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Breaking the News:
How to Tell Clients They Have Lice

Last modified: May 16, 2019. Information verified by President/CEO Maria Botham.

Even the word “lice” is enough to strike panic into the heart of most parents. The truth is, however, that getting head lice is a right of passage for many parents and children, with an estimated 6 to 12 million infestations occurring each year in the United States among children ages 3 to 11.

Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are not known to transmit diseases, but they can cause some pretty severe itching. As a cosmetologist, you are bound to encounter clients with head lice, so how do you handle the situation with grace? Read on to receive some helpful tips.

How to Handle It

As a cosmetologist, you rely on your clients for their return business. Not only does this require you to do your job well and keep clients happy, it may require you to handle a delicate situation from time to time – a situation like head lice.

From the moment you notice the first nit, you need to decide how you are going to handle the situation. If you choose wrong, you risk embarrassing the client and losing their business. If you choose wisely, you can handle the situation with empathy and grace, keeping the client and keeping the salon lice-free.

The important thing to remember is that cosmetology law doesn’t allow lice removal and hair cutting to happen in the same place. Unfortunately, this means you will need to ask your client to leave and not return until the problem is resolved.

What to Tell the Client

The worst thing you can do when you find lice on a client is react without thinking. Announcing the infestation to the whole salon will only cause your client embarrassment, and asking them to leave will only make matters worse.

So, what to do?

Say something like, “It looks like you have a few hitchhikers here. It doesn’t bother me, and I would love to help, but it is against code for me to continue the service at this point.”

When bringing lice to your client’s attention, you need to choose your language wisely. Even using the word “lice” can bring an immediate sting of shame and embarrassment, so try using an alternative word like hitchhikers or sprinkles. If you do it right, your client will understand what you mean without bringing it to the attention of everyone in the salon.

After informing your client of the problem and telling them that cosmetology law prohibits you from continuing the service, your next step is to offer some advice.

Though you may not be permitted to officially diagnose lice, you can explain to the client that it is a very common problem and nothing to be ashamed of. Suggest that they pick up a lice removal kit and follow the instructions or point them in the direction of a lice removal salon. Be sure to stress the importance of removing the nits before treating the hair to avoid having to repeat the process.

Before the client leaves, make sure to schedule their next appointment – this will communicate to them that you value their business and it takes away some of the embarrassment.

Suggestions for Removing Head Lice

Though you may be prohibited from diagnosing lice or removing them yourself, you can provide your clients with some treatment suggestions.

First, you may want to address certain myths about lice removal. Covering the client’s head in mayonnaise to smother the lice might make their head greasy and delicious, but it is unlikely to take care of the problem. The only truly effective way to remove lice is to pick them out with a fine-tooth comb and wash and disinfect everything that could have come into contact with the lice. Once the lice have been removed, certain natural treatments like tea tree oil may help prevent reinfestation. Other essential oils like lavender, neem, clove, peppermint, and nutmeg have a similar effect.

If your client has a severe lice infestation, it may be best left to the professionals. Hair Fairies is a professional head lice removal service dedicated to providing safe solutions for families. In addition to their professional lice removal services, Hair Fairies also offers online head lice removal tutorials.

Dealing with head lice is never pleasant, but with the help of a qualified professional, you can eradicate head lice for good. Best of luck!