How a UAE salon is tackling the hairy issue of head lice: 'It's nothing to be ashamed of'

Two mums have opened a salon that specialises in the removal of lice and nits using a suction treatment

Little girl chooses fast food
No more lice

Defining head lice

Pediculus humanus capitis are tiny wingless insects that feed on blood from the human scalp. The adult head louse is up to 3mm long, has six legs, and is tan to greyish-white in colour. The female lives up to four weeks and, once mature, can lay up to 10 eggs per day. These tiny nits firmly attach to the base of the hair shaft, get incubated by body heat and hatch in eight days or so.

Identifying lice

Lice can be identified by itching or a tickling sensation of something moving within the hair. One can confirm that a person has lice by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs or lice. Head lice are most frequently located behind the ears and near the neckline.

Treating lice at home

Head lice must be treated as soon as they are spotted. Start by checking everyone in the family for them, then follow these steps. Remove and wash all clothing and bedding with hot water. Apply medicine according to the label instructions. If some live lice are still found eight to 12 hours after treatment, but are moving more slowly than before, do not re-treat. Comb dead and remaining live lice out of the hair using a fine-toothed comb.
After the initial treatment, check for, comb and remove nits and lice from hair every two to three days. Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 10 minutes.Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay.

Courtesy Dr Vishal Rajmal Mehta, specialist paediatrics, RAK Hospital

After months of online learning, most children are back in class again. There’s just one nit to pick with the situation. Most, if not all, families with school and playground-going children find they have to deal with hair lice at some point in their lives.

Sometimes, though, getting rid of the insects is harder than one might imagine. All it takes is one egg to survive for the infestation to come back. When Paola Surdo’s 5-year-old daughter had a recurring case of lice, which went on for more than a year, the frustrated UAE resident finally booked a flight to her home country, Italy, to visit a specialised anti-lice clinic.

The “instant success” of that treatment is what led Surdo to open a business with friend Barbara Martire, a fellow mum with a pharmaceutical background, whose children had also struggled with lice. Last May, the duo launched No More Lice, a salon dedicated to removing lice and nits in the UAE. “An idea like this doesn’t come to people who have not experienced it,” says Surdo with a laugh, terming the salon niche but necessary.

Treatment for lice 

The unique selling point of No More Lice is that it uses a chemical-free suction system that gets rid of the insects as well as the nits, as opposed to a shampoo treatment that sometimes fails to tackle the eggs.

Staff are trained to use the equipment and be good with children, while the salon also offers complimentary follow-up sessions, sells chemical-free preventive products, and has home and car sanitisation deals to keep the insects at bay.

The founders say these stringent measures are necessary to eliminate the bugs that spread quite easily through contact. “Lice can live for a few days on sofas, carpets, pillows and combs. If just one person in the family gets it, it is very easy for it to spread to others,” says Martire. “That’s why we don’t recommend family members share products such as hats and combs.”

Even social-distancing requirements introduced in the wake of the pandemic did not deter the insects, which Martire and Surdo say are found on every continent and can infect just about anyone, irrespective of gender, age and nationality.

“We were closed for a few months due to Covid-19 but, unfortunately, lice don’t go on lockdown,” says Martire. “We were getting calls from desperate parents for months. When we finally reopened, the demand was so high that we needed to put a pre-booking system in place, with a wait time of about a week.”

Lice still a taboo topic 

No More Lice treats roughly 90 children in the UAE in a month and also offers home visits for adults. The latter option has been particularly popular over the past few months. However, one of the biggest requests the salon gets during these visits is to make sure the staff has no branding on them that suggests a lice infestation.

“People are worried about what their neighbours will think,” says Surdo. “It’s one of the biggest myths to do with lice – and something that I was also guilty of. We think that getting lice is connected to our personal hygiene and therefore are shy to talk about it. But that couldn’t be further than the truth – in fact, lice prefer clean hair.”

It’s a message the duo would like to send to other mums – to be open and honest when talking about lice. “It is still a taboo, but we want parents to know there is nothing to be ashamed of. Lice affect everyone and some people have a harder time getting rid of them than others, in the same way that some people are more likely to get mosquito bites,” says Martire.

“Awareness is important because otherwise people who have lice think it is akin to dandruff, that it will somehow just magically disappear on its own. But lice don’t go, they grow.”

No more lice

Defining head lice

Pediculus humanus capitis are tiny wingless insects that feed on blood from the human scalp. The adult head louse is up to 3mm long, has six legs, and is tan to greyish-white in colour. The female lives up to four weeks and, once mature, can lay up to 10 eggs per day. These tiny nits firmly attach to the base of the hair shaft, get incubated by body heat and hatch in eight days or so.

Identifying lice

Lice can be identified by itching or a tickling sensation of something moving within the hair. One can confirm that a person has lice by looking closely through the hair and scalp for nits, nymphs or lice. Head lice are most frequently located behind the ears and near the neckline.

Treating lice at home

Head lice must be treated as soon as they are spotted. Start by checking everyone in the family for them, then follow these steps. Remove and wash all clothing and bedding with hot water. Apply medicine according to the label instructions. If some live lice are still found eight to 12 hours after treatment, but are moving more slowly than before, do not re-treat. Comb dead and remaining live lice out of the hair using a fine-toothed comb.
After the initial treatment, check for, comb and remove nits and lice from hair every two to three days. Soak combs and brushes in hot water for 10 minutes.Vacuum the floor and furniture, particularly where the infested person sat or lay.

Courtesy Dr Vishal Rajmal Mehta, specialist paediatrics, RAK Hospital