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Can Black People Get Lice in Their Hair? [The FACTS]

aida turner

Published by Aida Turner

Fact checked by Annie

Lice are itchy and can cause irritations. It has been a problem in the United States as they get 6 million to 12 million infestations yearly, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [1]

Lice can be everywhere: in the home, school, playground, and marketplace. You are more likely to be infected with head or body lice if you have close contact with somebody who already has it on their head or body.

Yes, black people can also get head lice, however, they often get lesser lice infestations due to two main reasons:

  1. Black people have tightly coiled strands and differently structured shafts.
  2. African-American families often use petroleum jelly and conditioners when they recreate protective styles or other black hairstyles, which means they have soft and smooth strands.

In this article, we will give you all the information about head lice on Afro-textured hair, from their appearance, signs of infestation, getting rid of and preventing them.

What Does Lice Look Like in African-American Hair?

Head lice in an African-American’s natural hair are similar to other men and women, as the lice have these characteristics:

  • Brown, white, or dark gray
  • With six legs
  • Oval-shaped

Moreover, the lice eggs or nits have the following characteristics:

  • Nits are small
  • Oval-shaped
  • Yellowish

How Can Black People Get Head Lice?

African-Americans or black people from African countries can get head lice the same way other races with other hair types can get head lice.

This is because having head lice is a global problem, not a racial one

Research shows that 19% of the global population of school children and 2% of adults carry with them head lice infestation problems. [3]

To give you a glimpse of how it happens, here are the specific scenarios when African-American children and adults get head lice:

  • Having intimate physical closeness with individuals having head lice (e.g., human head-to-head, sharing of clothes, lying on a similar mattress)
  • Sharing comb, brushes, hats, or headphones with a person infested with head lice

The Signs of Head Lice

If you want to know if you or your black children have head lice, here are the signs you need to be mindful of:

  • Visible head lice and lice eggs or nits on the hair shaft
  • Tickling sensation in the head
  • Itchiness and redness (e.g., child scratching)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Head, neck, and shoulder sores

How to Check for Lice

You can terminate head lice, but to do so, you need to check and get a closer look at the head lice on your Afro-textured hair.

In checking for head lice, there are steps you must follow. Here they are:

  1. First, wear gloves before touching the hair with head lice to prevent transmission.
  2. Second, prepare your lamp or flashlight to see the head lice clearly; direct it on the hair.
  3. Third, section the hair and check all the parts of your head (i.e., front head, crown, sides, ears, neck, and back) for head lice and lice eggs or nits.

If you see live bugs about the size of a sesame seed from your hair and scalp inspection, those are the lice you are looking for.

Additionally, eggs or nits will look like dandruff, but you can distinguish the former as it is hard to remove.

How to Get Rid of and Treat Head Lice in African-American Hair

When you have lice on your head, itchiness is non-negotiable, and irritation and soreness come into play when you scratch it. 

To get rid of your lice on your curly hair type, these are the general things you need to follow:

  1. First, thoroughly wet your hair with lukewarm water and wash your scalp with lice shampoos, such as the RID Daily Defense lice shampoo and conditioner.
  2. Second, rinse the shampoo with lukewarm water.
  3. Third, part the wet hair into sections using Goodofferplace parting rat tail combs.
  4. Fourth, apply treatment for hair lice like the RID Super Max head lice treatment kit, or apply Permethrin lotion 1%, and leave it for 10 minutes. [4]
  5. Fifth, rinse the hair treatment with lukewarm water.
  6. Sixth, get the excess water from your hair using a clean and soft YoulerTex microfiber towel wrap.
  7. Lastly, groom the hair gently and thoroughly using Crave Naturals Glide Thru detangling hair brush.

PRO TIP: You can also soak your clothes in hot water to remove the lice.

How to Get Rid of Lice in Afros

For your Afro hair type, you need to be a little keener in removing lice because of your hair’s texture. Here is how you must proceed:

  1. Wash your hair and scalp with lukewarm water, and apply a non-toxic curly hair shampoo, like the SheaMoisture curl and shine shampoo.
  2. Rinse and let hair dry using a soft microfiber towel, ensuring it is new and clean.
  3. Part your hair using a rat tail combing equipment and apply your doctor’s prescribed lice treatment or home remedies.
  4. Rinse, and don’t let it be too dry (just damp).
  5. Smooth out your damp hair with Nix Electronic lice comb, or do it manually using the Ownhealer nit comb.

