If you have a child in school, chances are she will get head lice at some point or another. You can be the most vigilant hair-washer on the planet, your kid’s head could practically sparkle, but one day you’ll look over and she’ll be scratchy-scratching at her scalp.
My daughter had it first. Now, this is not entirely surprising. Despite the tightness of my braiding, the firmness of my pony tailing and the sternness with which I lectured that she’d get lice if she didn’t keep her hair back, she always came home from school with it loose. Like a scene out of a Wes Craven movie, tiny newborn lice crawled, drunk with Rid poison, on their scalps. Hey, if you had hair like Brooke Shields on a desert island, you’d probably want to let it fly, too.
But loose hair is like a highway to heaven for head lice. They hop and crawl from one child’s head to another, a practice made especially easy when said child’s hair is flying around all over the place.
So she scratched. And I looked. And then I checked the Internet for photos and descriptions. Sure enough, those little yellowish dots were head lice eggs, otherwise known as nits. Then I freaked, remembering my sister-in-law’s 12-month battle against the things, in which she enlisted old standards like mayonnaise and petroleum jelly in an effort to avoid pesticides.
Nothing worked except Rid. And so my whole Mommy Greenest persona went out the window as I screamed at my husband to hit the 24-hour drugstore and bring us back the biggest vat of the stuff he could find.
Now if you’ve never encountered Rid before, you’re lucky. It doesn’t exactly burn, but it certainly smells like it should. And the active ingredient that kills the head lice—piperonyl butoxide—is at what they call a “low hazard” for toxicity, according to the Skin Deep Database.
But did this knowledge of toxicity stop me from slapping the shampoo on my daughter’s scalp? Not for a New York minute. Although they are small and relatively innocuous, the idea of head lice is just skin-crawlingly horrifying enough to take your organic high-and-mightiness on vacation. My head itches just writing about it.
So I vigorously shampooed my entire family with Rid. And when I checked again and saw that the shampoo hadn’t killed the head lice but had–like a scene out of a Wes Craven movie–caused the eggs to hatch so that the tiny, newborn head lice were actually crawling, drunk with Rid poison, on their scalps, what did I do?
I shampooed them again. Longer.
But here’s the thing about head lice: Once the live ones die (and they finally did, thankfully), you have to get the eggs out. If you don’t get every single little nit and one teeny tiny bug hatches one to two weeks later it can spawn seven to 10 eggs in a day and you’re right back where you started.
And that’s about two hours with the nit comb if your child has a mane like my daughter did, where you go through the hair strand by strand and pull the sticky little eggs all the way down the shaft, then drown them in vinegar before you flush ‘em. Think about doing that to 10 inches of hair all the way around.
So our session with the nit comb concluded with a visit to the hairdresser, where my daughter walked out with a brand new, absolutely adorable bob and I walked out with the answer to my prayers: An all-natural, pesticide-free kids’ hair care line developed to combat head lice.
The stuff is called Fairy Tales and it’s primarily formulated with rosemary and citronella essential oils, which are lice repellents. My absolute favorite is Fairy Tales Repel Leave-In Conditioning Spray, which is this yummy, essential-oil smelling stuff that you spritz on like hair spray, and it prevents the lice from taking a ride to your kids’ scalps.
Eureka! The school could be crawling with head lice, but since I’ve been spraying each morning, so far there are no repeat offenders. Knock on wood.