Lice Checks: How the Professionals Do Them
Professionals do wet checks
Head lice professionals know exactly how tricky it is to spot lice and their eggs. That’s why they don’t waste time with “dry checks” by simply poking through the hair as you might see at the nurse’s office or at a summer camp. Instead, the professionals reach directly for their lice comb and set down to a “wet check.”
Lubricate the hair
A lice comb is crucial to perform the most accurate head check. It’s highly recommended to use hair detangler (watered-down conditioner) or vegetable oil to slide the lice comb comfortably through the hair. Thus the term “wet check.”
Preparing for your lice check
When preparing for a professional head check, wash out excessive dandruff, gel or mousse from the hair, and allow enough time for the hair to completely dry before your check. Scrubbing away dandruff and other distracting debris from the scalp can make for a quicker check. If there’s no time to wash your hair, don’t worry, you can still keep your appointment. Just know that they may use oil that can re-hydrate any products in your hair, leaving it sticky until the next wash. Arriving with dry hair is very important because head lice professionals often use oil in their checks and treatments. If the hair is already wet, it can lead to uncomfortable pulling as the water and oil lock up in the teeth of the lice comb. Wet hair may also block the professional’s products from thoroughly treating the infestation.
To help your check progress more quickly, arrive with fully detangled hair. For those with curly hair that forms ringlets, straighten your hair before the appointment for the smoothest, quickest check possible.
Considerate head lice professionals will want your check to be as comfortable as possible. However, lice combs are unforgiving when they run into tangles or obstructions in the hair, so it’s best to remove dangling earrings, bobby pins, or hair accessories. Before beginning the check, notify the lice technician of any neck injuries, head sores, protruding moles, or ear piercings that are sensitive to the touch.
How it starts and how long it takes
Your technician will likely start by applying an oil or detangler and verifying that the hair is fully detangled. Using a variety of clips to arrange the hair into smaller sections, they will run a lice comb through the entire head of hair in every direction. A typical head check takes about 15 minutes, but times vary based on the thickness, length, and texture of the hair.
Learn next: How to check yourself for lice
Lice Charmers: How to check for lice
Center for Lice Control: How to do the weekly head check