Dreadlocks, also known as locs, are a hairstyle choice that has been around for centuries. This distinctive look is created by allowing the hair to mat and lock together into rope-like strands. While dreadlocks can be stylish and expressive, some people worry they attract head lice.
What are dreadlocks?
Dreadlocks form naturally when hair is allowed to grow out without regular brushing or combing. As the hair mats and tangles, strands spiral and twist together into thick, ropelike locks. The locking process happens as shed hairs become trapped in the tangles rather than falling away. While salon methods like backcombing are used to encourage faster locking, most dreadlocks form gradually on their own as hair grows out. Dreadlocks date back centuries and are worn by many cultures. Historically they held spiritual and religious symbolism in regions like India, Africa, and Asia. Today dreadlocks remain a popular hairstyle choice as a fashion statement and expression of personal identity. They allow wearers to forego daily styling and embrace a more natural, low-maintenance look.
Do dreadlocks attract lice?
There is a common perception that dreadlocks attract and harbor lice. However, simply having dreadlocked hair does not necessarily make you more prone to lice infestations. Human head lice are spread mainly through close person-to-person contact. They are not attracted to dirty scalps or specific hair types. However, there are a few factors that make detection and treatment of lice more challenging in dreadlocks:
- Lice and their eggs (nits) are hard to spot in thick, twisted dreadlocks regularly.
- Lice have an easier time clinging to the rough, textured surface of locked strands. Smooth, straight hairs allow lice to slide off more easily.
- Dreadlocks provide more nooks and crannies for lice to hide in. Combing treatments do not fully penetrate the base of some locks.
- The weight and thickness of long-term dreadlocks give lice a protective habitat that makes removal more difficult.
So while Dreadlocks do not inherently draw or multiply lice, infestations are harder to notice early and eliminate in locked hair. Extra vigilance is required to check for and treat lice in dreadlocks before they thrive out of sight.
Signs of lice in dreadlocks
Checking dreadlocks thoroughly for lice takes patience and focus. Look for these telltale signs:
- Tiny cream or tan-colored eggs (nits) glued to the hairs near the scalp. Especially look along the edges and underside of locks.
- Tiny moving specks the size of a pinhead. These are the live lice themselves.
- Red bite marks or itching, especially around the neckline and behind the ears.
- Flaking skin or dandruff where lice have fed.
- A feeling of tickling or crawling sensations on the scalp as lice move around.
It takes extra light and magnification to spot lice and eggs hidden deep in dreadlocks. Have someone help examine all areas of the head. Just a few live lice restart an infestation, so be thorough. If you discover any evidence of lice, take steps to treat them right away.
Treating lice in dreadlocks
Getting rid of lice from dreadlocks requires diligence and patience. Prescription and over-the-counter medicated shampoos, rinses, or lotions kill live lice. Products containing ingredients like permethrin or pyrethrin are common. Follow all package directions carefully. However, these topical products alone do not suffice since they are difficult to apply down to the scalp beneath thick dreadlocks. Removal of eggs and nits will also require meticulous nit combing using a specialized fine-tooth lice comb. Dipping the locks in equal parts apple cider vinegar and water or olive oil helps loosen the glue-like substance holding nits in place.
If lice persist after multiple treatment attempts, some wearers opt to cut off their dreadlocks and start fresh. However, this extreme measure was avoided in most cases. A comprehensive battle plan of chemical treatments, combing, and household disinfection eliminates lice from Locs without sacrificing the dreadlocks. Be aware that lice treatment in dreadlocks will require extra time, effort, and diligence. You need help from family or friends to ensure every lock gets checked and treated thoroughly.
How to prevent lice in dreadlocks?
While dreadlocks do not magnetically attract lice, they pose extra challenges for the inspection and management of lice infestations. Here are some tips to help prevent lice from taking up residence in your locs:
- Check dreadlocks thoroughly and regularly, at least once a week. This allows you to spot any lice before they multiply and spread.
- Avoid head-to-head contact with anyone who has lice or shares hats, combs, pillows, or headphones. Human lice cannot hop or fly – they crawl from head to head.
- Keep long dreadlocks tied back to minimize contact with other people and surfaces where lice can spread.
- Wash dreadlocks frequently using residual shampoos containing tea tree oil. This natural ingredient repels and kills lice.
- Sprinkle dried lavender flowers or rosemary into your locs. These herbs have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Apply conditioning products like jojoba oil to smooth and tighten the cuticle surface of hair shafts. It leaves lice with fewer textures to grip onto.
- Sleep on satin pillowcases, which cause less friction and tangling that trap lice.
- Be vigilant after activities where close head contact is common, like slumber parties or sports teams. Check all members and treat any lice found promptly.
While dreadlocks are not inherently more susceptible to lice than other hairstyles, the myth persists due to misunderstandings about dreadlock hygiene and care. In actuality, the risk of lice infestation depends largely on your personal hygiene practices, environment, and exposure to infested areas or individuals, not necessarily on your hairstyle. Preventing lice in dreadlocks essentially involves maintaining a clean scalp, regularly washing your hair with appropriate products, and taking preventive measures in lice-prone situations. By incorporating lice-repelling essential oils or using specialized shampoos when necessary, you can actively ward off these pesky critters. If you happen to contract lice, early detection and prompt treatment are key to efficiently eradicating them without damaging your locks. Engage in a diligent routine of dreadlock care and maintenance, stay informed about lice prevention, and consult with professionals if you have concerns or need treatment advice. With the correct knowledge and care practices in place, you can confidently enjoy your dreadlocks, free of worries about lice infestations. Happy and healthy locking!