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Head Lice In African American Hair

Head Lice In African American Hair
Updated on 
July 31, 2020

Can African American People get lice?

We often get calls from families from different locations looking for an explanation for what they are finding in the hair. “We are African American – so we cannot get head lice, right? What is this bug I found on my child’s head?” It is a common belief that, because of the coarseness of the hair, African Americans cannot get a case of head lice. This, however, is a myth. The truth of the matter is, despite the texture of their hair, African American people can and do, get head lice. In fact, often some of the most severe infestations we see are in individuals with African American hair.

Head lice like hair, they do not care what type of hair. If there is hair on the head, they can, and will, make a home there. Lice will grab onto a strand of hair, no matter what the texture, smooth or coarse, simply as a means to get to the scalp to access their food supply of human blood. So, you may wonder, why is this such a common belief if it couldn’t be further from the truth?

African Americans Do Have Lower Incidence of Head Lice

It is true that African American families 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. 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, 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 coarse or curly hair.

Imagine, if you will, 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.

Do lice like African hair? Yes, however, as discussed, the products used regularly by African Americans to maintain their hairdo serve as an effective deterrent 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.


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 remain alert to signs of head lice in afro hair so the case can be treated in its early stages. Signs of a head lice infestation include itching, sores on the scalp, a crawling feeling on the head, and of course, visible eggs or bugs in or on the strands of hair. Lice in afro hair, nits in black hair, and head lice in mixed-race 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.

  • Set up in a well-lit area (outside is best for lighting).
  • Part the hair in small sections.
  • Pull the coily hair strands straight (flat iron the hair if necessary).
  • Inspect the strands of hair in each section - looking for nits (small dark brown beads that will be attached to the hair itself within ¼ inch of the scalp).
  • Place against a white background. Nits will be brown with a pointy front.
  • Repeat for all of the sections of hair.


 lice in black 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. Prior to 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 of the hair is highly recommended. The application of oils also helps to make combing easier, especially for those who are tender-headed.

Treatment of head lice on individuals with dreads 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 prior to treatment. There are a variety of 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 dreadlocks prior to treatment.


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.


Technicians with LiceDoctors are experienced with head lice in all varieties and types of hair. Rest assured, when you contact LiceDoctors, the technician who will help you will treat your family in the most comfortable and convenient way possible. The professional comb they use will ensure that every live bug and all visible nits will be removed from your hair before they leave. The oil they will apply will also minimize any discomfort that comes with the treatment of head lice. Call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to speak with a dispatcher who will walk you through the lice treatment process and get you set up with a qualified technician in your area. Appointments are available every day; weekends, evenings, and holidays are included.

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