When there's a head lice outbreak at school, many parents wonder if it's likely to spread to their children. Is your child's hair type more susceptible to lice? Do lice prefer a certain type of hair? What type of hair do lice like best?
Here's the short answer: all people with head hair are at risk for getting head lice. A louse does not care what color or thickness your mane is, whether it has been dyed, or whether it is straight or curly. Lice only want to find a strand of hair to which they can attach so they can climb up to the scalp in order to get their food i.e. your blood.
LiceDoctors treats children and families with all hair types. But let's look at some factors that might address the question of what kind of hair do lice like and actually make a difference in the probability your child will catch lice.
Do Lice Prefer a Specific Hair Length?
There are many misconceptions about lice and what type of hair do like lice, one of which is that lice prefer long hair. Some folks think that if you have a buzz cut, you are immune to lice. Lice can affix to a buzz cut. As long as there is any hair on the head, the lice can attach to it and stay there near the warm scalp to eat their three meals a day. Only head shaving will completely prevent lice.
But it is true that, with longer hair, easier it is for the lice to find the hair during close contact, and use the long hair as a ladder to climb up to the scalp. So you could say that a hair type more susceptible to lice is long hair if the hair is left down.
One advantage for children with long hair is that they can and should comb it up and wear it up in a bun if they are around others who may have a lice infestation. If you suspect a child has lice, preventing close contact with that child helps more to prevent the spread of head lice than having short hair.
Keep in mind that because anyone with hair can get lice, everyone in the family should be checked. Even those with short hair may need to be treated.
Can Hair Color Prevent Lice?
You may have heard rumors about dye as a potential treatment. If someone has already colored their tresses, that is irrelevant to lice. They will grab hold of a dyed hairstyle just as easily as they will hold onto that which is not colored.
If you apply permanent dye or bleach on a head that's already infested, it will likely kill some of the adult bugs, but will not penetrate the eggs in order to kill the baby bugs inside. In order to get rid of head lice, you need to physically remove all of the bugs and nits from the strands.
While the dye will have a meaningful impact on a case of head lice, keep in mind that lice eggs (nits) are the easiest to spot in blonde hair. Nits tend to camouflage in any color, but they stand out the most against a light background.
Do Head Lice Prefer Specific Hair Structure?
Lice can easily survive on all textures, from very curly to completely straight. But do lice like a certain type of hair? It does seem they have an easier time reproducing if there's a little bit of texture, like waves or loose curls. However, do lice attracted to a certain hair type? The answer to that is no; they will go to any head that has hair available.
Children with coarse curly hair may actually have an inadvertent advantage: using more products and washing less often. For example, the incidence of head lice is relatively low among the African American population because of the tendency to use styling gel or oils, which act as a repellent. In addition, hair that is styled in corn rows or braids is less accessible to the bugs.
On the downside, it is more challenging and time-consuming to get a fine tooth comb through tight curls, especially with longer hair, making effective treatment more elusive for the inexperienced.
Do Lice Like Clean or Dirty Hair?
There's a major stigma that children with poor hygiene spread lice. But do lice prefer clean or dirty hair? While lice don't specifically prefer clean hair, they do have an easier time grabbing on to it and reproducing in it. So a person who is meticulous about personal hygiene and keeps their locks squeaky clean may get head lice more readily, and the case may progress more quickly to a full-blown infestation.
Hair that has been coated with hairspray, gel, oil, or mousse is less hospitable to lice than clean hair. The louse cannot adhere as easily to the strands if they have a protective coating.
Can Bald People Get Lice?
Lice need to get to the head in the first place, so you will likely not find lice on bald head with no hair to climb on. When the odd live bug actually makes it to a bald person's head, it may start feeding on blood, but it probably won't survive long. Lice need at least 1/4" of hair to hide, reproduce, and keep warm.
Can Head Lice Live in a Man’s Beard?
It is possible, although very unlikely, to find nits or lice in beard hair. Beards are the wrong temperature and texture for head lice to thrive. But if an adult appears to have lice in his beard and there is no obvious connection to a case of head lice in the family (which usually starts with school aged children), it is much more likely to be a case of pubic lice, which live in body hair, including beards.
Can Lice Live on Wigs?
While you may find lice on wigs, lice cannot survive long on a wig itself. They can, however, use the wig to climb to the scalp, which they access around the edges or through the holes in the wig.
Sometimes, a brand new wig made of real human hair will have nits in it. These are cosmetically undesirable, and you can use lice combs to remove them. But rest assured that the nits are just old empty eggshells, which are not a risk for catching lice.
Now that you know more about hair types and lice, you should understand that everyone without a bald head can get head lice. Asking do the bugs look for a certain type of hair will lead you astray. If you jump to conclusions about lice and hair types, your case could persist longer, or you may miss the signs. If there is a case in your household, every family member needs to be thoroughly checked, no matter their type, texture, color, length, or their gender, or ethnicity. Don't wait for itching, which doesn't start until weeks after catching it. If you are one of the millions of people who suffer with this common problem each year, give LiceDoctors a call at 800-224-2537 to book an appointment, and we will make a house call to your home. Our effective lice treatment can eliminate your head lice problem today.