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Finding a little “friend” while combing a client’s hair is never fun, but it’s bound to happen from time to time. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6-12 million people get infected by lice each year. So what should you do? Keep reading to discover five ways to handle the pest-y situation.

Step 1: Keep your cool

Whatever you do, don’t freak out the moment you spot lice. Avoid making a disgusted face, and definitely don’t say anything like “gross,” “ew” or “yikes!”  Remember, you are a professional, so, unless you want to say goodbye to this client for good, you must maintain a professional demeanor at all times.


Step 2: Identify the situation

Dandruff and dry scalp are both commonly mistaken for lice. The good news? There are easy ways to spot the difference. Some key things to look out for:

  • Lice typically range in color, from white to the host’s hair color, while flakes caused by dandruff and dry scalp are usually white
  • Lice have a teardrop shape and is uniform in size, while flakes vary in appearance
  • Flakes easily fall off the strand during washing, combing or blow-drying, while lice must be pulled off
  • Lice is usually found behind the ears and along the hairline at the back of the neck, while dandruff originates at the scalp

If possible, request a second opinion from another staff member or manager. One easy way to ask for help without yelling “Lice!” across the salon floor? Create a code word among your staff. That way, you can inform your fellow stylists about what’s happening without embarrassing your client.

Step 3: Inform your client

Now, the hard part! Once you verified that the problem is indeed lice, it’s time to inform your client (and his or her parents if you’re working on a child) about the situation. Stress that lice are a common issue that’s easily treatable. Lice have nothing to do with hygiene (it actually likes clean hair) and are usually spread through head-to-head contact.

Step 4: Provide proper treatment instructions

After informing your client that you are unable to proceed with the appointment due to state board regulations, offer product suggestions and referrals for lice treatment centers. One easy way to ensure that you provide enough information? Create a “master list” of instructions and aftercare tips (i.e. washing sheets, sanitizing brushes and combs, etc.) that you can hand out to clients. Also, sway clients against natural remedies, which may be dangerous and/or ineffective.

Step 5: Schedule your client’s follow-up appointment

The absolute last thing you want to do is make your client feel awkward or embarrassed about coming back to you. Schedule a make-up appointment for 2-3 weeks to ensure that all of the lice and nits are gone. Take it a step further and offer the service at a discounted rate. Also, check in with your client within a couple of days via email or text to see if he or she needs anything or has any questions. Creating a loyal client base is all about showing them that you care—no matter what “problems” show up.

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