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The Reality Behind the Fantasy That Black Folks Cannot Get Lice

“Going brow to brow is a factor we do in our household,” Deborah A., 61, from Cleveland Heights, Ohio explains. 4 years in the past, when her then-11-year-old stepdaughter Khloe* casually talked about to her that she thought she had lice, Deborah took it in passing. “I by no means heard of any Black individual having lice.”

Khloe, nevertheless, is biracial and it turned out that her Type 2 hair is vulnerable to the parasitic insect. Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based mostly in New York Metropolis, explains, “Whereas everybody can get lice, they appear to stick to straighter hair higher.” Though there is not substantial proof to recommend why that may be, she hypothesizes, “Possibly as a result of the lice in america are much less tailored to greedy Sort 4 curly hair and can’t adhere to the hair shaft as simply.”

A couple of days after Khloe dropped the lice bomb, each Deborah and her daughter Lauren A., now 28, began to really feel incessant itching and burning on their scalps. “I used to be wanting within the rest room mirror and [the lice were] type of snarled and caught in my hair,” Lauren says of discovering lice in her locs, which had been styled in two-strand twists. “I used to be actually stunned as a result of I’ve fairly kinky hair. Thick, coily, 4C hair, styled in locs — so to get lice simply did not make sense to me.”

Pediculus humanus capitis, in any other case generally known as head lice, are small, blood-sucking bugs that may be discovered wherever there may be hair on the human physique together with the pinnacle, eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic space. “The scale and form of the organisms are completely different and the three variants choose completely different components of the physique,” explains board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, who can also be an affiliate professor of dermatology and director of beauty & medical analysis in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York Metropolis. Lice stay near the human scalp, laying eggs close to the hair follicles.

“Infestation with head lice is kind of widespread in school-aged kids in america of all socioeconomic lessons,” New York Metropolis-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., FAAD, reveals, debunking the parable that “solely poor individuals” get and unfold lice. Lice infestations have been round ceaselessly — they date back so far as 25 million years in the past in primates. Nonetheless, for years, there’s been a commonly-held perception within the Black group that Black individuals cannot get or unfold lice. It is not totally true, but it surely additionally is not totally false: “The pediculus humanus capitis louse appears to choose straight hair. Lice infestations will not be as widespread in Black Individuals,” explains Dr. King.

The Restricted Science on Lice & Black Hair

There are many theories as to why it looks as if Black individuals do not get head lice as typically. The science, nevertheless, is much less prolific. “[Any theories are] based mostly on knowledge from observational research,” Dr. King explains. “And there have been conflicting knowledge in numerous research.”

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