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Can African Americans Get Lice?

Can African Americans Get Lice?
Created on 
March 27, 2017
Updated on 
May 10, 2023

One of the more frequently asked questions that we get is can Black people get lice? The answer is yes. It should be emphasized that African Americans are susceptible to head lice infestations just like any other group. Despite common misconceptions, research and data confirm that anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, fcan get head lice. It is important to discuss this topic to dispel the myth and promote accurate information. In this article, we will discuss head lice in the African American population.

Do Black People Get Lice?

Yes, Black people do get head lice. If there is hair on the head, the bugs can, and will, make a home there; anyone with hair is a potential host for head lice and will need head lice treatment to get rid of the infestation. Lice will grab onto a strand of hair, no matter what the texture, smooth or coarse, treated or natural hair, simply as a means to get to the scalp to access their food supply of human blood. So, you may wonder, why is there a misconception that Black people cannot get head lice if it couldn’t be further from the truth?

How Many Black People Get Lice?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 6 to 12 million cases of lice infestations occur annually in children of all races between the ages of 3 to 11 in the United States. While infestations with head lice are less common in African Americans than in other races, the CDC confirms that they can still occur. Because of the prevalent use of sheens, oils, and creams by the African American community, the chance to get head lice is lower.

Are African-American Children Less at Risk?

do black people get lice

If your child is at school or around other children, he or she is at risk of getting head lice. One tip to discourage the spread of lice is to put your child's hair up in braids, locs, or a bun to make the hair less accessible to the bugs. In addition, any type of cream or oil applied helps to put a protective layer on the hair making it harder for the bugs to use their claws to attach to the strands. African American children whose parents adhere to the aforementioned strategies will be at less risk to get head lice than other children, regardless of the ethnic or racial group. Check your child's head regularly and if you see a head louse on the hair shafts, begin to treat lice or call us for help.

Why Do Lice Not Prefer Black Hair?

Generally, it is true that African American people, both adults, and children, do have a lower incidence of head lice than other groups. As part of the grooming regimen, a variety of sheens, oils, and waxes are commonly used which is a challenge for lice claws. The products create a coating on the hair which makes it more difficult for a louse to grab onto a strand and maintain the grip needed to crawl up the hair strand to get to the scalp. In addition, there is evidence that the texture of black hair is another factor that contributes to the lower incidence of head lice. It is more difficult for lice to climb oily hair, although the hair type is not an absolute deterrent by any means.

Let us explain: imagine trying to climb up a rope. For most people, this presents a challenge all its own, but if the rope is squeaky clean, straight, and dry, it is much easier to maintain a firm grip and climb to the top. In contrast, a rope that has oil on it presents additional obstacles; getting and maintaining a grip to climb up to the top is far more difficult and in some cases, impossible.

So do lice like African hair? As discussed, the products used regularly by African Americans to maintain their hairdo, as well as the texture of the strands serve as effective deterrents to getting head lice, but they are not absolute barriers. LiceDoctors have treated many African Americans who do not use sheens or oils or who use them regularly but somehow contracted a case of head lice anyway.

Can Lice Survive in African American Hair?

Yes. Lice can live in African American hair. Lice legs grab ahold of hair strands and shimmy up to the scalp where they enjoy their meals: blood from the scalp. Straight hair provides a more direct route for the bug to the scalp, however, hungry lice will still grab onto coiled hair, even if it takes a little longer to get to their food. As long as there is hair, a warm scalp, and blood a louse will survive. Checking regularly for lice is one of the most important factors to prevent the spread as lice are extremely contagious; a regular check of your child can make sure a case is caught early and make the difference between a few lice eggs and a severe infestation.

How Can Black People Get Lice?

can black people get lice in their hair

Head lice are spread identically no matter what the skin color and hair structure are. While head lice cannot jump or fly, as they do not have wings, they crawl quickly from one person's head to another as their legs are adapted to doing so. All you need for spreading a case of lice is to be close to someone who is infected. As was mentioned previously, head lice will go to any head that is not bald. If your child goes to school, camp, the town pool, sports, or playdates, he or she will be prone to getting lice, no matter your race or ethnic background.

Signs of Lice in African American Hair

Just because it is more difficult to get head lice in black hair does not mean that it doesn’t happen; it is important to stay informed and be aware of signs of head lice on your family's scalps so that the case can be treated in its early stages. Common signs of a head lice infestation include:

  • itching and scratching;
  • sores on the scalp as the lice are parasites that feed from the human head;
  • difficulty with sleep as lice move around mostly at night;
  • a crawling sensation on the head;
  • visible tiny lice eggs or bugs near the scalp.

What Does Lice Look Like in African American Hair?

