Updated on July 24, 2020
By Lice Technician Sean McGee
So here is a seemingly simple situation, but in reality, it affects people of all ages who use wigs for different reasons. I will address what I have come across as a lice technician and, I’m sure, it will answer your questions. After all, I’ve come across some unique situations.
How Do Lice Survive?
To survive lice need an environment conducive to their survival. They need a way to get to the scalp ie. hair; they need the warmth and temperature of the human head; and lice need blood, which is their food source. Source: CDC.gov
Because lice are parasites and need these things to live, they will not last long on a wig. Just like a piece of clothing or a pillow case or any other object, a wig does not offer lice these benefits once it is removed from the head or unless it is porous enough for lice to get through to get to the head.
Can Wigs Get Head Lice?
While a wig may have a louse climb onto it, the louse cannot survive on a wig for more than a day. Again, lice need blood which they feed on multiple times throughout the day. No blood, no live bugs...it’s that simple.
Children with an extensive dress up closet may very well have wigs. An elderly person may wear a wig due to thinning hair. People undergoing chemotherapy often wear wigs. Wigs are also worn by people with alopecia. Then there are the many people who wear wigs for cosmetic reasons or to just change up their look. Regardless whether these wigs are synthetic or natural hair, the wig can serve as a ladder for lice to climb up to the scalp. Lice claws are built to wrap around strands of hair, so a wig is conducive to attracting lice. Keep in mind, though, that lice will only last a matter of hours on a wig, if they do not have direct access to the blood in the scalp.
Wigs can then serve as a transmission route from one person with lice to anyone unfortunate enough to use the wig around the same time or to get very close to the person wearing the wig. This is because, just like a hat, the lice may transfer from the infected person’s head to the wig and on to the next person to put it on within up to 24 hours. If the child has hair under the wig, then the person is susceptible to lice. Source: Uniwigs.com
Can Wigs Transmit Lice To You?
Here’s where it gets a little complicated. There are some mitigating factors to consider here regarding the role a wig can play in lice transmission to yourself.
- Is the wig porous? In other words, can lice get through the wig to your scalp? You are with a friend who gives you a big hug. Unfortunately, unknown to both of you, is the fact that she has head lice. If the lice crawl from her hair onto your wig, can they climb up the wig hair to your scalp? While, we know that the lice can climb to the scalp, the only way that a louse can get to your blood is if the wig has holes so that the louse can get through. LiceDoctors - Which Hair Types Are More Likely To Get Head Lice?
- Do you have any of your own hair? Lice need hair to cling to so the lice can feed on the blood. If lice manage to get through the wig, you need to have some hair for the bug to grab ahold of. People undergoing chemotherapy or who have alopecia are not as likely to get lice from a wig as someone with hair, who is using the wig for cosmetic purposes.
- Do you have head to head contact with others? To catch lice from another person, you need to be in very close contact. Children tend to be the ones who catch lice because they are in close physical contact with their family and friends. For this reason, they are the ones who transmit lice most often. Most children do not wear wigs so this lessens the chance that they will transmit lice through a wig.
- How often do you wear the wig? If you wear your wig every day and fewer than 24 hours have passed, there may still be lice on the wig. This means that if there are lice lingering on the wig that didn’t get through to your head, they have another opportunity to do so. Since lice can live for up to 24 hours without blood, if they are still in the wig, they will be very eager to find human blood.
- Is it a full wig or a hairpiece? If the wig that you don is a hair piece, then you most certainly are a candidate for lice if the hairpiece gets lice. This is very easy for the lice; they simply crawl off the bun, braid, or small hair topper and right onto your scalp. From there those bugs are good to go.
Can Your Wig Transmit Lice to Others?
Head lice consume the blood of humans by feeding from the scalp. Think about this. If a person gets lice through a wig, then the lice have left the wig and are now on the head. Since the wig is covering the head, it is not that easy for a louse to leave the scalp.
The only way for someone to get lice from your wig is if you are near a person within hours of the lice getting onto the wig. Those lice will try to get through the wig to your head, but if they can’t, they may hang out on the wig for several hours looking for another poor soul to bother. If you wear a wig that has lice on it and you get near another person, your wig may transmit the lice to him or her. These are lot of “ifs”. The wig has to have lice; the lice could not get through the wig to your scalp; the lice have to still be alive on the wig; and your friend needs to get close enough to your wig to catch the lice.
Children who use wigs for dress up are the most likely transmitters of lice through wigs. First of all, kids are most likely to get lice. Each year it is estimated that up to 12 million children under the age of 12 get head lice. Second, kids who play dress up exchange the wigs often enough that if lice were to get onto the wig, it’s likely they would still be alive when placed on another child’s head. LiceDoctors - Wigs and Head Lice: Is This Even Possible?
How to Get Rid of Lice on a Wig
If your wig has live lice on it, you have two choices. You can set the wig aside for a day or two or put it in a plastic bag, and at the end of that time period, the lice will be dead. Option two is you de-lice the wig. You hold the wig, add some oil to it, and comb through with a lice comb. Be sure that you have plenty of light so you can make sure that you kill the lice in the hair.
You then have to wash the wig and dry it, and then you start looking for any live bugs that might be hiding in the hair of the wig. Make sure you get out all of the lice. If you see any signs of nits, squeeze them with your fingers and slide down the hair. You will need to pick out the nits for cosmetic reasons, as these nits will not be viable.
How To Avoid A Wig Infestation
- Avoid sharingwigs with others who may have been exposed to lice. Because you’re never truly certain of this, try avoiding at all costs. This is especially pertinent to young children playing in the dress-up corner.
- When getting tangles out of a the wig, do not use combs or brushes that belong to others, but rather purchase your own.
- For wigs over long hair, pull the hair up into a bun before placing a wrap or cap over it.
Call LiceDoctors For Help If You Find Lice In Your Family
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If you find lice, it is best to bring in the professionals to get the job done right, the first time. LiceDoctors mobile lice treatment service comes to you and treats your family in the privacy and convenience of your own home. There is no need to spend hours in a lice salon, when you can be treated in the safety of your home. Plus LiceDoctors pricing is among the lowest in the area...the cost of lice treatment is lower than lice clinics.