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Lice and Dreadlocks

author image Ann Jones
Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Lice and Dreadlocks
Two men with dreadlocks do homework together. Photo Credit Karin Dreyer/Blend Images/Getty Images

Head lice can wreak havoc on your dreadlocks. Because dreads are long tubes of tightly knotted hair, combing them with a fine-toothed lice comb to remove nits is not possible. DreadheadHQ.com reports a range of home remedies submitted by clients, including rubbing alcohol, peroxide, shaving cream and cayenne pepper.

Lowdown on Lice

Lice are very small parasitic insects that live in human hair and feed on blood from the scalp. According to KidsHealth.org, it is more common to see the nits, or eggs, of lice than the bugs themselves. Nits lay close to the scalp and look similar to dandruff. Nits hatch into lice within one to two weeks. Scratching lice bites can lead to a bacterial infection, which a physician must treat with antibiotics. Children are more susceptible to head lice than adults.

Lice in Dreadlocks

The most common treatment for lice is washing with a shampoo containing chemical pesticides and combing out the nits. Not only is combing impossible with dreadlocks, the pesticides in commercial lice shampoos can become trapped inside the locks. Trinidadian hairstylist Patricia Neptune says she treats lice in dreadlocks with heat, using deep steaming and infrared heat lamps. However, Darlene Miller of Lice911, a lice treatment service in Canada, says she has screened a handful of people with dreadlocks for lice over the years and none have actually had them. Lice infestation in dreadlocks may actually be quite rare.

Home Remedies

There are many anecdotal reports of successful home treatment of head lice in dreadlocks. Methods include dousing the hair with Listerine, petroleum jelly, coconut oil and hydrogen peroxide and covering the hair with a shower cap for 15 minutes to one week. One treatment that is mentioned often is soaking locks in vinegar. Essential oils may also do the trick, with tea tree oil, eucalyptus, marjoram, rosemary, lavender and peppermint being mentioned often.

Delacet Herbal Solution

One remedy recommended by beauty and health writers and editors is an herbal lice treatment called Delacet. This product has been manufactured for more than 40 years and is recommended for dreadlocks and African hair. The ingredients are tincture of larkspur and acetic acid, or vinegar. Pouring Delacet over the hair and soaking for two to three hours before washing with dreadlock shampoo may eliminate lice. There is no need to use a nit comb with Delacet.

Preventing Lice

The best way to prevent lice is to refrain from sharing items that come into contact with the hair, such as hairbrushes, combs and pillowcases. If you or someone in your family contract lice, washing all the items with which the infested head has come into contact in hot water and bleach can help to kill the bugs and nits.

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