nap-time cots, etc.
- Parenting or working with children. Parents and educators are statistically more likely to get a case of head lice, because of how frequently they are in close contact with children.
- Having long hair. Head lice don’t necessarily prefer long hair—they are parasites that feed off blood from the human scalp—but long hair comes in greater contact with more surfaces. Longer hair also comes in contact with borrowed jackets, scarves, hoodies, etc., that short hair misses completely.
Is it hard to get rid of head lice?
If you’ve never dealt with a case of head lice before, it can seem extremely difficult to get rid of them, for a number of reasons:
- Head lice are visible to the naked eye, but not easily. In most cases, a scalp has been infected for a few weeks before the sufferer is aware of the insects.
- Head lice eggs (nits) are extremely small and resilient. Most conventional head lice treatments don’t even claim to kill nits, and recommend a thorough combing to remove them. Missing just a few, however, means a new generation will hatch in about seven days. If you don’t get them all out, it can seem like a never-ending cycle.
- Most lice are no longer affected by OTC medications. 98% of head lice cases in the U.S. are what we now call “super lice.” They have developed a resistance to the active ingredients in most traditional lice shampoos, so those treatments no longer work.
The good news is, there are effective head lice treatments that make getting rid of lice simple and straightforward.
Effective Head Lice Treatments
There are several all-natural treatments that have always been effective on head lice. Because OTC medications became so popular, and super lice developed a resistance to their active ingredients, these natural head lice treatments are actually more effective now—because they also work on super lice.
To make the most effective use of any head lice treatment, follow these three simple steps:
- Contain — Keep the infested scalp away from friends and family members, and be sure to clean any items that might be infested in heat treatments.
Learn more about cleaning →
- Treat — Whichever head lice treatment solution you choose, be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them strictly. Most “re-infestations” are actually the same family of head lice that wasn’t properly treated the first time.
Learn more about lice treatments →
- Comb — Get a good lice comb, and commit a morning or afternoon to a thorough head check.
Learn more about combing. →
A thorough head lice treatment will take care of the problem. You might want to do a quick check every few days for a couple of weeks afterward, just to make sure you didn’t miss any nits that have now hatched. If you do find more head lice, repeat the treatment as quickly as possible.