Lice are lice: they look the same in everyone's hair regardless of the texture of the strands, whether there is light or dark hair, or whether the strands are natural or have been treated with a chemical. Head lice can be hard to spot as they move quickly around the hair. So what do lice look like up close? The bugs, when mature, are the size of a sesame seed. They have six short legs and are brown. Their eggs are tiny and can camouflage; they are glued to the strands. The eggs (nits) are typically found on the hair shaft within a quarter of an inch from the scalp.

How to Check for Lice in Black Hair?

can black people get lice

Head lice in afro hair can be challenging to identify if the hair is coarse, but not impossible. The easiest way to detect a case of lice is to look for nits on the hair shaft near the scalp.

  • Set up in a well-lit area (outside is best for lighting);
  • Part the dry hair in small sections;
  • Pull the coil hair strands straight (flat iron if necessary);
  • Inspect the strands in each section - looking for nits (small translucent beads that will be attached to the hair itself within ¼ inch of the scalp);
  • Check especially carefully around and behind the ears and the nape of the neck;
  • Repeat for all of the sections of hair.

If you are wondering how to check for lice on yourself, we suggest that you call in a professional. It is very challenging to do a head lice treatment on yourself to get rid of lice in the back of your head. A professional can help you and give you tips for head lice prevention.

How to Get Rid of Lice in African American Hair?

Treatment for head lice in African American hair types is often more time-consuming and requires a degree of patience, but is pretty much the same as with all other hair types, with only the addition of a few extra steps depending on individual circumstances. Before the lice treatment, any hair extensions, hairpieces, or wigs should be removed. If they are not removed, treatment will most likely fail as they provide shelter for the live bugs to hide under during treatment. After the hair extensions have been removed, all of the live bugs must be killed or otherwise removed from the hair. Since no treatment, pesticide or natural, penetrates and kills the nymph inside the eggs that are laid, all eggs must be removed from the hair as well. We recommend the use of a professional-grade nit comb, such as the Terminator. To make the process faster and more comfortable, straightening the hair is highly recommended. The application of oils to the hair shaft makes it easier to treat head lice, especially for those who are tender-headed.

Treatment of head lice on African Americans with locs is a bit more tricky. Unfortunately, in almost all cases, removal of the dreadlocks by cutting them off is needed to ensure effective treatment can be completed. The only other option is for the dreadlocks to be untangled before treatment. There are a variety of lice treatment products available today to make this process easier, but since this process can take a considerable amount of time, most of our clients opt to remove the locs before treatment.

To get rid of the lice:

  • Apply oil on wet hair and divide it into sections;
  • Use a high-grade lice comb and go through the hair by section;
  • Wash and dry the hair and carefully check for remaining nits and bugs;
  • On dry hair, handpick any remnants of the infestation that the comb missed;
  • Check your entire family as lice are very contagious and it is easy to become infested if one person has a case;
  • This is best done by lice experts as do-it-yourself lice treatments can be very time consuming and may be ineffective;
  • A professional can also give you tips to protect against future outbreaks.

Post-Lice Treatment Recommendations for People with Coily Hair

can black people have lice

As with any type, we recommend that people with oily hair follow up the initial treatment with about 4 or 5 additional oil and combing treatments, spaced a few days apart. As the eggs mature they will get bigger so if you missed any on day 1 of treatment, you will more likely see it a few days later.

How to Prevent Head Lice in Black Hair?

As is the case with all hair types, to help prevent contracting a case of head lice, avoid direct head-to-head contact with others, especially those with a known lice infestation. Second, ensure that in high-risk situations, the hair is in a style that keeps the hair close to the head, like a braid or a bun. Finally, it is helpful to keep the hair artificially dirty with hair products, ensuring an added barrier to lice trying to get a grip on a strand to start an infestation on a new host.

Do Black Hair Products Prevent Head Lice?

Black hair products are oils or sheens that put a covering over the hair will help African Americans to prevent lice. Head lice prefer natural hair that has no coating on it as it is easier for them to grab onto. We do not recommend lice shampoos after contracting head lice, as the bugs have developed a resistance to the chemicals contained in these products.

Take Control of Lice Infestations in Black Hair with LiceDoctors

The common question of can Black people get lice has been answered affirmatively; anyone can get lice, contrary to the prevailing myth that you may have heard. Technicians with LiceDoctors are experienced with lice removal in all types of hair and the treatment is guaranteed due to its high efficacy rate. Rest assured, when you contact LiceDoctors, our technician will help you will treat your family most comfortably and conveniently as possible: in your own home. The professional comb that she uses will ensure that every live bug and all visible nits will be removed. The oil that she applies will also minimize any discomfort or risks of hurting the head that comes with the treatment of head lice. And best of all your child will be able to return to school the next day.

Do not hesitate to contact LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to speak with a dispatcher who will walk you through the head lice treatment process and will book an appointment for you in your area on your schedule. Appointments are available every day; weekends, evenings, and holidays are included.

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