You may also like: The 15 Best Dry Shampoos for African-American Hair

How to Remove Lice From Dreadlocks

If you have dreadlocks and head lice at the same time, here are the things you need to do to get head lice out of your head:

  1. Detangle your dreadlocks using tea tree oil or the Cowboy Magic Detangler and Shine deep conditioner.
  2. Carefully comb each dread as you detangle them using a Dread Head HQ dread combing equipment.
  3. After detangling each dreadlock, wet your hair and wash it using the Nix Ultra Lice Shampoo.
  4. Let dry and treat lice with the mentioned lice treatment in the previous sections.
  5. Comb your African-American hair using Leinuosen rat tail combs.
  6. Consistently hydrate your black hair, and don’t do dreadlocks right after the lice treatment process.

How to Get Lice Out of Hair Extensions

Sometimes, African-American people use hair extensions to achieve beautiful styling of locs, braids, and twists.

Yet, there are times when black people’s hair extensions get head lice. To remove the head lice, here are the steps you must take:

  1. Remove your extensions, put them in an airtight bag or container and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. If you have dreadlocks or braids on your natural hair, detangle them (refer to the section for dreadlocks).
  3. Wash your natural hair with a shampoo and conditioner, and rinse.
  4. Comb your natural hair damp using a Nit Free terminator nit comb after washing.
  5. Lastly, comb your long or short hair once more using a piece of Doting wide-tooth combing equipment for curly hair.

How to Prevent Head Lice Infestation in Black Hair

You can surely prevent the emergence of lice in African-Americans’ black hair if you always remember the following tips:

  • Do not use other people’s pillows, brushes, combs, hats, clothes, and other personal things where head lice can cling.
  • Always use oil and other hydrating hair products in your black hair as head lice like to stay in dark and dry hair.
  • Make sure to brush your curly hair regularly, particularly the hair shafts where head lice usually stay

You may also like: The 27 Best Shampoos and Conditioners for African-American Relaxed Hair

Frequently Asked Questions

Head lice can be tricky, and their treatment may need effort and patience. Nonetheless, we have this section to cater to your head lice-related frequently asked questions:

What Race Is Lice Most Common In?

As mentioned earlier, head lice are most common in races with straight hair types, contrary to the fewer head lice infections among African-Americans.

In this case, head lice cannot easily spread on a black person or black kids because the shape of their hair is coily.

With this, the hair shape makes it difficult for super lice or any type to cling efficiently.

What Keeps Lice Away From Hair?

You can keep a parasitic insect, like lice, away from your hair shaft with the proper way of treating lice and head lice prevention methods. Here are some quick tips:

  • Moisturize your hair to make it difficult for a head louse to cling
  • Comb gently, including the human scalp and shaft where lice live rent-free
  • Never forget to use lukewarm water to limit the lifespan of lice
  • Use your personal belongings all to yourself, especially those who have direct contact with your head

Does Lice Naturally Go Away?

No, you cannot remove them from your head or your child’s hair without treating lice. Many parents and African-American people prefer going to the doctor for proper treatment, and some like to try different home-based remedies.

Can Lice Go Away With Shampoo?

Yes, you can remove lice in African-American people and other races through shampoo. It would be best if you make sure that the shampoo you use is designed for lice-free treatment.

You should also follow the steps we laid out in the previous sections to treat lice efficiently and properly.

Will Lice Go Away if I Shave My Head?

You cannot remove all lice and lice eggs or nits once you shave your head. This is because lice live on your scalp, where they suck human blood.

What Gets Rid of Lice the Fastest?

Applying Permethrin lotion 1% can effectively get lice out of your head by using it twice, nine days apart.

Final Words

Lice aren’t pretty, and dealing with them can be just as ugly.

So with all the mentioned facts and information in this article, we hope you get a complete picture of what head lice are, how African-Americans get lice, and how you can get lice out of your head.

Now, apply all we have taught you and get that much-deserved treatment for hair lice!

aida turner


Founder & Hair Beauty Specialist

I’m Aida and this is my blog where I write mostly about beauty and make up related stuff, but I like to spice it up a bit with lifestyle and photography posts. Or with whatever that comes to my mind. Hope you will enjoy the reading enough that we will ‘see’ each other more often!