The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time, but it’s also peak season for head lice (aka every parent’s nightmare). If that’s not enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, there’s a new form of the pesky parasites on the rise called “super lice,” and it's said to be resistant to most over-the-counter-treatments.
If your child happens to come home with more than just homework this September, try not to panic. We spoke to lice expert and founder of Fairy Tales Hair Care Risa Barash on the safest ways to prevent and combat an outbreak. The first thing you'll want to do is thoroughly inspect your child's head for eggs, also known as nits. “The best way to check for lice is combing through the child's hair, section by section, using a metal nit-picking comb, such as Fairy Tales Nit-Free Terminator comb ($17; ulta.com), Barash tells InStyle.
Once you’re sure they’re infected, Barash says to skip the harsh pesticides, as these are no longer proven effective in eliminating the latest strain of super lice cases. Instead, she recommends using organic herbs, like rosemary, tea tree, peppermint (try LiceLogic Clear & Free Peppermint Shampoo, $33; drugstore.com) and citronella, to repel the bugs naturally. A chemical-free treatment, such as Fairy Tales Lice Good-Bye Kit ($30; ulta.com) or Quit Nits Complete Head Lice Kit ($20; drugstore.com), will also do the trick. “The enzymatic solution slows down the bugs and dissolves the sticky nit glue that attaches the eggs stubbornly to the hair shaft,” the expert explains. “Parents should be sure to focus combing on the hot-spots: behind the ears, back of the neck, and at part lines.” Another option is having the treatment come to you. A service like Licenders makes house calls to treat and remove the lice from your child's hair in just one visit.
To prevent lice from wreaking havoc in the first place, Barash says to get in the habit of performing a weekly head check and talk to your children about not sharing things like hats, combs, brushes, hair ties, pillows, and sleeping bags. You might also want to consider making lice prevention products a part of your daily routine. “Parents should apply products like Rosemary Repel Conditioning Spray ($14; ulta.com) every morning before camp, school or day care," the pro adds. "Be sure to spray throughout hair, behind the ears, back of neck and shoulders, as well as backpacks and inside hats and hoodies.”