Lice-re­moval ex­pert helps clients ban pesky crit­ters

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY BRANDI BOTTALICO

URBANA, MD. | Cath­lyn Lynch is nit­picky when it comes to lice.

While there’s no harm in smoth­er­ing some­one’s hair in may­on­naise, Lis­ter­ine, tea tree oil or other strange lice so­lu­tions rec­om­mended on­line, she said the fix is in pick­ing out every last one of the nits — lice eggs found in hu­man hair.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the nit combs,” she said.

Ms. Lynch, an Urbana res­i­dent, opened NIT Emer­gency, a lice-re­moval busi­ness, in April and has seen about 30 clients since. As a cer­ti­fied lice-re­moval spe­cial­ist, she goes to peo­ple’s homes and re­moves the lice from their scalps, which usu­ally takes about two hours, although it varies de­pend­ing on hair length and thick­ness.

Her pri­mary clien­tele is chil­dren between age 4 and 12, but she also works with adults, of­ten teach­ers and moth­ers.

She said she prac­tices a spe­cific method of lice re­moval that she learned from a men­tor, Katie Shep­herd, which in­cludes sep­a­rat­ing the hair into four sec­tions, comb­ing them and go­ing through in pa­per thin lay­ers re­mov­ing re­main­ing lice with her hands.

Ms. Shep­herd teaches lice re­moval in Florida with a week­long hands-on train­ing, Ms. Lynch said.

“It’s re­ally just about be­ing vig­i­lant do­ing the comb­ing,” she said.

She car­ries her lice-re­moval kit in a black suit­case that in­cludes de­tan­gling brushes, nit combs with 2-inch metal teeth, and three spray bot­tles, one with wa­ter, an­other with wa­tered-down mint con­cen­trate, and liq­uid sham­poo. She sprays the mint on her­self and af­ter re­mov­ing lice from clients be­cause she said the small par­a­sites don’t like strong smells.

“I smell like a pep­per­mint most of the time,” Ms. Lynch said.

She also has a mag­ni­fier with a light that goes on her head that she uses to help her see the freshly laid white-to-opaque nits.

Ms. Lynch, a sin­gle mother, has a son of 19 who has never had lice. She had the idea to start the busi­ness af­ter read­ing an ar­ti­cle about a lice-re­moval spe­cial­ist.

Ms. Lynch wanted to start the busi­ness to help other peo­ple, she said. When she ar­rives on a job, she said par­ents are usu­ally pan­ick­ing and anx­ious. She said she is able to give them an­swers on what they need to do, such as clean sheets, tow­els and clothes, as well as vac­uum.

She doesn’t know of any other lice-re­moval busi­nesses based in Fred­er­ick County. While she con­sid­ered fran­chis­ing a lice-re­moval busi­ness, she liked the flex­i­bil­ity of start­ing her own. She said most of the fran­chis­ing op­tions re­quired that she open a brick-and-mor­tar store and hire em­ploy­ees right away, mak­ing the ini­tial in­vest­ment much greater.

Work­ing the busi­ness part time gives her the abil­ity to build a rep­u­ta­tion and client base first, she said. She hopes that five years from now she might be able to open a store and ex­pand into out­side coun­ties.

“It’s hit or miss with my weeks,” she said. “It’s prob­a­bly keep­ing me busy about half of the time.”

She said it seems there are more oc­cur­rences of lice between Oc­to­ber and Fe­bru­ary be­cause chil­dren are stay­ing in­side and are com­ing into con­tact with one an­other more of­ten. But lice don’t have a sea­son per se, she said; they just look for a warm host to incubate their eggs.

“Your head is warm 365 days a year,” she said.

Ms. Lynch also said that many peo­ple think they have lice but it’s re­ally dan­druff or hair prod­uct buildup.

“I know ex­actly what I’m look­ing for,” she said.

Par­ents need to be in­volved, Ms. Lynch said, so they know what to look for and what to avoid so that the lice don’t re­turn. Once a client pays her for lice re­moval she is there un­til the lice are com­pletely gone. While the process usu­ally takes only one visit, one girl with thick and curly hair re­quired four trips, she said.

Ms. Lynch has been mar­ket­ing her busi­ness by go­ing any­where chil­dren and their par­ents might be, such as YMCA health fairs and par­ent groups. She said there’s a stigma around lice, mak­ing word-of-mouth mar­ket­ing less com­mon.

But Ms. Lynch is re­al­is­tic: Her tagline is “lice hap­pens.”

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